10 Best Acts at Governors Ball 2015

From Björk to Weird Al, these are the best acts we saw at 2015's Gov Ball.

By Radio.com Staff

Another year in the books for New York’s largest music festival. Save for what felt like being in an endless mist machine on Friday, the weather stayed fair and unconditional, which is what can be said for the bulk of the festival. As the Radio.com staff trekked away from the fest the final day, we all agreed that the fest was, you know what?, good and we’d had a fine time.

Related: Review: Drake Expectations at Governors Ball 2015

There was nothing bad about the fifth annual Governors Ball (save for perhaps the unfortunate slip and fall by Slim Jimmy of Rae Sremmurd, who is reportedly doing better). It’s the blessing and the curse of Gov Ball, as it tries to find out where it fits in the early festival season between Coachella and Lollapalooza. Every year, it thrives even more, and for a festival to sell out its $145-a-day ticket price, it’s definitely doing something right.

The acts did everything festival acts should do: There were poppy fan-service acts and more experimental sets to get everybody to flex their ear muscles. The marquee performance by Drake was not bad, but our favorites? We somehow narrowed it down to the 10 below.

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Chromeo

Friday afternoon became a funk-fueled dance party at the hands of Chromeo, diving into the guitar-soaked “Night by Night,” inciting a mass singalong with last summer’s “Jealous” and summoning Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig from wherever he’s living nowadays simply by playing the riff to “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” which resulted in a Koenig-led cover of the song and a subsequent supporting role on “Bonafied Lovin.” -Kevin Rutherford

Björk

Dressed like a butterfly, or as the person standing next to me pointed out, “a Power Rangers villain,” Björk brought her latest album, Vulnicura, to life on Saturday with help from a smartly dressed orchestra. There was little chatter from the Icelandic star, just music, focusing mainly on the ballads of her latest album, while managing to still throw in string-laden takes on classics like “Hunter,” “Bachelorette,” and “5 Years,” a song she hasn’t performed since 2008. After prancing around the stage for an hour singing about her recent heartbreak and showing off her pixie-like dance moves (what other kind of moves could Björk really do, right?), she asked the crowd to help her gather the courage to do her final song “Army of Me” off 1995’s Post  by singing along. So as the sun set, a karaoke sing-along, complete with a firework display, made Björk happy she came out of that cocoonof hers. -Shannon Carlin

Kate Tempest

Female English rapper is not a popular descriptor on the festival circuit, but Kate Tempest may very well change that. The 26-year-old Brit, who was nominated for a Mercury Prize in 2014 for her debut album Everybody Down, took the stage in the early afternoon on Saturday to rhyme about a twenty-something girl named Becky and her two acquaintances, Harry and Pete, who are trying to find a little happiness on songs like “Marshall Law.” After letting the crowd know how happy she was to be there and how much she loved GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan for just being GZA, the rapper/poet did a bit of spoken word letting the modest, but clearly engaged crowd know that “happiness, the brand, is not happiness at all” no matter how hard the corporations of the world try to convince us otherwise. “You’re smarter than that,” Tempest said pointing straight at those standing in the open field. Perhaps, but we’re certainly not as whip smart as her or her performance. –S.C.

Clean Bandit

There’s something about scoring a top 10 hit in America that’ll make the kids turn out for a 1:30 set. Enter Clean Bandit, whose “Rather Be” got the crowd spinning in a feel-good frenzy, thanks in part to Glee‘s Alex Newell, who contributed powerful backing vocals after leading the way on “Stronger” earlier in the set. Deadmau5 may have had the bass (and a crazy new light show), but did you hear that violin? –K.R.

Related: Ryan Adams Deems Deadmau5’s Governors Ball Set a ‘Terminator Nightmare’ As Producer Struggles with Sound Issues

St. Vincent

Ryan Adams closed out Saturday night with comments about living a Terminator nightmare,” but one night earlier, St. Vincent was a different kind of Terminator, one who was sent to Governors Ball to slay rock and roll. Playing up the sci-fi-ness of her self-titled album, Annie Clark was a robot sent from the future to stutter-step around the stage and tell the people of New York City not to view her show through the lens of their electronic devices. For newer songs like “Digital Witness” and “Birth in Reverse,” along with classics like “Actor Out of Work” and “Cruel,” Clark showed off her precision dance moves with help from two very blonde dancers wearing silver lycra catsuits, who interrupted further what she was singing and playing on guitar. To prove she had pushed herself to the edge, the night ended with “Lips are Red” and Clark being carried around on a stretcher—not to mention, a full-on instrumental freakout. With a performance this good, we’re already thinking about when she”ll be back. –S.C.

Sturgill Simpson

FarmBorough’s next weekend, but no one told Sturgill Simpson. Country Music’s Great Hope began Sunday afternoon with a crowd that needed convincing after a day of dance and rock, but had won them over by set’s end thanks to earnest songwriting, lightning-fast electric guitar picking and by simply being different than the usual offerings. Oh, and a tremendous Osborne Brothers cover of “Listening to the Rain” (with T Rex’s “The Motivator” spliced in) helped matters. K.R.

Royal Blood

What may have been the loudest set of the weekend was created by two Englishmen armed with nothing more than a bass guitar and a drum set (well, and a killer pedal/amp setup). Royal Blood melted the damn faces off the Sunday afternoon attendees with sludge-y blues riffs and a call to action that involved all kinds of head banging and a few mosh pits. And even some devil horns. –K.R.

Tame Impala 

Kevin Parker showed the sizable gathering of slit-eyed twentysomethings, nu-hippies, and MGMT and Radiohead fans why Tame Impala will be one of the biggest bands in the world in the coming months. The band played three songs off their forthcoming album Currents, which have all been out in the world for a minute now, and the audience was in rapt attention. It’s hard to undersell how well practiced the band is, who moved from the a slow R&B sway of “Cause I’m A Man” into the 70s riff rock of “Elephant” without one misstep. -Jeremy D. Larson

Rustie   

I don’t think Rustie is meant for the sort of general-interest crowd of people who hovered around the Gotham Tent at Governors Ball on Saturday afternoon, but for those who would wait out his quiet texturizing and outré fussing, they were rewarded with the dayglo synth-sweeps that the young Scottish producer has become so famous for. Or maybe they just knew him from his spot on Danny Brown’s “Dope Song” or the Brown-assisted “Attak,” since those seemed to get the people moving.-JDL

“Weird Al” Yankovic

It was a bit of an oddity to have there be at least seven costume changes for a festival set in the middle of an afternoon. But it was a small dose of unabashed nerdy fun that made Weird Al’s set be one of the highlights, even if the entire thing was predicated on “I remember this song!” because in the internet age the the half-life of parodies is now approximately the length of the song. No matter, everyone sung along to “White & Nerdy” and most people sang along to “Gump,” a total shock being that the song is almost 20 years old. –JDL

 

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