Back when the rainstorm (that, sadly, caused Day 3 to get cancelled) was still just a few grey clouds, Day 1 of Governors Ball ‘16 was off to a beautiful start. Friday was on fire, and, in a lot of ways, first ignited by one wild moment from Black Pistol Fire early in the day. After the badass Southern rockers slaughtered the Bacardi House Stage for their 12:45pm set, fans were treated to a classic punk-show finale from the duo. Frontman Kevin McKeown ripped up his final riff with a savage guitar smash, tossing the broken pieces out to the sizzling crowd like party favors.
Not long after, Of Monsters and Men was starting another kind of party on Randalls Island. Over at the main Govballnyc Stage, the icelandic folk-pop ensemble had taken off with a tribal drumbeat and a flurry of tie dye fringe – as worn and danced in beautifully by lead vocalist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir. Their hit song, “Little Talks,” was accentuated by an impressive trumpet solo from Ragnhildur Gunnars, and followed by “Six Weeks” to wrap. During both, the unison chants from the crowd showed how the band have set the soundtrack for so many fans’ summers.
Also on Gov Ball’s summer soundtrack was Father John Misty, who brought the good vibes to the Big Apple Stage with his trademark suave delivery and striking vocals. A smoke-filled, murmuring intro was the perfect build for opening song “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,” and the audience was quickly infatuated with his groove. Tillman’s cool movements made each note shimmer as he swung his mic in circles and sliced up the beat with his steady hands. And whether or not it’s all part of the plan, his Jesus-like appearance also lent itself to his dark, alluring gospel.
FJM wasn’t the only one keeping things cool on the warm, hazy day. In a dreamy set that had music lovers screaming for miles, a leather-jacketed Beck secured his spot as a highlight of the full fest. The unshakable star treated the island to 90s classics like “Devil’s Haircut” and “Loser,” as well as two memorable covers of Prince’s “Raspberry Beret” and “1999.” “I feel like I could just stay up here and bathe in the friendship and good feeling,” Beck oozed from behind his shiny sunglasses, leaning back on the stage like it was a desk in detention. “Odelay!” he saluted sweetly before sneaking off.
With so many fans who were there just for them, The Strokes did not disappoint as Friday’s mainstage headliner. The audience was already tangled in an endless knot before they appeared, passing beers, cigarettes, and non-cigarettes to friends and former strangers. When The Strokes jumped on and dove into “The Modern Age,” the mass dancing that ensued was both contagious and inescapable. “Are you guys music-ed out yet…or what?” lead singer Julian Casablancas tempted them to the point of tantrum. “Okay, well then we should probably play more,” he grinned. Favorites like “Under Cover of Darkness,” “Someday,” “Reptilia,” and encore “You Only Live Once” made for a high-energy show from the seasoned five-piece. “Back to business!” Casablancas would say wryly after a dirty joke or two, charming the mob with each interjection before returning to rock. It all ended, as any great summer night should, in a burst of glittering fireworks and an ocean of applause.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Merissa Blitz