Governors Ball 2014: A Chat About What Worked and What Didn’t
By Jeremy D. Larson & Shannon Carlin
Governors Ball took place this year once again on Randall’s Island, New York City, New York. The relatively modest festival brought EDM, indie rock, rap, a few outliers together for a three-day event underneath some of the most beautiful weather you could ask for.
Shannon Carlin and Jeremy D. Larson went to all three days and crossfired with each other after the fest closed down on Sunday night to get a sense of the best, the worst, the wild, the perfucnctory, and what we should really do with all the Bill Murray Stripes t-shirts.
Shannon Carlin: So you were there last year with all the, to put it lightly, weather issues. How do you think this one compares? You think they made necessary improvements?
Jeremy D. Larson: This year, I walked onto totally re-sodded Randall’s Island, so however many millions they spent on fixing the mud pit, it was absolutely necessary for the experience of the fest. Compared to last year’s literal hurricane, there wasn’t a drop of rain throughout the weekend, which of course gave me something else to complain about (“Oh great, now there’s a patina of dust covering these $10 chicken strips”) but overall I thought the landscaping of the fest was wildly improved from last year. You could actually sit down in most places. Landscaping = A+.
SC: Yeah, and there was a lot of people sitting on any grassy spot they could find.
JL: Did you experience any logistical problems with the fest? I didn’t at all, which is one thing I like about Gov Ball is that it’s a very manageable festival — it’s small enough where it seems hard for things to go wrong.
SC: Yeah, I think manageable is the best way to describe it. It’s only four stages, they’re not that far apart so you really can move around very easily. I think I wish there was a little more time between sets so you don’t feel like you’re running to the next thing if you want to catch someone’s full set. I feel like I didn’t really stay for anyone’s whole set, but I guess that’s what you do at a festival. You sort of test out everything you can.
Aluna Francis (Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images)
JL: Of the headliners, I saw Outkast, Skrillex, and Vampire Weekend and am convinced I made all the right choices. I was fortunate enough to see Outkast twice in the early 2000’s and remember those shows vividly. This was on the Stankonia tour, and they opened with “Gasoline Dreams” and at that point in my life I had never seen a whole ballroom full of people lose it all at once before when the beat came in. Which is to say, my excitment and expectations for Outkast were tempered a bit.
SC:. I saw them at Coachella, and obviously, that was not all it was cracked up to be so this was a lot better. I mean, the crowd seemed like they wanted to hear more than “Hey Ya” and “Roses.” People really love “Roses” though that’s something I now know.
JL: But they put on a very polished set, for better or for worse. From what I could see and sense, Big Boi seemed way more engaged with all the material than André 3000 did.
SC: Yeah, Andre didn’t turn his back to the crowd to sing anything this time, so that was a good start. But Big Boi seemed like he was having fun and by proxy, Andre seemed more engaged.
JL: I am definitely Team Speakerboxxx so “Roses” and especially “Prototype” had to pry smiles out of me.
SC: “Prototype,” at least where I was standing, was like everyone’s time to go to the bar. So many people started walking away.
JL Here’s how FestivalSpoiled I am: I now expect historical moments to happen. It’s New York, you know, I want Michael Bloomberg to come out with a pimp cane and introduce Big Boi and Andre like they do on that “D.F.” track on Stankonia.
SC: Well, I would say, one thing about the festival was there definitely was a lack of surprises. Not a lot of headline-worthy moments
JL: Outkast didn’t feel especially memorable, which was the problem for me. I mean, look: Not that this was ever going to happen, but you had Damon Albarn across the field and James Murphy chillin in his Brooklyn loft. How hard would it have been to get Murphy an Uber and Albarn a golf cart after his set so that they could perform “Do Ya Thing” with André? When will those three people ever be in the same proximity again?
SC: Yeah, I mean, I think I did have these grand visions of anyone who’s ever guested coming out. I was like hoping Montell Jordan was gonna come out during AlunaGeorge’s cover of “This Is How We Do It.” He did not.
