When we’re all huddled in tiny apartments and trains, it’s easy to forget how many people there are in New York City. But with the sprawling fields of Randalls Island, and the jaw-dropping volume of Saturday’s Gov Ball crowd, the number of humans coexisting in one place was astonishing. In the wide green lawns between the stages, you could run in circles and never find much more than 5 feet of free space in any direction (and at least one flower crown and temporary tattoo within every 10). But there was something kind of wonderful about the constant proximity.
It was this concentrated crowd that anchored itself at the mainstage to see Catfish and the Bottlemen that afternoon, trailing back into a sea of picnic blankets and sun-tans-in-progress. Whether you were right up front with the British indie rockers, or soaking up their sound from the warm grass, you could sense the excitement of their fans from the start. Frontman Van McCann launched into their fast-paced set with his bold, focused vocals, making tracks like “Homesick,” “Soundcheck,” and “Tyrants” sound crisp and clear far across the field.
The sun was starting to retreat when Lord Huron took the stage that afternoon, but you barely noticed with the mood they brought to the island. The LA folk rockers played up some of the twangiest, grooviest elements of classic surf rock, which made the masses jump, shake (and, as they lit up, bake) with all the surrender of a wild beach party. Catchy songs like “Time to Run,” “Hurricane,” and “Fool For Love” were enriched by Lord Huron’s rowdy rocking as they slung maracas to the beat and swung their guitars by the straps.
Not long after, the Haim sisters were shredding right in synch to the fiery “If I Could Change Your Mind” and “Don’t Save Me,” not to mention a crowd-pleasing cover of Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U.” But the weather would not be as tame for the feisty pop rockers. The three were in the midst of describing their last Governors Ball performance, which also saw some rain, as one of their favorite shows ever right when it started drizzling hard. “Let’s make this one even fucking better!” they screamed as the clouds really opened up. Faithfully, their fans huddled in close and reaped the rock. Haim finished with a badass “Falling” – which became an appropriate choice in the current conditions.
Fans were soon sliding down hills and tumbling through the muck to make their way over to Miike Snow’s set, but the muddy commute was well worth it. The much-loved Swedish pop band were in fine form as they battled the weather, dishing out hits like “My Trigger,” “Genghis Khan,” and, of course, the ultra-catchy “Animal” with extra energy. The stoked crowd poured much of their own into defiantly punting beach balls overhead while they danced, as if they could knock the rain right back into the sky.
Getting back over to the mainstage proved to be tricky as everyone scrambled to catch The Killers. As ponchos replaced crop tops, fans found themselves kicking their way through the ankle-deep swamp, occasionally lurching down into deceptive puddles beneath the layers of grass. Whenever your shoes totally fill up with mud, though, you sort of throw caution to the wind – and several thousand people seemed to throw it all at once.
You can just imagine the mud-caked spectacle that greeted The Killers as they took the Governors Ball stage on Saturday night. But as everyone stuck it out through the storm, the loyalty seemed to coax out an especially strong setlist from the Las Vegas rockers. Big hits like “Mr. Brightside,” “Spaceman,” and “Human” were crossed off almost immediately, which would be a daring move for any band if they didn’t have something else in the works.
Of course, The Killers were soon mixing in surprise covers of Interpol’s “Obstacle 1” and even Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” on which frontman Brandon Flowers sounded especially strong. Their encore brought us “This Is Your Life,” “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine,” and “When You Were Young,” which kept everyone dancing through the night as they made their way back to buses and shuttles. What they didn’t know is that this finale would be the finale for Governors Ball, and that the storm would, sadly, signal the end of Day 3 before it had even begun. But even if it all had to end right here, it was one hell of a good ride.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Merissa Blitz