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Governors Ball 2014 | The Soul Dynamic Review

United We Ball

Governors Ball Bounces Back

New York City fails. She fails hard, she fails often. But unlike any other city, her resilience knows no bounds. A year after a 2013 Governors Ball Music Festival that featured an unforgettable monsoon causing epic mud slides, wipeouts and the dirtiest dance parties this side of Bonnaro—the 2014 rendition was heavy on local acts and phenomenal weather, creating the perfect conditions for festival “activation,” or as most people call it human interaction.

Day One

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The story behind every festival we go to, is the story of connection. Live music being the tie that binds, we get up for meeting new people, hanging with old friends and discovering how these “interactions” make us grow. It’s as simple as that, that is our reason for covering the scene.

The first day brought a whole bunch of promise. Getting it started with Run the Jewels (Big Mike + El-P); please know that when it comes to who’s pushing the most innovative beats in hip-hop right now, it’s this Two Live Crew. Along with them, they introduced Randall’s Island to the game’s newest white rapper, Despot, who joined the two late in the set claiming our coveted festival jumpoff spot. Mr. Despot held his own and with that we were off!

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Ratking. What you know about these cats? Missing them at Coachella, we needed to solidify a place for them in our lineup. Lucky for you we did. Certainly raw and needing to work out a few live kinks, their eclectic energy is unquestionable. Saxophone undertones and truthful to the folklore script of their namesake, vocalist Hak, demonstrated his real love for the genre by slamming his mic into his dome piece, resulting in subsequent gushes of blood to run down his face through the reminder of the set. Hip-hop’s version of Sleigh Bells with less polish.

We caught great performances throughout day uno. Jenny Lewis gave us more to think about with her crazy white pant suited outfit and coloful top. The days of Troop Beverly Hills are way over people and Jenny’s all woman now. Best Surprise Performance: Janelle Monae. Production was savy, set design engagingly trippy and the band minded it’s P’s and Q’s—Ms. Monae brought it home with vibrance, sexiness and dance moves that would make your Grandma get off her rocker. “Tightrope” sealed the deal.

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Janelle Monae

Of course, a great amount of talk was given to Outkast. Having seen them at Coachella, I’ll tell you right now, I’m bias. Overall, it’s apparent the Southern Boy’s swag, performance wise, is on the rise. Big Boy and Andre 3000 seemed more at ease with one another than they did 2 months ago and the set ran way smoother than the Indio version. They opened with “B.O.B” again and mixed in the rest of their catalog in a super nice way. “Roses” and “International Player’s Anthem (I Choose You)” were the highlights, and at the end of the first night, you knew Gov’s Ball was going to be a success.

NOTABLES: Washed Out, The 1975, La Roux, Phoenix

Day Two

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RJD2. For years we’ve wondered why he doesn’t get more love. Our day two picked up where the previous day left off and we just kept #2014running. RJD2 got in his traditional space suit get up jam joint outfit and treated us to classics such as “1976,” “A Beautiful Mind,” and the go to set closer “Ghostwriter.” The video we had to show you for this doesn’t do him justice, just know next time he’s in your neck of the woods, he’s a must see (LIVE PROOF). On to the next.

Day two was our busiest. In the mix we caught Tanlines, who’s set was mired with technical difficulties with blown out speakers galore. Good thing they’re professional, as they played right on through it. The lovely ladies of Lucius provided poppy, chill, dancey vibes as we split time between Chance the Rapper and Fitz and the Tantrums. Chance had a huge crowd in attendance and had people going banannas foster the entire set, especially when dropping “Arthur.” Fitz and the Tantrums, well we got to them right in time to catch the closing track, but by the sounds of it people were not disappointed.

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Fitz and the Tantrums

By now you’ve heard that there exists a band of brothers known as Disclosure. They get our vote for the most eclectic set. Together with hard core rockers and hip-hoppers, the traditional EDMer’s we’re all going crazy from the hour of 4:45 to 5:45pm Saturday at the Honda Stage. “When a Fires starts to Burn” was an early favorite that only proved to loosen up the crowd for when Aluna George came out to perform “White Noise” and later “You and Me.” We’re interested on seeing where these DJ’s will peak,no end in site for the time being.

Tough decisions had to be made the rest of the way, as gone are the days of no overlapping sets.Test options were the prodigal return of The Strokes vs. Childish Gambino, Spoon vs. Sleigh Bells and Skrillex vs. Jack White. Test one saw us go with The Strokes. We’ve covered Childish and who knows when we’ll get another opportunity to see NYC’s favorite son Julian Casablancas get after it again. Quiz two, was probably the toughest spot, but Sleigh Bells won out due to proximity. Per usual, they rocked harder than last night’s erection and all was right in the world. In our final battle of the eve, we took Jack White. His mix of new material with that of the White Stripes “Hotel Yorba,” “We’re going to be Friends” and “Seven Nation Army” backed us up. For what it’s worth, we heard Skrillex destroyed it yet again, and if you plan on seeing him in the future—do. His excellence is par for the course.

