Even though we’d been praying hard to the rain gods, the slightly-cloudy weather that came on day two of Governors Ball was an unexpected relief in more than one way. The first being that, weirdly, the CSS security guards staffed at the Randall’s Island fest were confiscating hundreds of bottles of sunscreen upon entry – a restriction that resulted in some noticeably pink shoulders among fair-skinned attendees and made the midday clouds a welcome guest. But there was a second, way-more-fun reason to enjoy the shade on Saturday: it was perfect weather for squint-free viewing of the larger-than-life murals that dotted the festival grounds, hand-painted by popular street artists like Baron Von Fancy, Greg Mike, BK Foxx, Magda Love, and many more. As was surely the plan, the colorful, vertical pieces made awesome backdrops for photo opps, whether you were showing off high-end festival fashion or, for whatever reason, your finest NASA spacesuit costume. Gotta love those festival folks.
After a pop-filled Friday at Gov Ball ‘17, it was great for us rockers to start off day two with VANT – the British punks who not only got a good-sized crowd headbanging just after noon, but drew some extra attention for bashing the president within minutes of taking the stage. “So, I know it’s our first U.S. show and I don’t want to divide our audience or anything, but fuck Donald Trump, seriously,” said their eponymous frontman Mattie Vant, days after Trump’s shocking withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. “I just think it’s been too long since an assassination, is all I’m saying,” the singer joked defiantly. It was the first of many Saturday surprises, and the next one was courtesy of Lo Moon, as the mysterious breakthrough band sucked us into another world at the Bacardi Stage with their ethereal, yet bass-drenched alternative sound. Turns out, another surprise was in store over at the Big Apple Stage, because burgeoning Arkansas-based rock band (and frontman of the same name) Welles was absolutely shredding and singing like pure gold – to the end that they literally turned our heads and coaxed us over pied-piper style. We had the immense pleasure of hanging with all three bands right after they performed, so keep an eye out for some juicy interviews coming soon right here on P&W.
For fans of the indie rock genre, Saturday afternoon of Gov Ball was a dream – starting with an upbeat set from A R I Z O N A at the Honda Stage, whose falsetto-fuelled tunes were as sweet as the chocolate cake they brought onstage for their drummer’s birthday. Right after they played, the ultra-hip Car Seat Headrest were the next big draw around the corner, and the sound they projected was bigger, bolder, and much more defined since we caught them last summer, particularly on tracks from their 2016 LP, Teens of Denial. The next act to reel in a big crowd were Seattle indie/folk band The Head and the Heart, with a lively set their fans were audibly singing along to. The excitement all bubbled over for Local Natives when they took the stage in the early evening, their strong intro of “Jellyfish” grabbing fans with its suspenseful bells and hard-pounding drums. Winning the timely-political-joke award for the weekend, one fan up front thrust an “I covfefe Local Natives” sign into the air as they played.
And once again, we found that certain artists just became undeniable headliners for the festival, even if they weren’t technically the very first names on the bill – though, in the case of Wu-Tang Clan, they seriously should be. Popping champagne onstage to celebrate the 20th anniversary (to the day!) of their second studio album, Wu-Tang Forever, the legendary rappers tore up their hit-filled set like it was 1997 again – even bringing on Young Dirty Bastard, son of the late-great Ol’ Dirty Bastard, to fill in his dad’s razor-sharp verses on “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” and “Got Your Money.” Their badass stage design, reportedly inspired by their own Park Hill neighborhood, featured a Shaolin Apartments building and even an Ol’ Dirty Bastard Chinese Restaurant, complete with some appetizing roasted ducks hanging in the window. Method Man – who was completely on fire, and somehow still managed to autograph a fan’s shoe mid-song – made sure to refresh us (and school some of the kiddos) on the group’s collective power. “One thing you gotta realize – when you’re lookin’ at the Wu-Tang, you’re lookin’ at multi-platinum artists. You know what I mean? And that’s all because we took the energy of NYC, and spread it..across..the world,” he emphasized with intensity, just before the sky sank into a deep, shrouded sunset.
Once Saturday had shifted from dusk to darkness, some of the most visually-striking sets closed out Gov Ball Day 2 – including the memorable performance from West Coast R&B songstress BANKS, which was vocally rich on its own, but enhanced by the elegant, long-leg-loving costumes shown off by the star and her talented backup dancers. The night came to a rewarding close for all the festivalgoers who still had tons of dancing left in their system (quite a few of them, in fact, because alcohol), with an action-packed finale from French synthpop band, Phoenix. Adding to the glitz of their adrenaline-pumping setlist, their stage design featured a massive, angled mirror overhead – which not only showed off cool birds-eye angles of their show, but enabled a large section of fans to watch themselves dance and scream in the reflection. It’s not every night you get to watch yourself watch a concert, but it was a perfectly-planned treat for a young crowd who’s constantly obsessed with remembering every moment.
Photos: Shayne Hanley
Words: Olivia Isenhart