Over the weekend we took the annual three-day journey up to Randall's Island to explore the musical offerings of the 2014 Governors Ball, and we learned a few things along the way...
1. The Trip Sucks
Bike to the Hoboken PATH, to the 14th Street L, to the Union Square 4, to 125th Street. Walk across the Triborough Bridge. I, and many other Governors Ball attendees, made this hour and 44 minute trek, or one very similar to it, twice a day, for three days in a row. It wasn't until my Saturday morning journey, when my body began secreting Friday night's opening ceremony booze, that I thought, "Man, I should've fuckin' driven to Tennessee." Although The Governors Ball looks close on paper, nothing in the New York metro area is easily accessible without a helicopter and/or jet ski.
2. If You're Gonna Misbehave...Do It the First Day
As I and my trustee editorial comrade Miss Hess learned on Friday, festival security is much more lenient on the first day. Most of the temp guards are either high on the adrenaline rush of working such a huge event, or totally clueless about their duties. That's how we, along with a slew of other press freeloaders found our way into a bougie backstage area with a steady flow of free booze and the nicest damn porta-johns I've ever encountered. They had AC! It didn't take long for rumors of the naive, wrist-band checker to spread, and Saturday the area's entrance was beefed up to five beefy guards. That poor bastard definitely got the boot.
3. Everyone at GovBall Was Drinking BuzzBallz
Back in my day we'd drink bum wine like Mad Dog 20/20 and/or Cisco on our way to concerts. This evolved into the Four Loko generation, which had presumably ruined malt party beverages for future drinkers. But when there's a will, there's a way. During my every walk across the Triborough Bridge the piles of these tiny spherical Buzz Ballz continued to grow in shadowed corners. Prepare yourself for the imminent sensationalized media coverage of the one punk 6th grader who packed a 'Strawberry Rum Job' in his Transformers lunch box.
4. The Urban Outfitters-ization Is Real
Music festivals are as much a fashion show as they are a three-day experience of the sonic arts. Men and women, and boys and girls, peacock in get-ups that they'd never be free to pull off in the office, at school, or even on a weird night out in Williamsburg. Butt cheeks and flower crowns were all the rage this year for the ladies. Unfortunately, I was only brave enough to capture a photo of one of these trends.
5. Teenage Girls Are Like Cockroaches
They're everywhere. They're annoying. And they're virtually indestructible. Sweating my ass off in the packed photo pit waiting for the, of course, tardy Strokes to perform, I overheard a small gaggle of girls who were vice-gripped against the front railing complaining that they've been waiting hours for the show, and that the 'camera people' didn't deserve to swoop in right before it started. I was initially annoyed by their teenage arrogance, but once Julian took the stage, the angry army of brace-faced twerps behind me sang each and every tune in unison with the group's frontman, and I realized that these little snots are the reason I have a job. Damnit.
6. EDM Artists Look Like Cooking Show Contestants
A lot of music fans are bothered by the hysteria surrounding EDM performances. The general dispute surrounds the performers' turning of mystery knobs behind a massive podium like the Wizard of Oz in lieu of playing real instruments. But what I noticed during Disclosure's Saturday performance was something different — there was a total lack of intimacy with the crowd. The Lawrence brothers' faces were almost always buried in the screens in front of their noses while they jostled around with their gear like they were racing against a cooking contest's clock. That once-in-a-lifetime thrill of convincing yourself that the lead guitarist actually made eye contact with you and only you doesn't exist in the EDM sphere. I actually enjoyed watching the crowd more than the performers as the mass moved with the bass like a gently rolling wave of total babes.
7. The Strokes Own NYC
A lot of people were puzzled as to why The Strokes hadn't landed a headlining time-slot at Governors Ball over the weekend. Maybe it's because they are currently in the questionable doldrums of the album cycle as they haven't released anything new since Comedown Machine's
arrival over a year ago and have no plans of doing so anytime soon. And pairing them against any of the fresh album-toting headliners (sans OutKast) would create astronomical schedule dilemmas for festivalgoers — loving couples would breakup, best friends would turn enemies. The GovBall planners ultimately chose to present Julian Casablancas and crew at 6:45 PM on the main stage Saturday, across the park from Childish Gambino. It was seemingly a flawless move by the schedulers as three quarters of those who attended flocked to the field to see the hometown heroes perform a career-spanning 18-song set.
Shortly before the smoke machines flumed from the stage's side panels, the photo pit was infiltrated by a mass of EMT operators who rescued a shirtless, young gent over the railing who had apparently suffered a heat stroke — he'll be telling his grandkids about the time he had a stroke at The Strokes' [final?]. Behind me, that gaggle of tweens were singing their heart's out, while another team a bit further on wore tear-soaked faces as they lost their grip on reality witnessing the once leather jacketed, now Hawaiian shirted Julian rip through their favorites. It was a total shit show. It was the best show of any Governors Ball I've ever attended. And if, by chance, it was The Strokes' final romp, it was one hell of a poetic ending.