It’s a wonder Governors Ball went on as long as it did last night (June 7). New York’s Randall’s Island was flooded, festival-goers were up to their knees in mud in some areas, and the storm continued to rage overhead.
Those who braved the at-times dangerous conditions were likely doing so in order to catch Kings of Leon’s first U.S. festival set in some time. (By the looks of it how it played out, the band had planned to play up yesterday’s announcement of new album Mechanical Bull during the set. They’ll make up their Gov Ball set Saturday at 6:45, and Friday tickets will be honored; the also rained-out Pretty Lights, however, will not play today.) Just minutes before KoL’s 9:30 performance, however, the organizers behind the expanding fest called it off, via Twitter and an update to their mobile app, citing “high winds and unsafe stage conditions.” Some attendees got the message immediately, quickly swarming the buses back to the mainland, but others were not as aware. After an entire day of consistent storming (including a flash flood warming for the NYC area), why then would they finally cancel?
An insider source tells Radio.com that Governors Ball organizers fought tooth and nail with NYC Parks Dept. all day long regarding Friday’s shutdown, trying to prolong it as long as possible. Unlike the weather-related shutdown of Brooklyn’s Great Googa Mooga fest shutdown last month – which came prematurely to preserve the condition of Prospect Park – there’s little doubt that Randall’s Island took a beating last night. By the end of the day, it was downright dangerous.
At the conclusion of day one, it was clear who the big winner was: not the bands, not the attendees (shout-out if you caught a cold last night), but rather, the dudes selling ponchos. Leave it to crafty New Yorkers to capitalize on unprepared festival-goers, using keen intuition (OK, they checked the weather forecast) to tally up as much money as the vendors inside the gates of Randall’s Island.
Posted up outside the entrance where the incoming crowd was being dropped off by buses or shuttles, “dryness vendors” sold ponchos for $5 a pop. From a look at the crowd at Governors Ball, the majority of them opened their wallets to get one. Sweet Leaf Tea and Miller Lite ponchos began to make an appearance as the rain and wind picked up during the day, but not before the freelance vendors in the parking lot raked in the dough.
As for the bands that did make it to the stage last night, many toward the end of day played abridged sets and/or went on late. Let’s get into who we did see yesterday.
Beach House went on 30 minutes late and played for just 30 minutes (instead of 90), but even that seemed miraculous at the time, considering just how hard the rain was coming down. Though Victoria Legrand’s keyboard equipment was mostly covered by towels and/or tarps, the Baltimore duo’s dreamy sounds cascaded over the poncho-clad crowd. She stood out boldly at the back of the stage in a shimmering jacket, while colorful lights and fog brought even more drama to the already apocalyptic scene.
After Feist’s performance was rained out after just one song, festival-goers migrated towards the nearest cover, which happened to be the Skyy Vodka Tent. And that was where Erykah Badu (“AKA Sarah Bellum! AKA Meddula Oblongata!” as she reminded us when she hit the stage) was to perform as planned: the tent protected both the audience and the stage from the torrential downpour.
Her DJ took the stage early to warm up the crowd (figuratively – unfortunately not literally, as the temperature was plummeting to 60 degrees, but with soggy mud splattered clothes, it felt quite a bit colder) with hip-hop hits and a few older tracks (including M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls,” which got a great reaction).
Shortly after 8 p.m., Ms. Fat Belly Bella hit the stage with her band the Cannabanoids, an unusual collective that featured a drummer, a DJ and a number of people on laptops, seemingly remixing her music in realtime. Her set featured songs from throughout her career (her early hit “On & On” was a highlight) and whether the fans packed into the tent to catch her set or just to stay dry, no one left unsatisfied.
Feist… well, sort of
Feist didn’t seem too fazed by the rain, which seemed to come down even harder as she took the festival’s main stage. She came out encouraging anyone wearing a poncho to throw it into the sky. A few people actually listened. “You’re crazy!” she screamed. Feist started singing her “storm song,” better known as “A Commotion” off 2011’s Metals, getting halfway through the track before the sound went out. “I think we’re going to get electrocuted,” Feist said, before blowing a conch shell (encouraging others to do the same, if they have one) and walking off stage. Moments later, a man from the festival announced Feist was having some technical difficulties, but they were trying to fix them so she could get back to her set. As the Beach Boys “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” played over the soundsystem, some people made a beeline for Young The Giant’s set, which was on at the same time on the other side of the field, while others decided to brave the elements and wait it out.