JL: Outkast brought out Sleepy Brown for “The Way You Move” and Killer Mike for “The Whole World,” but that was the bare minimum of what was expected. Did you see Skrillex or Jack White?
SC: I saw Jack White, but I think most of the festival saw Skrillex.
JL: Cause they knew. They didn’t know that they knew, but they knew.
(Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images)
SC: I think in my heart I knew too. And that’s not to disrespect Jack White. It was a good set, he’s clearly a great musician, but it lacked energy in some way. I can’t put my finger on it. But epic guitar solos just don’t do it for me. And there was a lot of those.
JL: Please turn in your Rockist credentials and all your Zeppelin albums at your nearest used record store.
SC: Noooo, but okay. I don’t deserve them. He did play “Hotel Yorba” and “Seven Nation Army” and “Icky Thump” which were great. Clearly, I wanted to see the White Stripes. He was much more bluegrass than I expected.
JL: Here’s my thought process, because I do like Jack White, and the White Stripes were one of my favorite bands: I knew that Skrillex would not phone anything in. And that I would sacrifice what may be some lackluster or broad-spectrum EDM for a dude who looks like he was having one hell of a time flipping cues from inside of an X-Wing. But the thing is, he did stuff that was way beyond his catalog. He played a dancehall remix of ‘Circle of Life.’
SC: Like, The Lion King?
JL: Like The Lion King.
JL: He took K7’s “Come Baby Come” and made it into this footwork/dub-step thing, and then also did “Bangarang” which is the best song he’s written. But above all, it was a blast, which was something I was having precious little of at Governors Ball and I don’t know if it’s because of fatigue or no drugs, but I was always pleasantly enjoying myself, never really going crazy for someone. Skrillex really drew that out of me.
(Mark Davis/Getty Images)
SC: So did you come out of this festival a Skrillex fan? Are you ready to spread the good word of Skrillex to any naysayers?
JL: I don’t really like listening to Skrillex albums — I don’t think they are produced well and it’s all too busy for me. But absolutely go see him live. He plays in LA all the time, and apparently played a very late set at Webster Hall at like 3:00 a.m. which I would have loved to see.
SC: That’s good to know. I also like how you mention your lack of quote-unquote “fun” moments. I have to say, I didn’t see anything that blew me away. That was something I would say about the festival. And I don’t mean it like, I’m too cool for this kind of thing. Just everyone stuck to the script. Janelle Monaé was the closest I came. She took her 45 minutes to an hour and played a headlining set, which was impressive.
JL: I loved Janelle’s set. Her and Disclosure should have been way later in the day, possibly headliners.
SC: Yeah, I agree.
JL: And again: She could have brought out Big Boi for ‘Tightrope.’ That was 100% possible.
SC: I was really hoping she would. Or Miguel for “Primetime.” But she really is the best female performer out there right now, hands down.
SL: Ha! I saw them both actually, since they were playing in a row at stages just steps away from one another. Neko’s skeleton pants were really the highlight. And Jenny played some new music, which was very AM Gold, so she wasn’t even helping the out for the country factor. Jenny Lewis is a good showman too. Those years as a child actor trained her well. Did you see the Strokes?
JL: I did! Or what’s left of them! Nah, nah they were good: I thought Julian looked like the lead singer of like Big Country or Outfield after a coke bender in Key West.
SC: Clearly wasting away in Margaritaville.
(Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images)
JL: I’ve seen the Strokes a bunch in all kinds of venues and this was A Very Strokes Show — no alarms and no surprises. I think people wanted to hear mostly Is This It stuff, at least around me. But I loved when the camera panned to someone in the crowd just screaming his lungs out to “Happy Ending” off Comedown Machine. Some real Strokes blokes out there. What was the most disappointing thing you saw?
SC: Spoon. They were fine. But the sound was awful. He sounded like he was singing underwater
JL: In his defense, I think the sound on that stage was all the way busted. There were times when I felt like I was standing really close and could have a normal conversation with whoever was standing next to me. I won’t pretend to understand the physics of sound, but I would think that when you’re “standing in front of a giant speaker” it should be “loud.” But then again I could also be “going deaf.”
