RANDALL’S ISLAND – After a brief bus ride to Randall’s Island Park from the 125th Street subway stop one could see the early machinations of the 2012 edition of the Governors Ball. Now spread out over the course of two days the Ball aimed to supplant itself as the summer music festival of choice of the New York Metro area. Saturday featured a slew of up and coming acts with a slant on the dance/electro side of the spectrum.
Starting the day was upstart hip hopper K. Flay who took the Honda Stage backed only by a drummer and a live mix.
Then kicking off the Hype Machine Stage was Aussie dance-rockers Art vs. Science. Clad in reflective silver body suits the early afternoon set got plenty of apropos Foster’s beer drinker’s bodies moving. Singer Dan Mac joined them chugging a beer and guitar soloing simultaneously during “Parlez Vous Francais”.
Walk The Moon culminated their debut record release week with painted faces and a Temper Trap-like instrumental set up. Curious revelers clapped along accordingly while a line of blue balloons soared over the festival grounds. Breakthrough hit and set closer “Anna Sun” was met with the first real jump-up-and-down reaction of the day. An ideal sound to compliment the gorgeous June weather.
Skirting the East River was the funky four piece Penguin Prison returning to New York after a stint opening for Miike Snow at Terminal 5 a few months prior. Singer Chris Glover danced and swayed employing a pitch perfect disco delivery. There seems to be no better weekend catharsis than screaming out “Don’t Fuck With My Money” in unison.
The rising, classically trained duo of Big Gigantic were up next, shaking the moorings of the Honda stage with their Jazz-Dub sound. No two Big Gigantic set is the same as the band opted towards crunching in as many builds and drops off of its latest LP, Nocturnal, into their daytime set. The competing Catalpa Festival attempted to steal some thunder with some well placed sky writing. Nobody seemed to care.
Then it was a criss cross past the cornhole and croquet setups back to the Hype Machine Stage for Santigold. The energetic, back up dancer-flanked singer suffered the first sound issue of the day with set opener “Go!” only transmitting mostly drums and vocals.
“They can’t hear me! Everybodys telling me they can’t hear me!,” said Santigold.
The set progressed with each song improving upon the strange sound issues as Santigold powered through “L.E.S. Artistes” and “Lights Out” as the late afternoon crowd began to build.
Special Disco Version featuring former LCD Soundsystem members Pat Mahoney and James Murphy worked the Honda Stage crowd as a light breeze swept off the island coast and motivated an ass shaking party. The two DJ’s spun a perfect live blend of re-mixed dance hits serving as the perfect mid day continuation.
Going from 10 to 11 the wildest scene of the day occurred when consummate dancehall jump starters Major Lazer hit the stage with a set up replete with aggressive dancers and a Wayne Coyne-like bubble. Despite temperatures reaching the day’s apex the crowd went absolutely nuts bursting forth with a flurry of hands in the air. There was more than one request for the ladies to take off the shirts. This reporter can safely assuage that that wish was granted in some pockets. Somebody managed to sneak in a whole bottle of Smirnoff which laid empty well before 5pm.
Atmosphere’s set up on the Honda provided an elephant sized bass juxtaposed against Sean Daley’s (AKA Slug) tailor made for New York flow. Fists pumped as the four person strong collective conducted rap-a-longs of some of their best material.
“Thank you for inviting us to come to your party. Thank you for wearing your best smile. Thank you for providing some sunshine,” said Daley.
Neo-disco duo Chromeo brought their “Fancy Footwork” next on the opposite side of the grounds. The perpetual groove that Chromeo rides came complete with their gold-lit background and two trios of gyrating vocal help on either side of the stage. Sadly the setting sun over the west side of Manhattan was a bit of a hindrance to the Hype Machine Stage as it flared blinding light right above the band making it difficult to look at even with sunglasses on.
Duck Sauce, backed by a giant inflatable varsity jacket wearing Mallard, drew the largest dance crowd of the day with a non-stop assault of propulsive bass blasts. The EDM collective weaved through a tight hour long set showcase centered around their huge hits “Barbra Streisand” and “The Big Bad Wolf”.
The Day One headlining slot belonged to Bostonian pop-rockers Passion Pit. Michael Angelakos, freed from the bonds of key-synth playing, worked every side of the stage pacing like man possessed. New material like “Take A Walk” flowed in cohesive unison with the songs that made them famous on their debut Manners. With the post solstice sun finally gone for the night, Passion Pit’s impressive lighting display set against the Upper Manhattan skyline made for some memorable landscapes with neon body paint kicking up dirt all around.
As the regular set closing pangs of “Sleepyhead” winded down the Hype Machine stage, the late night entertainment stormed the Governors Ball in the form of rapper Kid Cudi. Opening with “Mojo So Dope” the now veteran MC bared his fangs and mic skills with his cerebral brand of Hip-Hop coming through in a clear delivery.
“I came here to have a fucking good time,” said Cudi who was clearly enjoying himself clad in a Hawaiian shirt and fresh Yeezy 2′s.
As Kid Cudi’s performance drew to a close a swarm of fest goers headed for the gates to get ready for another full day of music on Sunday.