Although less than 24 hours had passed since Tropical Storm Andrea soaked thousands of fest-goers and turned Randall’s Island into a soupy mess, survivors of Day One of the 2013 Governors Ball put on a brave party face for the Saturday portion of the three day festival. There was a clear dividing line while riding mass transit between the people who had “been there, man” on Friday and the fresh faced, sandal or white shoe wearing newbies. Dig deep enough into the sludge of Randall’s Island, and you’ll very likely score yourself a pair of ruined Keds.
Walking through the Governors Ball gates to the closing pangs of Wild Nothing’s “Ride”, one got a true scope of the choppy conditions as people walked arm in arm to keep their balance while walking through huge, unavoidable stretches of mud. Icona Pop stepped out attempting to buoy the spirits of those just realizing what they would be contending with for the rest of the day. A lot of people screamed “I don’t care, I love it”, but it was difficult to take them all that seriously as their caked in footing restricted any sort of jumping or dancing.
MS MR brought a lovely, spirited energy to the now ironic “You’re Doing Great Stage” including an appropriate cover of LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yrself Clean”. Unless you had the Governors Ball phone app, there was no way of knowing that Japandroids were about to open their Main Stage set as schedulers did their best to accommodate a make up set from Kings of Leon. The raucous, hard rock duo stormed like real rock heroes while insisting that they were Guns N’ Roses and that they couldn’t wait for Japandroids to headline later on.
Paper Diamond was the big winner of the improvised scheduling as he received an unopposed stray few minutes with enough grass left near the Honda Stage to allow for some unrestricted movement. Unfortunately, this pushed an inordinate amount of a-holes to Dirty Projectors set on the other side of the field as bros took this get together as a good time to catch up, loudly. The Projectors still managed to impress once Dave Longstreth’s microphone was turned up a little, but anybody hoping to feel the true power of the group’s impressive harmonies probably shouldn’t have relied on a festival to deliver. I too made that mistake.
Onward to Fucked Up who delivered one of the wildest performances of the day as they incited the first circle pits of the weekend. Damian Abraham apologized several times to the people waiting for at the front for Azealia Banks’ upcoming set, and told tales about why Hulk Hogan is the coolest person to ever live. As if we needed any more explanations.
Divine Fits seemed like a good idea, but the stretch of wasteland to get there from Fucked Up was, well, pretty fucked up. So it was on to Alt-J, and let me tell you, people really, really like Alt-J. At least on the surface because, as was the case for Dirty Projectors, nobody seemed to know any of the songs. But I’m not going to criticize the audience anymore, they’ve been through enough. All bros considered, Alt-J turned in a breezy, shining show as they displayed their genre-hopping sound and delicate vocalizations.
One could argue that Cut Copy turned the most heads as their irresistible dance-pop constructions and bubbly, psychedelic choruses had even the most miserable patron smiling and appreciating the first wash of sun rays breaking through an overcast sky. If you weren’t careful about how you spent your time however, you likely would have been left way out of sight line for Kendrick Lamar’s barn burner as the rising star MC got hands up and voices yelling portions of “Hol’ Up” and two runs through his “Fuckin’ Problems” verse.
It was kind of strange seeing Kings of Leons’ arena ready stage set up in the evening light, but the benevolent band treated once let down fans to classics in “Use Somebody” and “Sex On Fire”. Kudos to them for doing it for the fans.
Thievery Corporation wove their intricate instrumentations as people began to truly unwind and let loose in the mud. Meanwhile, Animal Collective did their best to triumph over poor sound conditions and the lack of a proper sound check. They managed to make it through a healthy selection of “Centipede Hz” and star making tracks like “My Girls”, but after false starst on “What Would I Want? Sky” and “The Purple Bottle” the band had finally had enough. They couldn’t hear themselves
So imagine everyone’s surprise when the weekend’s biggest previously established wild card in Guns N’ Roses turned out to be the least drama impacted or disaster free set of the day. And extend that sense of reasonable doubt even further when I tell you that Axl Rose not only showed up on time and led a hit filled set with his signature yowl in his back pocket, but he seemed genuinely happy to be there! Aside from the unnecessary spotlight solos for the hired Guns, it was an exciting and unexpectedly fun way to cap Day Two. As fireworks signaled the end of “Paradise City”, fest goers filed for the buses back to Manhattan this time shaking their asses instead of shivering in their boots.
Day Three is looking like way, way up. Don’t fuck this up Kanye.