Spring has finally arrived! Thank God. Was it just I, or was anyone else really wanting to kick Jack Frost square in the balls for the bone chilling awfulness that was winter 2014? Just me? Okay whatever. Regardless, if anyone’s noticed, and judging by the number of people I saw drinking outside and meandering the New York City streets as of lately, everyone has- warm weather has returned! Which also means summer is right around the corner. With summer, comes the best season that music fans countdown to every year- festival season.
Now New York is no stranger to hosting some damn good music festivals. Aside from the amazing musicians that take the stages each night of the week in the big apple, there are numerous festivals taking place across the city this summer including Electric Zoo, 4Knots, Northside, Lowdown Hudson Blues Festival, Central Park SummerStage, and of course the season closes out with CMJ Music Marathon in the fall. Of all the music festivals taking place when the nights get warm and the girls get insanely hot, Governors Ball out on Randall’s Island still wears the crown as the biggest festival in New York City.
The annual three-day multi-genre festival enters its fourth year, and seems to be getting bigger and better every year. Back in its first year, the festival had only one day to its name and only twelve acts. The festival has come a long way since then, as it has grown into a three-day event and hosts some of the biggest names in music year after year. Last years festival attendees fell victim to torrential rain and muddy field conditions as headliners Kanye, Kings of Leon, and Guns & fucking Roses powered through the elements. Hopefully after this years shit winter, Mother Nature will be on our side throughout the summer and bless us with ideal festival weather.
The lineup this year might be the best since the festivals inception. As an avid local concert attendee and music connoisseur, I thought I’d offer my two cents worth on the best acts to catch at Gov Ball 2014. Sure everyone will be making sure their sobriety is somewhat leveled and cell phone cameras are locked and loaded for when Jack White and Skrillex take the stage, as they should. There are a lot of other VERY talented acts with great music that will be taking the stage throughout the weekend. That being said, instead of making out with some girl or guy you just met over by the porta potty, these are the artists whose sets you DON’T want to miss out on.
Outkast – Fresh off their well-publicized comeback at Coachella last month, the Atlanta hip-hop duo made news for reasons they probably didn’t prefer at the California music festival. A supposed “quiet” audience welcomed Outkast’s headlining set, as many critics found their first performance together since 2007 to be rather anticlimactic. Granted most people who attend Coachella probably couldn’t name Outkast’s first album title, I expect them to get a much warmer welcome here in NYC. The Atlanta duo will be headlining the festival circuit all summer long, and as one of the major hip-hop acts of the late 90s and 2000s, I really look forward to seeing if they still got the goods.
Phoenix – French alt-rockers Phoenix also have a spot on the first night of the festival. Theses fellas have been taking the new-wave rock scene by storm across the globe after their 2009 breakthrough album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix and kept their momentum going strong with the well-anticipated follow up last year with Bankrupt! They bring their one-of-a-kind guitar sound to Gov Ball and as the first night begins to draw to a close, these guys will keep the party going to help you dance long into the night.
Jenny Lewis – Jenny’s set on Friday is one of the few singer/songwriter acts playing the first night of the weekend. Her chill vibes would fit perfectly in the Brooklyn music scene and should be fun seeing her take the big stage and seeing what she does with the audience. A talented mix between Cat Stevens and Joni Mitchell, Jenny brings attractive songs like ‘Acid Tongue’ and ‘Sing A Song For Them’ that the festival crowd is going to love to hear. Definitely make sure to put a flower in your hair for her set, and dig in, for she’s the warm welcome to the long weekend.
The 1975 – Coming off the release of their 2013 debut album, these British rockers are a favorite on the 8Tracks playlists. They seem to fit right in the middle of a new wave of pop-rockers taking the charts by storm these days. They have a smooth and edgy sound that mixes with a retro genre that leads me to think they could be the real deal, but I’d have to see what their live set is like before I make any bold statements. I do believe however, that this band could help bring a 80s pop-rock sound back to modern music in a positive blast from the past.
HAERTS – Brooklyn locals will be taking the stage in their own back yard at Gov Ball this year. The synthpop band is regularly found in dance and remix playlists since the release of their first EP in 2013. Lead singer Nini Fabi brings forth a Debby Harry-esque vibe that contrasts well with the retro-electronic sound of the band. With a great sound that is very close to taking the pop-dance scene by storm, this band will be making some literal and metaphorical noise a Gov Ball this year and well into 2014.
The Naked & Famous – Saturday is going to be a great day with the trio of Jack White, The Strokes, and Skrillex closing things out, but I’m really looking forward to seeing New Zealand alt-rockers The Naked & Famous. I was all about the first single off In Rolling Waves this year in ‘Hearts Like Ours’. It’s a great jam and if you haven’t heard it you’re missing out on experiencing the signature sound these guys bring to the table. The band gained national recognition with hit singles ‘Young Blood’ and ‘Punching In A Dream’ popping up all over American television shows. I’m really looking forward to seeing if their live show is as exciting as their albums are.
