After a tumultuous first day filled with consistent storming and canceled sets from Kings of Leon and more, New York’s Governors Ball got back on track Saturday (June 8) with near-perfect weather. That’s not to say there weren’t challenges, of course.
Randall’s Island essentially turned into one giant mud pit, so navigating was a real issue for attendees. Imagine attending a music festival where you have to ice skate from stage to stage. That’s how tough it was in places.
— E.J. Judge (@ejjudge) June 8, 2013
That said, the show went on, and fest organizers even found a way to squeeze in Kings of Leon’s missed set from Friday. In an attempt to make good with festivalgoers, they honored one-day tickets purchased for Friday. Try as they might, KoL couldn’t steal Guns N’ Roses’ thunder. Let’s get into who we saw.
Guns N’ Roses
If you had just landed on earth and ended up at a Guns N’ Roses concert circa 2013, you would most likely have a fantastic time. But for those of us who have any sort of preconceived notions about what GnR was in their prime and what they are now, it’s a slight hurdle to move past. The front rows were populated with those who were either experiencing something akin to a religious experience, or those who were just deeply curious as to what a GnR live show these days is even like.
When he wants to, Axl Rose can really give it to the crowd — and last night, he did. Instead of his usual tardiness, he actually started five minutes early, at 9:25. An inside source tells Radio.com that per GnR’s Governors Ball contract, they would be fined for every minute coming on late. (Remember, this festival is held in a public park — organizers have strict noise ordinances to abide by.)
Rose and his crew peppered far lesser-known material with GnR’s greatest hits, all with the same amount of enthusiasm and stage bravado. “Welcome to the Jungle” was the second song they played, but it would be a while before “Sweet Child o’ Mine” made its way into the set. Those, coupled with Axl’s signature slither, enthralled the crowd in a way that few songs — by GnR or otherwise — do. Their covers were a highlight as well: Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” had more pyrotechnics than even McCartney has at his shows these days (and that’s a bit, to be sure), while Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” morphed into some sort of hard-rocking jam session. The best cover of all, though, was when the grand piano was rolled out, and Axl debuted the most epic of his numerous wardrobe changes: a maroon formal jacket showered in black rhinestones. The five guitarists on stage crept into Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” before Axl chimed in with his best Roger Waters impersonation, deep-throated instead of his usual high-pitched wail. After that was done, he teased the crowd with the piano part to Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” before moving right into the highlight of the whole show: “November Rain.” They played for a while longer afterwards, but little else compared.
Across the park, Nas played his hits and his new Life Is Good tracks to those without the appetite for destruction…
Kings of Leon
The four brothers from Talihina, Oklahoma, strolled out onto the Gov Ball NYC Stage at 6:45 p.m. and got right to business to making up for Friday’s canceled set, launching in with “Radioactive,” “Crawl” and “Taper Jean Girl” before announcing to a packed crowd, who left just enough room to dance, “We’re Kings of Leon… we just happen to be here.”
Kings of Leon seamlessly worked through fan favorite “Fans,” “Back Down South” and a riotous performance of “Molly’s Chamber” before Caleb Followill gave brevity a rest and addressed the crowd.
“It’s a beautiful day. We were supposed to be doing this last night and we were supposed to get ready to go to London right about now,” said Followill. “Some of our equipment had to go, so we don’t know what it looks like up here, but we’re going to give you our best show.”
The band announced the release of their upcoming album, Mechanical Bull, just two days ago, due for release on September 24th. The band debuted a new song from the album during the Bottle Rock Music & Arts Festival in May called “Always the Same,” but premiered the album’s lead single, “Super Soaker” — set for release on July 12th — midway through their Governors Ball set yesterday.
“We’re going to play a song we never played before,” Caleb Followill told the crowd. “So if we mess it up, it’s your fault.”
The final half of the band’s set included some of their most recognizable, including “Notion,” “Pyro,” and “Use Somebody,” the latter prompting every attendee within an earshot to singalong. Kings of Leon closed their set with the career-launching “Sex on Fire” and frenzy-inducing “Black Thumbnail,” seeming to satisfy the masses on hand.
Animal Collective’s set was an amalgamation of their 10 studio albums and various other releases. Some songs were recognizable like “Brother Sport,” “Applesauce” and “My Girls,” while others were just not. The four bandmembers (who stood in front of an inflatable set that looked like it could have been from The Wizard Of Oz) seemed to barely recognize there was a crowd in front of them, keeping the good time jams coming like clockword. Only once were they forced to pause for a slight technical problem, announcing that they didn’t get a soundcheck before their set. Of course, they quickly got back to playing their trippy mix.
