Governors Ball is one of New York City’s most beloved music festivals–no matter how much we complain about the trek all the way up to Randall’s Island, the ensuing mud and overpriced beer, it’s all part of the experience. Oh yeah, and there’s the bands! The lineup is packed this year with everyone from returning superstar headliners like Kanye West and The Strokes, to newcomers like Holly Miranda and Public Access TV. Despite some early drizzling on Friday, the day ended up being fairly mild, and a great kick off for the 2016 edition of the festival. Here’s the eight moments that made the day pop.

Of Monsters and Men @ the Gov Ball NYC Stage

Of Monsters and Men Gov Ball 2016

Adjusting to the first festival band of the day is always a bit of a struggle, one has to grow accustomed to balancing a beer, a cell phone, and an eye out for teenaged elbows thrown unexpectedly. There was plenty of the latter at the Of Monsters and Men set on Friday afternoon, where people young enough for me–a twenty-eight-year-old woman–to call them “kids” were dancing gleefully to the Icelandic folk-pop band’s songs. Since 2011 this five-piece group, who use swelling harmonies with enough force that they feel more like a collective than a band, have been international superstars, whether you like their uplifting twee or not. As it happens, I do like it. So I danced a bit with some nearby joyous teens. It’s moments like these that make festival fatigue worth it.—Caitlin White
Father John Misty @ the Big Apple Stage

Father John Misty Gov Ball 2016

You’ve truly got to hand it to Josh Tillman, he’s figured out how to turn woozy, endearing folk rock into rock star territory. The heavy dose of sardonic wit contained in his lyrics is a big part of that, but there’s something else too; Tillman has begun to recognize the aching boredom that most music fans have with the current tepid climate. He likes to poke that bear a little, and did so at Governors Ball by climbing up the scaffolding toward the end of his set. It was one of the most interesting things I saw all day! But alas, he was forced to stop, and we all went back to being… “Bored in the USA.”—CW
Beck @ the Gov Ball NYC Stage

Beck Governor's Ball 2016

The most touching moment of Beck’s spectacularly life-affirming set last night was when he shared his memory of Prince presenting him with the Grammy for Album of the Year. As Beck told it, he was swept up in the moment at the ceremony and gave Prince a big hug onstage. Later, he wondered if he’d overstepped his bounds and looked up photos of the night to see if he could catch a glimpse of Prince’s expression during the moment. When he found one, he saw Prince was beaming with joy. To hear Beck tell that story was almost as moving as his setlist peppered with old favorites (he kicked off with “Devil’s Haircut”) and new highlights (the lady next to me lost her shit dancing when he began “Dreams”). “Lost Cause” and “Loser” were my personal highlights, (sensing a pattern?) but his inclusion of “Raspberry Beret” and decision to close out the set with another Prince cover, “1999,” were moving tributes to a legend whose loss still feels unbearable. At least we can share in Beck’s memory of his incredible smile.—CW
Duke Dumont @ the Bacardi House Stage

Duke Dumont Gov Ball 2016

“All the hits, baby!” a fan exclaimed during Duke Dumont’s set. “All the fucking hits!” Dumont, a producer from England, offers a monochromatic updating of ‘90s house. Again and again, he relied on the same strategy: a female vocal and a simple keyboard line as appetizer, walloping rhythm section as main course. Simple, predictable, endlessly effective: every time he made this transition, the crowd cheered wildly. In the green space outside the tent enclosure where Dumont queued up his tracks, a large dance circle started on the lawn. Here you could find various forms of movement that offered a pleasantly arrhythmic alternative to the producer’s tightly gridded beats: beer splattered twirls, a few spirited cracks at the worm, and some post-liberal-arts attempts at ballet.—Elias Leight
Jamie xx @ the Bacardi House Stage

Jamie XX Governors Ball

Jamie xx’s sound doesn’t necessarily translate well to a festival crowd, which usually prefers big, decisive strokes rather than delicacy and detail. But in a DJ set that moved in between Jamie’s own music and the work of others, you could find textures missing from many of the other performances at Governors Ball–reams of pulsing hand percussion, the scraping voice of late period Gil Scott-Heron, the ecstatically low-key hook of Idris Muhammad’s “Could Heaven Ever Be Like This.” Listeners know that Jamie can provide this sort of satisfaction; that’s what they come to him for. More surprising was a sudden segue into Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me,” just the kind of decisive track that the audience was craving. —EL
The Silent Disco

Silent Disco Gov Ball 2016

Festivals are intense affairs: the crowds are large, the days are long, the music is loud. The silent disco can offer an antidote – suddenly you’re stuck back in your own head courtesy of a fat pair of headphones. (Though the music is still loud.) Around 7:45, one DJ seemed to play every popular radio song of recent memory: Rihanna’s “Work” and “Rude Boy,” Alicia Keys’ “Empire State Of Mind,” Fat Joe & Remy Ma’s “All The Way Up,” Drake’s “Know Yourself,” Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood (Remix),” Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar, We’re Goin Down,” Drake and Future’s “Jumpman.” These smashes came one after the other at cartoonish, nonsensical speed. Smiles were wide and everyone sang or rapped along, comfortable in the knowledge that no one else could hear them.—EL
Bloc Party @ the Big Apple Stage

Bloc Party Gov Ball 2016

When I was in college, Silent Alarm and a A Weekend In The City were two of the coolest albums in my world. Watching Bloc Party last night, nearly a decade later, all that effortless rebellion and dead-eyed coolness was still there. Their tempestuous but tightly-controlled sense of industrial punk chaos reigns eternal, even after the lineup changes and hiatus, their triumphant return with this year’s Hymns helps cement Bloc Party as a band who will live on far beyond the moment you initially discovered them.—CW
Robyn @ the Honda Stage

Robyn Gov Ball 2016

Well, by the time 9:15 PM rolled around on Friday night one thing was clear: Robyn came here to dance. The sound for her set was what we in the industry call “shitty as fuck” but professional lay terms aside, the setlist was already stacked with remixes and rarities that appealed mostly to one person–Robyn herself. She was clearly having the time of her life onstage, unaware or unconcerned with the slowly receding crowd who could hear nothing and mostly really really wanted to hear “Call Your Girlfriend.” But wait, even when she burst into “Dancing On My Own,” most were barely able to hear enough to sing along. Do better, Honda Stage sound technicians. Despite my critiques, it is still more thrilling to see Robyn dance to obscure tracks I barely know than to watch most other bands play fully recognizable sets. It’s still Robyn. She’s untouchable, even when we can’t hear her.—CW
All photos from Instagram


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here