Words by Al Mannarino, Photos by Mike DelaPaz
Saturday at The Governors Ball was incredible. I had the opportunity to see The Strokes and Jack White live for the first time, as well as interview one of my favorite bands, Fitz and the Tantrums. It was a busy Saturday, with great bands, good food, and fantastic weather, but the weekend wasn’t over. Sunday started out great and would go on to become another amazing night at The Governors Ball.
On Saturday, I only caught a few of the opening acts such as Hunter Hunted and Diarrhea Planet. This time around I wanted to catch a few so I made my way over to the GovBallNYC stage and caught the first act of the day, Meg Myers. I knew nothing about her as I approached the stage, but I would end up leaving with a lot more information. Myers as one of the darker acts of the festival, her sound is reminiscent of the band Evanescence, and her sound was both loud and unforgiving. She didn’t just stand at the front and growl into the microphone, she took over the entire stage with her dancing and head banging. If I wasn’t fully awake when I got to Gov Ball, I most certainly was now. Unfortunately, her sound was a little too loud and when you left the GovBallNYC stage it sounded muffled. I’m sure she would be great to see in a smaller venue, but her sound and energy just didn’t fit at the time. Maybe it was too early in the day to hear so much anger.
I made my way over to the Gotham Tent to hear the end of Ben Cameron’s set. Another thing I regret was not catching his entire set because it looked like a lot of fun. He had a huge band on stage with him that had a lot of energy and great sound. I missed the majority of his set, which was a shame. Judging by the amount of fun the crowd was having, it sure seemed like a great set. I would stay at the Gotham Tent after Ben Cameron’s set to get a good spot for Cayucas. The band from Santa Monica, CA is the epitome of surfer rock. As soon as they started playing I was immediately transported to a tropical location sipping drinks on the beach.
It was criminal to leave their set, but I made it my mission to catch as many acts as possible that day, so I left the cool vibes of Cayucas and headed to the Big Apple Stage to hear another up-in-coming band, Half Moon Run. I met a few Canadians on Saturday and they told me I had to listen Half Moon Run. I’m glad I listened to those Canadians, because Half Moon Run (also from Canada) were one of the biggest surprises of the festival. The four man group from Montreal brought in a big crowd for an opening act. They brought a few different percussion instruments onstage as well as sing in three part harmonies. If you haven’t heard of them yet, I suggest you download some songs from Half Moon Run before they become the next big thing.
I left the Big Apple Tent and made my way back over to the GovBallNYC stage where Jack Antonoff of Steel Train and Fun. Was getting ready to take the stage with his latest project, Bleachers. Although he had only released two singles with his new band before Gov Ball, he still brought in solid crowd. I spoke with Jack later that day and he described Bleachers as a combination of Springsteen and NOFX. It was honestly a perfect way to describe them as they rocked the GovBallNYC stage throughout their forty five minute set. After hearing some more songs from them, I can honestly say that their debut album, which drops July 15, is now on my most anticipated list for the summer.
One of the reasons I was so excited to go to The Governors Ball this year was because I was seeing a lot of musicians that I am a fan of for the first time. Banks falls under that cataegory, as I have been listening to her since she released her London EP, last year. While most acts were easy to hear from a distance, I noticed that most non-EDM artists didn’t have a strong sound coming from the Gotham Tent. Sleigh Bells suffered from the same thing the previous day. Both acts brought in huge crowds that filled the Gotham Tent, but if you weren’t under the tent then you weren’t hearing as much as you should have. I missed most of the rappers that day because I went back to the media tent to interview Bleachers. After the interview I headed back to the GovBallNYC stage to catch the soothing sounds of The Head and the Heart. I was supposed to see them for the first time a few months ago, but couldn’t get to the show for some reason or another. Needless to say I was amped to see them live for the first time, and they did not disappoint. They played a fantastic twelve song set playing some of their big hits from their first two albums. The crowd was very active, clapping and singing along with the band. Just like The Lumineers the year before, The Head and the Heart were a perfect fit for Gov Ball, mixing both feel good jams and their trademark quite indie rock sound.
The day was winding down, but that didn’t stop the band that started playing at the Gotham Tent. I had never heard of The Bloody Beetroots (live) before Gov Ball, but I am so glad I was able to see them. Wearing masks inspired by the classic Spider-Man villain, Venom, The Bloody Beetroots (live) mix electronic Italian house beats with a live punk rock sound creating one of the coolest live performances I have ever seen. To say that front man Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo is electrifying on stage would be an understatement. They started a full on party at the Gotham Tent that spread out all the way back to the food trucks. I wish I was able to get close enough to catch their entire set in all of its glory. If they ever come back around, you can be sure that I will be buying some tickets.
One of the biggest acts of the day, Foster the People, played the same time slot that The Strokes had on Saturday. There was a big turnout for Foster the People who were up against James Blake, who was playing on the opposite side of the festival. They played a pretty solid set featuring songs from their latest album, Supermodel, as well as their debut album, Torches. The highlight of their thirteen song set was when they brought Spencer Ludwig of Capital Cities on stage to play the trumpet on “Houdini.” Foster the People were great live, but I had to leave their set early to catch the long awaited return of one of NYC’s best bands.
Getting to the Big Apple Stage a half hour early was not enough to get up close for Interpol. The band that hasn’t released a new album in three years and haven’t played in New York since, was about to make their triumphant return. With a new album and tour recently announced, fans like myself couldn’t wait to hear some new material, as well as a few classics from Paul Banks & company. They were welcomed on to the stage by a huge wave of cheers and played a pair of favorites, “Say Hello to the Angels” and “Evil,” before playing a new track entitled, “My Desire.” Banks thanked the crowd after every song and seemed very happy to be back playing in New York. The security guard who helped get the fans involved the day before made a much welcomed return as well. They even played a three song encore ending with one of their biggest hits, “Obstacle 1.” If you are a fan of Interpol, and have never seen them live, I suggest you do because they put on one hell of a show.
After an already jam packed weekend of music, The Governors Ball brought in another band from New York and an incredibly popular DJ duo for an explosive conclusion Sunday night. As Axwell Ʌ Ingrosso lit up the Honda Stage with fireworks and pulse pounding EDM, I decided to watch Vampire Weekend calmly, but effectively close out the GovBallStage with an amazingly long set, playing songs from all three of their critically acclaimed albums. The energy from the crowd was electric, especially when Ezra Koenig and the rest of Vampire Weekend busted out hits like “A-Punk,” and “Cousins.” Their set was great from start to finish. Some might say “why didn’t they just have The Strokes, Jack White, or Outcast close the show,” and in some ways I can understand why people would say that. But as they closed out the show with “Walcott,” I realized we were watching a band that started out as friends that met in at a New York college now playing at the biggest festival in the city closing out the entire weekend. It was both exciting and heartfelt watching them play at home in front of thousands of people. The perfect way to end an amazing weekend.