There’s no way else to put it: in recent years, the music festival market has become quite saturated. As the industry continues to evolve, so too does the path to success. With each year’s #1 single sounding different from the last, and one year’s ‘next hot sound’ sounding, well, entirely divergent from another, it’s nice to have at least one thing as a constant each year. That thing, here, is Governors Ball, the 3-day festival in our beloved city that merges established superstar headliners with stellar mid-lineup talent and also upcoming, exciting acts along the line up’s lower quadrant.
This year, at Randall’s Island, the festival will bring more young talent than ever: Friday night’s headliner, Chance the Rapper, was born in 1993. His direct support on the main stage, Lorde, was born in ’96. Childish Gambino—also known as Golden Globe-winner Donald Glover—is older, turning 34 later this year, but he’s a beloved favorite of millennials everywhere, for his work both on-screen and in the studio.
There is a ton going on at this year’s Governors Ball, from can’t miss-acts and headliners to mind-twisting conflicts that, unfortunately we must choose between. And while there are endless tremendous acts on this year’s poster, you have to remember—there are only so many you can actually see, and by that regard, for us, so many that we can actually highlight. Surely, by the time the weekend has come and gone, I’ll have missed a bunch I planned on seeing, and seen a handful more out of nowhere. But, alas, at this point all we can do is prognosticate (first order of business—no rain). So let’s get to it, then, shall we?
There are so many acts that we’re excited to see, that it’s only logical that some of our favorites, unfortunately, have to face off in the same time slot. Below, we highlight two of the most difficult choices.
YG vs Rae Sremmurd (Crisis of the Century) Saturday, 3:45
THIS IS THE CRISIS OF THE CENTURY. On Saturday at 3:45, do you go with YG, the West Coast throwback and President Hater-In-Chief on the Bacardi Stage, or do you throw your lot in with the party banger brother duo at the Big Apple Stage? SO HARD. Personally, I think I’ll probably wind up finding myself in the SremmLife crowd, but, really, you cannot go wrong here, and only time will tell.
Childish Gambino vs Phoenix (ALSO A CRISIS) Saturday, 9:15
They’re really tearing us apart on Saturday, aren’t they? For the headliner slot, we’re stuck choosing between one of the first sets since the release of his neo-soul/funk album ‘Awaken, My Love!’,’ the multi-talented Childish Gambino on the Honda Stage, and french indie stalwarts Phoenix, who will release their own new album this summer. Both acts should be a phenomenal close to a fantastic day—either path looks like a winner.
Francis and the Lights—Bacardi Stage, 2:15
Friday’s first act that I’m excited about is Francis and the Lights. A collaborator with Chance The Rapper, Bon Iver, and more, he just recently put out a single, remixing his own “May I Have This Dance,” with the aforementioned Mr. The Rapper. It’s fire. Plus, you’ll get a sneak peak for later, when Chance inevitably brings him out during his set for “Summer Friends”/”Friends.”
Charli XCX—Big Apple Stage, 3:45
Charli XCX might be the greatest pop artist of our time (or, at least, my favorite. It’s between her and Carly Rae Jepsen). Her latest project was filled with bangers (“ILY2” and “Dreamer” stand out right off the top of my head), and she’s got material from last year’s EP with SOPHIE to lean back on as well. That’s on top of the rest of her impressive resume, and her personality and energy almost assure that she’s going to put on a set to remember on Randall’s Island.
Danny Brown—Bacardi Stage, 5:45
It’s hard to imagine a world where Danny Brown is not an electrifying live performer. This is one of the most insane rappers in the game right now, mid-flow and not. He put out a new album last year, and had an awesome feature on the new Gorillaz album—there’s a whole lot of evidence out there telling us that this will be an awesome set; Danny Brown’s manic energy makes that a pretty sure thing.
Lorde—Gov Ball NYC Stage, 7:30
OK folks, we’re reaching the heavy hitters. Lorde’s sophomore album is extremely close to finally coming out, and she’s shown with the singles thus far that her work with Jack Antonoff—who will also be performing a fun Friday set as Bleachers—is tremendous pop for all to enjoy. Antonoff joined her on stage for her last time in NYC, on SNL; it’s not crazy to expect them to team up here again.
Chance the Rapper—Gov Ball NYC Stage, 9:45
And here he is. Chance doesn’t have new music out (outside of a few guest verses, including song of the summer contender “I’m The One”), he’s not expected to do anything that much different than what he’s been doing in the year since the release of Coloring Book… and yet this is still the most-awaited set of the whole weekend. His meteoric rise is ongoing—a few years ago he absolutely jam packed one of the Gov Ball’s Tents—and now he’s the headliner for the whole damn festival. An iconic artist and performer already at only 24 years old, Chance is an act that you simply cannot miss—especially in this moment.