SC: No, no, I think the sound there, something about the way it was set up, was off throughout most of the festival. So I’m not holding it against Spoon. It didn’t ruin them for me. But it was late in the day and I was impatient so I was kind of over trying to make out the words to “Turn My Camera On.” I have to ask you the same thing, any real disappointments for you?
JL: I’m a big Chance the Rapper fan, but his set was weak to me. Something about his live band seemed very thin, and again, it could have been where I was standing (which was close!) but I felt that there was some punch missing to his ‘Acid Rap’ songs. Not that those songs are real bangers, anyway, but I left underwhelmed.
(Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images)
SC: Yeah, I was a little disappointed with his set too. But I also had a bad spot on the outskirts of the tent amongst some youths who were doing drugs and trying to rap along to every word.
JL: I think Chance has a kind of gravity about him, a little undefinable, something that draws people in for a moment and then tosses them out the very next. I like that on his records, but again, doesn’t really translate to a festival experience. What was the worst t-shirt you saw?
SC: Wow, I saw a lot of questionable attire. Ironic tees ruled the weekend, along with anything Bill Murray. But it had to be all the Hawaiian shirts, which seemed to double once Casablancas wore one onstage for The Strokes. Even Jack White referenced Julian’s shirt. He was wearing paisley and said Julian helped him pick his out. Can I say though, worse than the t-shirts were the women wearing bras as shirts. A bra, no matter how tank top-like it may be, is not a shirt. It just isn’t.
JL: And this wasn’t a specific outdoor bra? This was your normal indoor bra? (I don’t know how bras work).
SC: Yeah, this was like a lacy one from Urban Outfitters with very little support, meant to be worn under something. Perhaps peek out for some lace detailing, but not to be worn as an everyday top. That, paired with the shortest shorts imaginable, was probably the style trend I saw the most of. You have a shirt in mind, since you asked me that question?
JL: Two things stuck out to me: André 3000 wore a shirt that said “Art or Fart?” and someone made that shirt and wore it on Sunday.
SC: That person should go into business, that’s efficient turnaround.
(Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images)
JL: Then, yeah, I think we should gather all the Bill Murray Stripes shirts and throw them into a well and pour concrete into it. Though, a much harsher punishment should come to the “THIS DICK ISN’T GOING TO SUCK ITSELF” shirt with an arrow pointing netherward.
SC: I did not see that one. I’m happy I didn’t.
JL: I want to make a shirt that says “THIS MAN ISN’T GOING TO LOVE HIMSELF.”
SC: With “Hug Me” on the back.
JL: Or just “Help.”
SC: The question we really need to ask before we go though is, did you try the CHICKEN FINGERS?!?!
JL: I did. They were $10 of “Any Port in a Storm” but so, so good at the time.
SC: Yeah, those fingers might be one of my highlights. The cheddar jalapeño dipping sauce was the most surprising thing I experienced all weekend. No joke.
JL: I like how the choice of beer was Miller Light (beer water), Redd’s Apple Ale (beer apple juice water) or a GIANT COLUMN OF FOSTER’S. If there were more beer options, they were not readily apparent.
SC: The Foster’s, oh the Foster’s. I saw people just carrying stacks of those and I immediately thought, get away from them.
JL: You could also get little orbs of wine.
SC: People than used those orbs as walking sticks by stacking them. I feel bad for the clean-up crew.
JL: I feel bad for everyone.
SC: Festivals are not a good place if you’re already questioning humanity.
JL: But compared to Electric Daisy Carnival in New Jersey, I will say this was like a trip to the library, with both what it had to offer and the clientele. Let’s end with a cheers: Here’s to Jenny Lewis’ rainbow/beige pant-suit, Neko Case’s skeleton pants, the Kills’ leopard-print backdrop, Ezra Koenig’s camo shorts, and Janelle always giving me shivers when she sings ‘Given ‘Em What They Love’
SC: Amen. I’m gonna go grab a Foster’s and put on my Bill Murray shirt.