Unfortunately, five minutes later the same guy came back to be the bearer of bad news: no Feist due to equipment problems. The singer later tweeted her apologies to fans and their “power ponchos,” blaming Poseidon for the awful downpour.
She also tweeted a photo, assessing her waterlogged equipment, which just couldn’t withstand Poseidon’s fury.
— Feist (@FeistMusic) June 8, 2013
Young The Giant
By the time Sameer Gadhia and Young The Giant took the stage for their early evening set, the downpour had turned horizontal, courtesy of severe wind gusts. But Young The Giant powered through, enduring the harsh conditions their poncho-toting crowd had endured all day, supplying them with a set dedicated mostly to songs from their eponymous debut album. The band did sprinkle in a pair of new songs between the well-known “My Body” and “Cough Syrup.”
“We’ve been in the studio, here’s a new one,” said Gadhia. Before Young The Giant were encouraged to leave the stage by festival officials, the band was able to slip in another new song, this time performing “Anagram” for the crowd.
Of Monsters and Men
Of Monsters and Men drew the largest crowd of the afternoon, all of whom seemed to be carrying an umbrella. While everyone else was an absolute muddy wet mess, the band’s guitarist, Brynjar Leifsson, tried to class things up by wearing a tux. The Icelandic folk band encouraged fans to sing-along on “Little Talks,” “Mountain Sound” and “King and Lionheart” off their 2011 debut, My Head Is An Animal. And the crowd was definitely not going to turn it down. In fact, most went a step further, lowering their umbrellas to enjoy a literal rain dance.
With instruments covered in plastic bags to protect them from the rain, Local Natives took the stage. “You’re already the best crowd ever,” guitarist/singer Taylor Rice told the soggy crowd before the band launched into “You And I,” off their latest album, Hummingbird. Another new one, “Breakers,” seemed to calm the storm for a little bit with its soothing chorus, while older songs like “Airplanes,” “Wide Eyes” and “World News” off their 2009 debut, Gorilla Manor, got people singing along. This became a good distraction for when the rain picked up once again. Halfway through their set, the band announced that they’d be playing Terminal 5 in New York City this fall, their largest show yet. Their live show definitely warrants a bigger venue. Not ones to stand still, the five guys moved around the wet stage swapping instruments, most notably on “Heavy Feet,” where everyone seemed to be playing percussion. Rice often moves like he’s having a seizure, spinning and rocking in unison with the music. And if you look close enough you could probably see the bulging veins in Kelcey Ayers’ neck as he sings every note at the top of his lungs. Their night ended with a super jam of “Sun Hands,” a screaming fit that made standing in the rain seem a little less terrible.
Best Coast may have taken the stage fairly early in the afternoon, but it was still hours into the rain, which meant the area around the stage was a complete muddy mess. Despite the makings of a monsoon and mud up to their ankles, the crowd, though for just one short hour, appeared to soak up some sunny West Coast vibes. Frontwoman Bethany Cosentino thanked poncho-clad fans for braving the storm and showed her appreciation by playing a mix of songs from her two albums, 2010’s Crazy For You and last year’s The Only Place. Wearing leopard-print leggings and a denim jacket that covered up a white crop top, Cosentino rocked out to songs like “Crazy For You” and “The Only Place.” But overall she seemed partial to her slower songs, showing off her voice on “How They Want Me To Be” and “I Want You,” which became an extended edition that showed off not only her guitar skills, but a nifty trick where she removed her jacket while still wearing her guitar. Before launching into her final song, “Boyfriend” off Crazy For You, the singer imparted some wisdom on the crowd. “Try to stay dry out there and stay off drugs. Or on, if you like, what do I care?”
– Jillian Mapes, Shannon Carlin, E.J. Judge, Brian Ives, Radio.com; photos by E.J. Judge & Maria Ives