Dua Lipa—Gov Ball NYC Stage, 1:30
Dua Lipa feels like an artist who won’t be playing this early in the day for long. She’s got a super strong voice, her songs are good, and her latest single, a collab with Miguel, is an absolute tune. Get in early on this one.
Car Seat Headrest—Big Apple Stage, 2:15
Saturday also gives you the chance to catch the best young band in the scene, with Car Seat Headrest. After a run as a Bandcamp all-star and a debut with Teens of Style, Car Seat Headrest looked ready to take off, and that they did. Last year’s Teens of Denial, with Matador Records, is a near-perfect rock record. Will Toledo’s voice has always reminded this die-hard Strokes fan of a certain Julian Casablancas, so it was exciting to see just how freaking good Teens of Denial was with a full band and production on Matador, and it’s pretty exciting to get the opportunity to see these songs live. Plus, they’re known for a nice surprise cover every once in a while, so stay on your toes.
A$AP Ferg—Honda Stage, 4:45
You’ve got to check out the trap lord from Harlem. Ferg might be the most underrated rapper in the game these days, and his live set is a perfect chance to see that on full display. Between “Shabba,” “Work,” “New Level,” and “Strive,” there is so much for this member of the mob to tap into. One thing that this year’s iteration of Governors Ball did extremely well was curate their mid-lineup hip hop, and A$AP Ferg (as well as YG, Rae Sremmurd, and Danny Brown) are prime examples. Plus, the members of Seth Meyers’s band told me that he was “poetic,” and that he was “really fucking good.” No reason not to believe that!
Zane Lowe—Big Apple Stage, 2:15
To be completely honest, I am not quite sure what a Zane Lowe set will be. But I’d have to imagine that this set from the world-famous voice of Beats 1 Radio is curated and fun and maybe will even feature some special guests. Or maybe it’ll be an interview—and that would be cool too, I guess.
Parquet Courts—Gov Ball NYC Stage, 3:15
One of the most prolific bands in the scene—they’ve released five LPs since 2011—Parquet Courts is also one of the most exciting bands. They merge all kinds of sounds and genres, and last year’s album, Human Performance, is the best style-melder yet. “Berlin Got Blurry” and “Human Performance,” both off that record, are irresistible on the studio recording, and will probably make an even stronger impact when performed live.
Mac DeMarco—Honda Stage, 4:45
The definition of a rock star, in this day and age, has been rapidly evolving. Mac DeMarco, as much as anyone, is riding his peak right now; not totally different—as an indie rock star—from Father John Misty (although, somehow, way more earnest), this Canadian guitar-whiz is on the very top of his game, and has the vocal and instrumental chops to prove it. His live show, always, is bonkers, his fanbase is huge, and seeing him during the day is going to be a blast.
CHECK THIS STUFF OUT TOO
Stormzy/Skepta (Saturday—Honda Stage,3:00; Sunday—Bacardi Stage, 3:45)
These guys are big here in America now, too. But, having had a British roommate for the last four months, I’ve learned that these two are basically the gods of the English rap—grime—game. “Skepta is basically the British Kendrick,” I was recently told, shortly before also being told that “Stormzy is sick, mate.” Take that for whatever it’s worth.
Wu-Tang Clan (Sunday—Gov Ball NYC Stage, 6:45)
Admittedly, I’ve never been the hugest Wu-Tang fan. Not that I dislike them, but there’s simply so much music to explore, and the Wu-Tang catalogue is almost too big a task to tackle in my over-thinking mind. That being said, it’s impossible to avoid entirely and how can you not like what you hear? Plus, no one should pass up this rare chance to see hip-hop royalty. It’s Wu-Tang, man. Plus, The Leftovers.
Mark Ronson vs Kevin Parker (Saturday—Big Apple Stage, 8:00)
How about this? This should be really fun. One of the most prolific producers of the 2000s and Kevin Parker, best known as the force behind Tame Impala, doing a set together. It’s hard to predict what, exactly, this might be, but it feels safe to say that should pretty much just be straight up fun.
And there you have it! Governors Ball 2017 is almost among us. Let us know what you’re excited about for the weekend, and follow along—we’ll be posting throughout the weekend on Instagram, and will have coverage on-site on Monday.
Featured Photo by Forest Woodward