The final day of Governors Ball could be summed up in one word: Kanye. Some fans waited all day at the main stage just to catch a glimpse of the man, the myth. We’re talking nearly 11 hours of straight standing here. While others ditched the two performers playing at 8 o’clock to spend an hour and a half staking out the perfect viewing spot.
Kanye started the show with previously-revealed songs “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves” before sampling other tracks (the EDM-ish “On Site” and “I Am A God,” which sounded a bit like Nine Inch Nails) off his upcoming album, Yeezus, out June 18. There was one other new song — or at least a new interlude, as it was quite brief — played after “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves,” which kicked off the set at around 9:50 p.m. (20 minutes late). West played for his allotted hour and a half, albeit that was over schedule since he started late. He also ranted about why fans won’t be hearing songs from his new album on the radio anytime soon.
Unsurprisingly, the crowd was at its most animated for the handful of hits West played. “Power” featured what felt like the entirety of the festival clapping along — literally thousands of folks crammed together as far as the eye could see — and “Stronger” felt new with a more abrasive beat. But it was “All of the Lights” and “Runaway” that “really got the people going,” as the Throne would say.
That said, it was almost strange to hear ‘Ye play early material, seeing as he’s actively trying to create a new narrative around himself. He tried to tweak a number of the old songs, but it’s hard to tell if the crowd valued that — they were screaming along too loudly to even notice.
Kanye was certainly the night’s big draw, but there were a lot of other great performances from the day, including out-shadowed fellow headliners, The Avett Brothers.
The crowd for The Avett Brothers‘ headlining set might have been the smallest the North Carolina folk trio have seen in quite some time. The turnout was no fault of their own. But despite competing with one of the most popular and controversial entertainers from the past decade, the band delivered a show worthy of festival headliner status. They had the hundreds in front of them singing along to the piano driven “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise,” setting the tone for their entire set. A hoedown ensued on the mud covered dance floor towards the end of “Laundry Room,” segueing into a standup bass solo from Bob Crawford. Following energetic performances of “Talk on Indolence” and “At The Beach,” brothers Scott and Seth took the spotlight for the household anthem “Murder In The City.” Once the applause died down, the silence was filled with bass and the chorus to Kanye’s “Heartless.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Governors Ball 2013: Rain, Mud & Rock ‘n’ Roll
“Are y’all still with us?” Seth Avett asked, perhaps delivering a mindful, light-hearted joke to the situation. “We’re so happy to be here with you on this fine evening, y’all.” Scott Avett kept the energy high, jumping into the crowd during “Kick Drum Heart.” The band concluded their set before the 11PM cutoff, but came back out on stage for an encore. “We might have one more left in us, y’all,” said Seth Avett. “Thanks for asking.” They concluded the encore with “I And Love And You,” which, as if almost synced purposely, was filled immediately by the vocals of Syleena Johnson from Kanye’s “All Fall Down.”
As the sun began to set on the festival’s final day, The xx delivered a subdued set tailor made for the Governors Ball crowd, who had been through a lot during the course of the weekend. It was also conducive for twirling in the mud. The tranquil vocals of Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft were punctuated by remix master Jamie xx. Adding to the atmosphere was the smoke and light show, looking more spectacular when the sun went down.The trio’s hour-long set was peppered with their most well-known tracks including “Angels,” “Islands” and “Crystalised.”
Grizzly Bear’s early evening set over on the main stage showed why they’re among the most technically proficient musicians in indie rock circa 2013. Unfortunately, much of the crowd that gathered in front to see them seemed to be more interested in staking out a good spot for Kanye’s headlining set later that night. It’s a shame, as it was a great set made even more blissful by the breeze passing through. The Brooklyn indie rockers ran through much of their latest album, 2012’s Shields, with the easy precision of a band that’s been playing these tracks live for nearly a year now. And yet, they didn’t feel canned, especially interspersed with a charming bit of banter from singer Ed Droste.
Friday, it was the folk band Of Monsters and Men who drew the biggest crowd and on Sunday, another large group flocked to see fellow folkies The Lumineers play more than just their hit song, “Ho Hey.” Those fans that huddled up close to the stage were not disappointed by the band’s set, which included “Stubborn Love,” “Flowers In Your Hair” and “Submarines” off their 2012 self-titled debut and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” The Lumineers performed right alongside fans in the crowd and to top things off, brought out the kids of Success Academy in the Bronx to help out with “Ho Hey.”
Bradford Cox is not usually described as a happy person, mostly because he spends a lot of time ranting about fellow artists (most recently, Morrissey) and anything else that is bothering him. But during his band Deerhunter’s very loud set (some people were even seen plugging their ears), he looked damn near ecstatic. He started the show with an interesting tidbit about oil (spoiler: it’s made from your dead ancestors) and ended the day by humping his guitar. In between he played songs off the bands latest album, Monomania, some even while smoking a cigarette and all of which with his fly down. He later zipped up, apologizing for the snafu. But even the embarrassing moment couldn’t take the smile off his face.
Haim is not your average girl band, as shown by their afternoon set. Sure, these three sisters know how to make great pop songs like “Forever” and “Better Off” off their Forever EP, which will get you dancing. But the ladies are also able to throw in a drum line or a guitar-fueled jam before throwing off a few grittier bluesy numbers that are bound to be on their debut, which can’t seem to come out soon enough. And if Haim’s music doesn’t win you over (though we’re sure it will) their delightful stage banter will. This time around it ranged from talking about not dating guys from Beverly Hills to jumping out into the crowd to hang out with fans. “If Miguel can do it…” guitarist Este Haim said to a round of applause. Luckily, she stayed put.
This Nashville duo proved it’s never too early to have champagne. By the end of their early afternoon set they were poppin’ the bubbly and letting fans in the front row take a swig. The band’s mix of bluesy funk with sexy dance beats and laugh out loud lyrics about Jazzercise and monogamy makes it a much riskier kind of pop music. Also the kind of music that you can’t stand still for. They played songs off their recent self-released EP, 100 Bottles, and last year’s Mom & Pop, along with a spot-on cover of Calvin Harris’ “Feel So Close.” One standout was “Doses and Mimosas,” which features the chorus, “To all b****-a** hoes that hate me the most/ Oh yeah, I hate you too.” Definitely an underdog contender for song of the summer.
- Jillian Mapes, Shannon Carlin, E.J. Judge, Radio.com; photos by E.J. Judge and Maria Ives