The best and worst of Governors Ball 2015

Day 1

The Best


Chromeo didn’t have the best set of Friday; they had the best set of the festival. Between the coordinated dance moves, the hits packed set list, and a surprise guest spot from Vampire Weekend‘s Ezra Koenig, Chromeo’s live set was the most electrifying of the day. Koenig came on stage and performed “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” before breaking into “Bonafied Lovin (Tough Guys)”.

Florence + The Machine

Despite her set starting 45 minutes late, Florence + the Machine did not disappoint. Her first show back standing after breaking her foot, Florence managed to run, jump, and sing without any noticeable ill effects. She even got the crowd to surf a fan to the stage who had a sign that said “HUGS?” so that Florence could personally deliver a hug to her, quipping “hugs should never be a question.”


“Oh, this is that shit I love” Drake remarked after only a few songs. The crowd was packed like sardines but still managed to throw their hands up and vibe with Drake during his pyrotechnics-filled hour-and-a-half set.

The Worst

Rae Sremmurd

Rae Sremmurd‘s Slim Jimmy jumped from a speaker on to a spotlight, which was unsurprisingly not steady. The spotlight toppled, Jimmy fell into the spotlight, shattering glass and splitting his leg open. Jimmy had to be rushed to the hospital and underwent surgery to remove the glass and close up the wound.

A photo posted by Rae Sremmurd (@raesremmurd) on


I’m not quite sure what Future‘s set was supposed to be but it featured the rapper mostly running around on stage while tracks played. Occasionally he doubled the vocals on the track but otherwise, it seems like the crowd was mostly listening to studio versions of the song along with Future. Extremely disappointing.

The Biggest Surprise

Pat Mahoney DJ-Set

Florence + the Machine were supposed to take the stage at 6:45pm. Instead her elaborate set up was erected and a small table was placed next to the scenery. Out came Pat Mahoney of DFA/LCD Soundsystem fame and he performed a half hour DJ-set. Its unclear if Florence was running late and Mahoney stepped in to save the day or if this was a planned Gov Ball surprise but it was a welcome addition on the main stage.

Day 2

The Best

Sharon Van Etten

I wondered how Van Etten‘s ballad-centric catalog would translate into a festival performance. The always savvy flipped her formula for the occasional and played a surprisingly rock driven set with a couple midtempo ballads mixed in. Kudos to Van Etten for playing to the audience and the crowd appreciated it.

Conor Oberst

Despite chants of “Bright Eyes,” Conor Oberst kept his cool and played a ravaging set mostly comprised of his solo material. In good fun, he even scolded the crowd for skipping Bjork‘s set to watch him.

The Bad


Obviously the biggest draw of the day, Deadmau5‘s set was plagued by technical difficulties. After nearly 20 minutes of false starts and delays, he finally got his set underway. Unfortunately by that time, a good chunk of the crowd began fleeing to Ryan Adams’ rivaling set. Deadmau5, obviously angry, took to twitter to vent his frustrations.

Ryan Adams

Its not overly surprising that the ever feisty Ryan Adams made some news during his headlining set. It is disappointing that it came from gloating over another artist’s misfortune. Adams remarked to the crowd “try and make this song on your fucking iPhone” before breaking into an acoustic rocker.

The Biggest Surprise

Angus & Julia Stone

I had no real intent on watching Australian brother/sister duo, Angus & Julia Stone but I caught a part of the set and had to stay to the end. Julia Stone’s vocal performance was one of the best I heard at the festival and the sound mixing of the set was one of the best I heard over the three days.

Ezra Koenig

Ezra appeared with Chromeo on Friday but turned up again on Saturday during SBTRKT set to play “New Dorp, New York.” The question was “where would Ezra pop up on Sunday?”

Day 3

The Good

“Weird Al” Yankovic

Weird Al seemed like the oddest member of the lineup this year at Governors Ball but he somehow manage to capture one of the largest audience seen at the Gotham Tent. With only an hour long set, Al still managed to squeeze in a bunch of wardrobe changes including one into the iconic fat suit for the parody of Michael Jackson‘s bad. When the set ended, a chant of “Weird Al” went up that was the loudest I heard for any non-headlining artist.

Hot Chip

Visually, I imagine Hot Chip is like seeing Devo dressed down. They seem like unassuming music makers but their performance during Sunday night’s sunset was fantastic. They evenly spread hits like “Night and Day,” “Over and Over,” and “Ready for the Floor” across their hour-and-fifteen minute set. The unfortunate placement of In Our Heads‘ ballad “Look At Where We Are,” lost members of the crowd who wanted to start posturing for space in front Lana Del Rey or the Black Keys. The band really took it home by closing out with a cover of Bruce Springsteen‘s “Dancing in the Dark.” Noticeably missing from their setlist was “Boy From School” which was even including in Governors Ball’s official Spotify playlist.

The Bad

Tame Impala

Tame Impala lead singer, Kevin Parker remarked that this was the last night of the band’s whirlwind tour. I can only hope that other dates were more successful than the band’s Governors Ball performance. Often times, Parker’s perfect falsetto on record was replaced by live caterwauling. Unable to hit high notes, he drifted in and out of falsetto while managing to sound incredibly whiny. Not impressed.

Lana Del Rey

During set Lana Del Rey said “The Black Keys are really loud. I hope you can hear me.” It was a rare bit of self-awareness for a stage performer because indeed most of the crowd could not hear her. People fled Del Rey’s set in droves through the first half as sound leak from the GovBallNYC stage drowned her out. All soft ballads were drowned out by the Black Keys thumping bass.

Performance wise, Del Rey’s set was perfect. For anyone who’s last time seeing the singer was on the Saturday Night Live stage would be amazed this was the same person. Rocking a New York Yankees dress, she utilized the entire stage–even made her way down to the crowd to take selfies with fans in the front row pressed against the barricade. The second half of her set, the sound got a better, louder, stronger, unfortunately at that point many people had already given up. For the faithful who waited it out, performances of “Video Games” and “Off to the Races” came through crystal clear and were well worth the wait.

The Biggest Surprise

The Picturebooks

Entering Governors Ball through the West entrance, the Honda Stage was before me and playing was relatively unknown German duo, The Picturebooks. Despite a name that sounds like a twee pop band, the duo played down and dirty rock. The most intense part was the drummer whose set was comprised of toms, a bass drum, chains, and a bell. No snare. No cymbals. It was epic.

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