With all the stereotypes about metalheads, an outsider may have been surprised to see that the vibe at Governors Ball on Sunday was so much more chill, gregarious, and even more litter-free than the prior two days. The Day 3 crowd was largely made up of an older generation of Tool fans, based upon the enviable t-shirts we saw at every turn, along with a number of good-natured rocker kids who seemed to have the exact same plan we did for the final day of the fest: to make it a straight-rock day and catch only the thrashy acts. Sunday’s disgustingly-good lineup made this a possibility, and even the onset of heavier clouds and a bit of rain couldn’t bring down the shared excitement among the darkly-dressed crowd. In a day of constant thrashing and unavoidable headbanging, we were especially happy to sample snacks like the satisfying vegan ‘burgers’ from Marty’s V Burger (which they shrewdly brought out to the media tent on heaping trays), and of course, one of the most #foodporn-y items of the whole fest: the sushi burrito from Uma Temakeria – an item that was more refreshing and delicately-seasoned than I ever would have expected or demanded for festival food. What a time to be alive.
“Thank you to Governor and brother of Rivers, Andrew Cuomo, for inviting us to his ball, presented by Founders Entertainment,” announced Ron Gallo, whose deadpan introduction loosened up the crowd and had them snickering at the start of day three. “We are very excited to be here in Randall’s Island, N-Y, One-Zero-Zero-Three-Five,” he said, annunciating the zip code like a robot. Showing off songs from his newest album, HEAVY META, Gallo and his band set a high standard for Sunday with their punky, jump-inducing set, which featured a gnarly guitar solo that was visibly bent out of shape by a piece of wood shaped like an oversized drumstick. It was hard to imagine how the following acts would keep up the pace, but Barns Courtney had plenty up his sleeve, and sucked in a bunch of new fans with his catchy hooks and modern Brit-rock tracks. Philly singer/producer Mondo Cozmo (aka Josh Ostrander) was also sounding awesome, and wowed us with the ferocity of his hard-rocking show at the Big Apple Stage.
The afternoon energy suddenly exploded when Chicago punk rockers The Orwells stole everyone’s focus on the mainstage, with impossible-to-ignore frontman Mario Cuomo flirting, strutting, sneering, grabbing his hair, checking his reflection in the jumbotron, and even taunting the precarious weather. “Where’s my fucking lightning, mannn?” he demanded, confronting the sky as if it were a thug who owed him money. “I put lightning on the rider!” It all came to a climax when Cuomo disappeared for a few mystifying moments, then reappeared offstage completely, scaling the adjacent fence and reaching down to meet his fans palm-to-palm.
With the first handful of Sunday shows setting a high bar, indie rock outfit Parquet Courts had their work cut out for them – but the locals were right at home with the NYC crowd and put on a high-energy set, packed with songs from their latest album, last year’s Human Performance. Fellow indie rockers Warpaint, who hail from L.A., brought in a lively and well-deserved crowd as they showed off the best of their shredding on their own new material, including songs from Heads Up, the full-length they put out last year. And when Royal Blood took the mainstage, the evening’s headliners had officially begun, as far as we were concerned. The fiery English rock duo, comprised of unstoppable singer/bass guitarist Mike Kerr and drummer/total animal Ben Thatcher, have an energy that is wholly their own, and it was a tangible force as they tore up their set. Rocking hard on fan favorites like “Lights Out,” “Hook, Line & Sinker,” and “Figure It Out,” the pair interacted with each other heavily as they played – and constantly sounded way bigger than just two people onstage.
As the day dipped into evening, one of the striking things about the show-stopping set from Franz Ferdinand was remembering just how many catchy hits belong to them. With frontman Alex Kapranos taking an already-hyped crowd up another big notch, the Scottish rockers thrust us into an unavoidable dance party with hits like “No You Girls,” “Do You Want To,” and “Take Me Out” – and it continued on fervently in spite of some light drizzles. “Thank you for laying on the weather,” Alex said with a grin. “Making us feel like we’re back home in Glasgow.” Luckily, the rain didn’t get out of hand, and we could all soon focus our attention on Cage the Elephant, a highly-anticipated set for everyone in sight. The wild, high-impact band somehow sounded even better than usual, and took full advantage of their surroundings with frequent dives into the rabid crowd, frontman Matt Shultz spanning the stage with impossible speed as he sang (and at one point, returning with a pile of flower crowns draped around him). Much-loved radio favorites like opener “In One Ear,” “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” “Cigarette Daydreams,” and “Shake Me Down” were supplemented by a massive wave of singing from the crowd, and it was an exciting response to witness for a band that certainly deserves it.
For their first New York City show in over a decade, and Gov Ball’s headlining set for 2017, Tool put on a performance that was so technically complex, strangely beautiful, semi-terrifying, and sickeningly cool, it continuously became a mushy memory that was hard to even grasp or piece together. As if to prevent the best details from slipping through our fingers, the crowd stood and stared straight ahead at the jaw-dropping, shred-heavy performance, trying to comprehend the unique energy between drummer Danny Carey, guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor, and of course, their elusive, armor-laden frontman, Maynard James Keenan. The heavy show worked surprisingly well for the mainstream fest, and featured lengthy, mind-blowing cuts like opener “The Grudge,” an extended “Schism,” and the epic, 15-minute “Third Eye,” all of which were accompanied by their signature, psychedelic animated visuals. And a perfect day of rock ended exactly as one should – with a prescient, timely political rant that stuck in our heads long after the festival had ended. “I’ve got some good news, and I’ve got some bad news,” Maynard told us calmly, his rhythmic words breaking like waves. “I’m just gonna tell you both of them at the same time. Fox News. Huffington Post. The Left. The Right. Trump. Breitbart. Facebook. None of these things are your enemy. Your enemy is ignorance,” he said bluntly, eliciting a huge cheer. “That’s the fight.”
Photos: Shayne Hanley
Words: Olivia Isenhart