Lamar suddenly found himself up against stiff competition when festival organizers announced Saturday morning that Kings of Leon would take the stage for a make-up performance at the same time as him. An early highlight of his set was not even one of his own songs, but rather, a song he guests on (alongside Drake) — A$AP Rocky’s “F***in’ Problems.” Sensing the crowd’s energy needed a boost, he asked, “y’all know Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City?” Oh make no mistake, they did — and that was all they seemed to know from the Black Hippy crew leader. He launched in “Money Trees” before running into “B**** Don’t Kill My Vibe” right into “Poetic Justice,” all the while the crowd practically serving as his hook girls. The energy continued to have dips, when he’d play older tracks or the sound got a little muddled (there was no live band, just a DJ), but Lamar seemed distinctly aware of the crowd’s mood. And what did he do to resolve it? Encourage them to “get f***ed up cuz this is a party.”
Azealia Banks isn’t one for subtlety, whether it’s on Twitter or in her fashion choices, which on this day was a bright orange and hot pink bodysuit with some very interesting cut-outs. Banks took the stage with two fly girl style back-up dancers (one of which was actually a man) asking a few simple questions: “Who here is drunk? Who here is high? Who here is f***ing tonight?” From then on Banks had the crowd in the palm of her hand as she performed her hits like “Yung Rapunxel,” “Licorice” and “212,” off her 1991 EP. Not bad for someone who hasn’t even released an official album yet.
The Dirty Projectors started their set with a few sound issues, which made it hard to hear David Longstreth belt out “Swing Lo Magellan” off the 2012 album of the same name. But after Longstreth surveyed the crowd and got the volume turned up he was able to sweetly hiccup his way through “Cannibal Resource” off 2009’s Bitte Orca. And then showed off the many vocal talents of his band with “See What She Seeing” and “Gun Has No Trigger,” off their latest album. Of course, the best part of the set is when Longstreth takes a step back and lets fellow Projector, Amber Coffman take charge. She cooed through “The Socialites” and kept things sweetly sexy for “Stillness Is The Move.” When she hit the final high note on that one, even Longstreth raised his eyebrows in amazement.
Canadian garage rockers Japandroid took advantage of their main stage performance, using it as a chance to not only go about their typical two-man thrashing, but to playfully take shots at the night’s headliner, Guns N’ Roses. “This next one is from our first album,” said guitarist/vocalist Brian King, before launching into “Younger Us.” “It’s called Appetite for Destruction… maybe you’ve heard of it.”
The duo continued intersperse jabs aimed at the volatile beast known as Axl, much to the crowd’s delight. “In case you showed up late or didn’t know, we are Guns N’ Roses from Los Angeles, California,” said the sober-faced King. “It’s an honor to share this stage in just a few hours with… Japandroids!”
Before closing their set “The House That Heaven Built” and “For The Love of Ivy,” Japandroids sent a dedication to former Replacements bassist and current GnR member, Tommy Stinson. “We love the work he did in the ’80s with his other band.”
If you attended Governors Ball on Saturday and didn’t catch F***ed Up’s set, then you’re not punk and we’re telling everyone. Damian Abraham and the rest of the Toronto-based hardcore rockers marched onto the stage for their set at the Skyy Vodka tent yesterday afternoon, though Abraham wouldn’t make it a home for very long. After merely a minute into “Queen of Hearts,” Abraham jumped from the stage and into the muddy photo pit, tore off his shirt and began a raucous, hour-long punk rock scream-along, sharing the microphone with anyone within his reach — which included everyone, as Abraham made a point to stomp, climb and crawl through the mud and hug everyone that his mike cord would allow him to venture to.
It wouldn’t have been a punk show without a message, as Abraham interjected his thoughts on his hometown’s current state of despair, citing Mayor Rob Ford’s recent crack scandal.
Abraham brought the show full circle, returning to the main purpose of F***ed Up’s appearance at Governors Ball: the music. “If you want to sing along, just say ‘dying on the inside,” said Abraham, inciting a chant that helped the band steer their show to a close with “The Other Shoe.”
– Jillian Mapes, Shannon Carlin, E.J. Judge, Radio.com; photos by E.J. Judge (Kendrick Lamar photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)