2013 marked the first time that Governors Ball extended to a three day festival and also the first time to have overlapping sets. Because of the expansion and format change, there were definite growing pains. Below we out line the good, the bad, and the ugly in a handy top 10 list format.
10. Kanye West
Despite opening and closing with “Black Skinhead”, Kanye‘s set was actually packed with a good mix of old and new. He played “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” “All Falls Down,” “Runaway,” and “Heartless” among others.
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10. Kanye’s general attitude
Never once did Mr. West acknowledge the crowd existed. During “Good Life,” he rapped the first verse before saying “Stop, I don’t know that verse” and cutting the song short. He went on a rant about not giving a fuck about the radio, album sales, or anything really. And then there were weird videos of jet planes taking off between songs that seemed pretty pointless.
When I saw Alt-J back in March in Boston, I gave the band a less than stellar review. The band has obviously become more seasoned throughout this American tour. They were talkative, jovial, and still played a super tight set including an acapella cover of Electric Youth‘s “A Real Hero.”
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09. The Alt-J crowd
If anyone was near the VIP area during the band’s set, they know exactly what I mean. Photojournalists were trying to leave the area while an increasingly volitile crowd was trying to enter the area. In short, an Attica-like chant of “let us in” started while security desperately tried to get photographers out. In the end, cooler heads prevailed as most people just exited left the area not wanting to pass out in the sun from the overcrowding.
08. Icona Pop
I came in with mixed hopes for Icona Pop. They weren’t impressive at the MTV Video Music Awards, so I wondered how an entire set would work. While I wouldn’t call their set amazing, they certainly got the crowd going at 2:15 on the muddiest day of the fest.
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Because of the rain shortened day one of the fest, day two became a scheduling nightmare with Icona Pop, Ms Mr, and Japandroids all playing at the same time. A similar time conflict of Fucked Up, Dirty Projectors, and Divine Fits occurred later in the day.
The scheduling conflict between Nas and Guns N Roses was a no brainer. Nas proved that point. Because he was 10 minutes late starting, I was able to hear “Welcome to Jungle” before heading over and getting Nas’ “If I Ruled the World,” “It Ain’t Hard to Tell,” “New York State of Mind,” and other classics.
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Kendrick Lamar was on before Nas on the Honda stage and put in a lackluster performance. If you couldn’t see Kendrick than half of his set was silence. In between each song, he silently pondered if the crowd was cheering loud enough and how loud they were compared to previous tour stops. In the end the silent treatment severely impacted the amount of songs on his setlist, actually utilizing only about an hour of his hour and a half set time.
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06. Dirty Projectors
I came in hoping for big things from Dirty Projectors and I was not disappointed. The band played an impeccable set list and were on point the entire show. It was as if the three part harmonies actually sounded better live than recorded.
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05. Twin Shadow
Like a Dominican version of Prince, Twin Shadow‘s George Lewis Jr. with his superior guitar work which surprised me since I came into the set thinking that Twin Shadow was more of a synth pop project. Instead the set played out like an arena rock show except under the tent with big guitar, bass, and drums and the synths taking a backseat role for the majority of the set. In the end, Lewis guitar work was so impressive, it landed him in the top 5.
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05. The Crowd
I’m not saying the crowd was bad necessarily but in the three days I was at Governors Ball, I can not count how many people I saw pass out. Some of it was due to exhaustion, some due to over drinking, some from bad drugs. Either way, passing out at a festival is not good for anyone.
04. The Knocks
Because of the rain on day one, the Knocks‘ early afternoon slot was the best attended pre-6pm set of the day. For their part, The Knocks did not squander the opportunity. They brought the party with their seamless set of originals, remixes, and covers.
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04. The Rain
I know its been reported to death but the wind and rain on Friday was really the worst. It got so bad that Pretty Lights were completely cancelled and Kings of Leon were shifted to Saturday in the afternoon.
03. Dinosaur Jr.
Speaking of the rain…Dinosaur Jr. did not play a bad set, but their over cautiousness was disheartening. J Masics wore a northface hoodie with the hood up for the entire set. He basically set up next to the drummer–so far back that anyone not directly in front of the stage could see him. While the songs all sounded good, I never any of the actual members and I was in the front row.
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03. Freddie Gibbs
I honestly saw Freddie Gibbs because I didn’t want to leave the tent during the third and hottest day of Governor’s Ball. I can safely say it was one of the best decisions I made on the weekend. While recorded I was never overly impressed with Gibbs’ lyrics, laced with mostly talk about marijuana and crack. Live however, Gibbs is a free styling machine with nearly half of his set comprised of acapellas. It was truly an impressive showing, the best of any rapper at the festival.
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02. Crystal Castles
Despite playing later in the day on the rain soaked Friday, Crystal Castles put on a bombastic performance under the tent. Their thumping distorted beats got the crowd live and then Alice Glass’ mixture of screaming vocals and rock star moves played well. She even got into the crowd standing on the barrier and getting a scream along going.
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After Kanye West’ headlining set on Sunday, the amount of people dead lost trying to figure out where parking was was overwhelming. Being one of those people, it was frustrating asking every cop and volunteer where parking was and getting a different answer from each. If parking is not going to be obvious there should at least be signs directing people to the parking areas.
01. Bloc Party
Bloc Party headlined the Sky Vodka Tent on the last night of the festival. Although, scheduled at the same time as the XX, they drew a huge crowd and did not disappointed. The bands frenetic mixture of post-punk and indie dance played well to the crowd and absolutely blew me away.
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It can not be overstated how the mud effected the entire weekend. No one could move quickly so many people missed sets they would’ve liked to have seen. Going in deeper, cars got stuck in the mud since Governor’s Ball parking was exclusively in grass areas. Arriving Sunday, there were still cars stuck from Friday night and tow trucks were trying to excavate them.