NOTABLES: Hunter Hunted, Diarrhea Planet, Deafheaven,Classix

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Jack White

Day Three

Having so much fun, we didn’t want the weekend to end! Never do. Day three was daunting. The fight card hit us with two huge bands on this day. Well, three if you include Vampire weekend. Interpol + the fellas formerly know as Swedish House Mafia are important to the culture. Add Interpol to the list of bands making a NYC homecoming, their performance, along with those of the Stokes, were great reminders of an era gone by in this city’s great music history. Axwell ^ Ingrosso’s alliance is just as key, as they are gate keepers to the future of EDM. If their first performance as a unit holds any water, they’re going to do just fine carrying the touch.

Back to our day, which continued with Earl Sweatshirt. Say what you will about this kid—he’s going to be the face of hip-hop moving forward. Vulgar yes, but armed with superior intelligence and a showman above all else. With precise comedic timing, the kid got the Gov’s Ball Crowd to all announce “I’m a fuck the freckles of your face bitch,” while seconds later adding, “Governor’s Ball has AIDS now.” We’re not advocating you go out and say those words to your next door neighbor, hell please don’t mention any of this to your boss, but if your delivery makes the masses laugh, something’s going awfully correct. His act will evolve, and that thought alone is worth the wait.

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Earl Sweatshirt

Immediately following Earl’s set, Tyler, the Creator played the Big Apple stage right across the field. Opting for a break, we set up shop for the likes of the Head and the Heart before ending the evening with a little Foster the People and mass amounts of Vampire Weekend. Quick note on being an artist. The longer people, especially artists, do work in their chosen profession, it’s not as easy to conjure up that certain type of nostalgia and/or inspiration you need to perform consistently. Experience both elevates and hurts you in this arena. That said, the Head and the Heart, played with exactly that (inspiration), swooning the crowd with favorites “Sounds Like Hallelujah,” “Shake” and “Rivers and Roads.” After wards, they told their ever loving fans with conviction that Governors Ball “feels about music.” And when you’ve been around for a bit, the focus on the music has a tendency to shift. Not here, not with them. Special moment.

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The Head and the Heart

May we remind you again, it’s all about the “interaction.” And as the last New York native band and festival closer sent us home— they, Vampire Weekend, did not do so without granting us all a little perspective. Here are two specific examples. Going back to Friday, we met our cover girl and friends as they witnessed the landing of a butterfly on her head. The butterfly preceded to hang out on there for what seemed like forever. And after graciously allowing us to use this image, we’re thankful. As sappy as it sounds, we live for those tiny minutes of amazing and this one set the tone for us to meet and get to know music lovers young and old everyday of the festival. Which brings us back to Vampire Weekend. During the set, we ran into a Grandfather named Van and his grandson. If our reporting serves us correctly (we apologize now for any inaccuracies), it was the young Grandson’s birthday and all he wanted to do was hang with his Grandfather Van. So what did he do? He brought the old man to Governor’s Ball to see Vampire Weekend. With decades between them, the notion that a bond can break the walls of generations is nothing short of uplifting. We spent the rest of the night trading love stories, war stories, life stories and the music of Vampire Weekend. It’s that simple.

NOTABLES: New York City, The Kills, Van, Half Moon Run, Cayucas,Van’s Grandson, Aluna George

Writer + Photographer | Rene Ramirez

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Van and his Grandson

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Chance the Rapper

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Cover Girl

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The Strokes

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Jack White

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Big Mike

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Wild Belle

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Earl Sweatshirt + Tyler, the Creator

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Vampire Weekend

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Governors Ball 2014: Top 10 Sets

That vibe might be in part due to some of the same organizers’ involvement – these people know how to draw a crowd that genuinely cares about live music, not just the lookie-loo celeb/VIP groups that flock to most major fests. Still, this year’s stellar lineup had as much to do with the abundance of finer feelings. Some of our favorite acts – OutKast, Jack White, Damon Albarn, the Kills, Julian Casablancas + the Voidz, Grimes – have already or will play many of the top multi-day music events. Others – Spoon, TV on the Radio, Interpol, and most notably, the Strokes – made triumphant returns after years away.

Beyond those highlights, priceless moments were made by Phoenix, Disclosure, Janelle Monáe, La Roux, Lucius, and many more. After tirelessly chasing so much talent for three days virtually non-stop, exhaustion is setting in and involuntary sleep is imminent. But first, I’m gonna go buy one of those stupid T-shirts.

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Gov Ball’s Jordan Wolowitz on ‘Cracking’ New York, Mud and Storms, and a New Fest

Prior to the successful launch of Governors Ball in 2011, some in the music industry had lost hope that New York could have a large-scale music festival to call its own.

“Our business had grown accustomed to saying that a music festival could not succeed in New York City,” Tom Windish, president of The Windish Agency, tells Billboard. “They said New Yorkers were too lazy to travel to one.”

Governors Ball producer and promoter Founders Entertainment — which includes operations director Tom Russell (former Superfly operations director), booker Jordan Wolowitz (a veteran of Atlantic Records and ICM) and sponsorship director Yani Reisman — have proven that theory wrong. Since beginning as a one-day festival that drew 18,000 people, Governors Ball has grown to a three-day music event that attracted 135,000 people in 2013. This year’s edition is expected to draw 150,000 fans.

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