Broken Bells – Broken Bells bring a unique vibe to the Saturday lineup. As the masters of indie/space-rock, this band is made up of James Mercer (vox and guitarist of The Shins) and Danger Mouse. The two bring their brilliant songwriting ability on display and can be best compared to the experimental years of The Beatles. Broken Bells are usually joined by a backing band on tour, but It’ll be exciting to see these two brilliant musicians showcase their chemistry and blend their musical backgrounds together on stage. This band is definitely one of the true hidden gems of the festival.
PAPA – This indie/alt-rock duo from Southern California are also new to the scene but have a musical presence of rocking veterans. It’s almost difficult to put a label on how these guys sound, but that may be their best asset. They’ll mix electronic and synth sounds in one song only to bounce back with acoustic and jangling guitars in another. In my opinion the guitar/drummer duo channel a sound that is more attractive than the FM friendly Black Keys, and are more unique songwriters as well. Also make sure to add ‘I Am The Lion King’ to your summer playlist while you’re at it, you’ll be glad you did.
Deafheaven – For you black metal fans, make sure you stick around to see Deadheaven’s Saturday afternoon set. As the black flag carriers of Gov Ball, these guys will bring a European-like hard rock vibe to a more indie-rock/electric/pop dominated lineup at Gov Ball this year. I have all the confidence these guys will represent the mosh-pitting genre well though, as their 2013 album Sunbather is a well recorded collection of fast paced energy, burning instrumentals, and in your face metal that will rattle the foundations of Randall’s Island.
Childish Gambino – Community breakout star Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino is fresh off the success of his debut and recently released sophomore albums, as well as his anti-label Twitter rant. While I’m not the world biggest live hip-hop fan, I’m intrigued to see how CG will bring his popular modern lyrics and diverse singing style to the stage. I did think that ‘Bonfire’ was one of the better rap songs I’ve heard in a while.
The Kills – Sunday is the day for the real indie-folk and singer-songwriter acts to take the stage by storm, and British/American duo The Kills lead the way on the lord’s day of the festival. A much sexier version of The Raconteurs or London Souls, this twosome takes a blend of garage rock and bluesy style of punk to keep your hips shaking and clams baking. Singer Alison Mosshart has a hauntingly beautiful and mesmerizing voice that contrasts perfectly with Jamie Hince’s experimental guitar tones that form the bands core sound.
The Head and The Heart – This Seattle indie-folk band helps bring the decibels down a notch as the festival winds down with their melodic harmonies and piano/string/acoustic guitar sounds that just flat out make you feel good inside. They are a mixture of The Civil Wars, The National, and dare I say Bon Iver? With influences that are truely warm to the ear, this band has put out two brilliant albums while winning fans over city-by-city opening for acts like Dave Matthews, Iron & Wine, and Death Cab For Cutie. Pure, organic vocals will ease you into Sunday night, as this band should not be one to miss out on just because of their toned down style.
Frank Turner – Of all the great singer/songwriter acts showcasing the best of their respective genre on Sunday, Frank Turner might be the one I’m most excited to see! He’s got that English-style vibe that goes perfect with a Guinness and your best friends on a Friday night at your favorite pub, but still has enough pop-sense in him to keep his music fresh and radio friendly. He’s essentially got a punk rockers attitude with Bruce Springsteen-like charisma and songwriting ability. He wrote a badass song about Gene Simmons on his last album and is proof that you can write great songs on the acoustic guitar without having to become THAT guy.
Wild Belle – Switching things up from the folksier acts we’ve talked about thus far, Chicago’s Wild Belle brings their psychedelic, ska, and indie-reggae vibes to help keep the mood up and friendly. We’ll call them the Viagra of Sunday’s musical sex. While they’ve become more relevant in the festival circuit, they still are able to create a unique sound on their albums as well. Their multi-genre style of music blends the attitude and soul of Amy Winehouse and Joss Stone with off the path instrumentation that make them sound like a darker She & Him.
BANKS – I discovered BANKS when she kept popping onto the 8Tracks playlists I’ve been listening to as of late. Think of a mixture between Lorde and Lana Del Rey with really attractive song compositions and you’ve got a really innovative artist like BANKS. While her voice sounds is more on the soprano end of the octave scale, her music touches all ranges of emotion and styles. ‘This Is What It Feels Like’ and ‘Before I Ever Met You’ are two songs you MUST have on your Spotify playlist, as they both reek of attitude, sexuality, and tonal bliss.
Article by Tom Shackleford