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Governors Ball Day Two: Saturday, June 7th, 2014: The Strokes Versus Jack White

The Strokes, The Hits, Summer Afternoon: That's All

The Strokes, The Hits, Summer Afternoon: That’s All

Wow! I managed to get to the very front of the stage for Jack White! Like front row. Am I good or what right? I couldn’t do it for the Strokes, heck I couldn’t do it for anyone. Skills? Maybe, or maybe 75% of the audience were watching Skrillex on a different stage! Compared to Friday night’s Outkast set, White’s was wasteland and I am not claiming that is why White was such a let down, no, it was such a let down because White had the great idea of playing improvised white noise segues between songs, and it was a step too far. He should have watched the Strokes set earlier in the day, a lesson in the art of playing a music festival (hint: play the hits very very well)

The last time I saw White and the Strokes on the same stage something not dissimilar occurred.  Radio City Music Hall in 2002, the Strokes and the White Stripes, and Julian, sporting a broken foot, sat on a stool center stage and proceeded to bring the house to its feet. The White Stripes? Meg and Jack didn’t happen. History repeats the same defeats and a day after Julian’s difficult set with the Voidz, he made up with it, leading the Strokes into a headlong dive into their back catalog. The list of hits was stupendous, just about everything you could want to hear attacked with gusto, every guitar lick a hook, Albert Hammond Jr maybe the most subtle rock guitarist in the business: he is so minimalist, so focused and accurate he seems to be an anchor, like he is playing bass. Casablancas needs no introduction here, the voice remains a power whine and the tude can sing anything with the same New Yawk detachment. And here comes the hit: six songs off Is This It? alone, compared to  three off the latest and one off the one before it. They closed the set with “You Only Live Once”, “Last Night” and “New York City Cops” and included the always appropriate “12:51” in the middle, opened with “Barely Legal”. You play those kinda hits, you win those kinda fans.

White’s headlining set wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t the Blunderbuss tour. And a friendly Jack White is a scary thing indeed. I wonder if White is loopy? His Rolling Stone interview sure was. I mean really, claiming he doesn’t work from a setlist is ridiculous when he plays the same songs in the same order.  It is not as though Jack White was bad, he wasn’t, we forgive him so much because he does so much so well, but he was off. Everything White played he overplayed, nothing got the room to breath and White was too imposing. “We’re Going To Be Friends” could have certainly done with a less intimidating arrangement, “Hotel Yorba” was a sweet change of pace but everything else was white noise infiltrated by songs before going back to white noise. The exception was a new song written with Danger Mouse “The Rose With A Broken Neck” -a terrible song which overstayed it’s welcome, just like “Top Yourself”.

Speaking of Danger Mouse, I shouldn’t be surprised how much I disliked Broken Bells -a rare band, one who have yet to make a single song I can stomach, needless to say I couldn’t stand them.  James Mercer? A terrible front man. Danger Mouse? He has yet to pay off on the promise of The Gray Album. I wouldn’t have bothered at all only the UK dance duo Disclosure sucked so very very bad. You know why Disclosure have so many guest singers? BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE A FRONTMAN. These exiles from the Aryan nation, all blonde and creepy, couldn’t be more boring.

Sleigh Bells did what Sleigh Bells do, very very loud beats heavy hard rock. They were pretty good but I cut out early to check out Spoon. I seldom write something I regret but I regretted my Spoon live review from 2010. It was the fourth night of concerts to work to concerts and I was very tired and it effected my opinion. It was a bad review. At Governors Ball they were a fair to middling indie rock band of a certain age and the new songs I heard sounded really exciting and out there.

Saturday was incredibly busy at Randall’s Island, a complete sell out from one end of the Island to the other with young kids, mostly college sophomores by the looks of it, planting themselves on every available inch of green. But the lineup wasn’t as good as Friday’s line up. I arrived at 330 for the express purpose of checking out Chance The Rapper and I am very glad I did. Easily the best MC since Kendrick, he is the best rapper since Earl Sweatshirt. I was expecting good stuff from Chance but I wasn’t expecting this. I don’t know if Chance was either, in a Superman tee shirt and good good humor indeed,he had us in the palm of his hands from the get go and never loosened his grip. On his mixtape Acid Rap, the Chicago rapper is a more melodic new r&b stalwart but on stage he is a powerhouse of instant excellent vibes. “This is my best concert of all time”, Chance said and as he lead the howling with pleasure audience into a singalong with a track that should be humongous for him, “Every Day It Could Be Wonderful” -a feel good anthem for the summer he hasn’t even released yet. “Hold on, hold, I’m singing every song I know” he claimed before launching into “Juice”. Last year it was Icona Pop, this year it is Chance The Rapper. A great, great, great set. Oooooh wie ooo

Hours later,I hightailed the White set over and checked out Skrillex. A very very big sound with most of Randall’s Island joining him and as I walked across the bridge all I could hear was Skrillex tapes at full blast. Wow, Skrillex kicked White’s ass: the future is now.

Day Two: B

Chance The Rapper – A

Disclosure – D+

Broken Bells – D

The Strokes – A-

Sleigh Bells – B

Spoon – B

Jack White – B


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