It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Governors Ball 2013 had constructed a killer line-up, expanding to a third day and two more stages on Randall’s Island (after a two-day, two-stage 2012, and one-day, one-stage event on Governors Island in 2011). Name another festival that had Kanye West and Guns n’ Roses – not to mention the return from lengthy hiatus of Kings of Leon?!? Oh, and it’s located within New York City, just a short shuttle bus away from the 4, 5, and 6 subway lines? It seemed like an embarrassment of riches.
And then God intervened, with rain on the first day that turned into a storm, cutting the evening short. And that rain water turned the ground into mud for days two and three, ruining the festival grounds. Adjustments were made – Kings of Leon moved their Day One headlining set into Day Two, hay was put on the mud to solidify the ground somewhat for Day Three.
A decidedly up-and-down affair, Governors Ball 2013 was still something to behold and experience – ‘I was there when,’ Friday to Sunday, June 7th to 9th.
There was a slight but definite rain at the start of Governors Ball 2013, with wet and muddy grounds – which would only get worse.
Yet despite the weather, the day started decidedly electro with acts like Pacific Air, Bear Mountain, Solid Gold, St. Lucia, Poliça, and The Knocks. They all tried their best, but as the weather worsened it was harder for these early acts to stand out – Solid Gold, the first act at the (now felt ironically named) ‘You’re Doing Great Stage’ did well, but the next act on that stage, Poliça, struggled to stand out against the rain.
The electro shifted to the classic when Holy Ghost! went up against Dinosaur Jr. – an easy choice (at least for anyone who can remember the early nineties). They nicely played great songs from their first career and from their great post-reunion records, Beyond (QRO review), Farm (QRO review), and I Bet On Sky (QRO review) – even if you didn’t recognize the song that bassist Lou Barlow sang. Singer/guitarist J Mascis was zipped up in his parka, so you didn’t get to see his long, grey, Gandolf-like locks flow in the wind – but there were lots of replacement locks in the crowd, as before the set ‘J wigs’ were handed out to the crowd.
Who also had unexpected hair? The drummer, who decidedly was not the bald Murph…
It wasn’t exactly the right weather for the sunny sounds of Best Coast, but they made the best of it. Bethany Cosentino’s sound is decidedly simple and struggled against the weather, but she did making a convincing case for living in L.A. with strong single “The Only Place” from otherwise weak album of the same name (QRO review).
But as the bigger acts clambered onto their stages and the rain showed no sign of letting it up, it became harder and harder to slog once again from one stage to another for anyone. Basically, you had to be a big fan of the act – or had just arrived and were yet to get soaked through to the bone. However, Icelandic alt-folk collective Of Monsters and Men do have a surprisingly large fan base (as witnessed the weekend before last at Boston Calling – QRO recap), as does Canada’s electro-dance riot act Crystal Castles (who once again prevented any photographers from entering the pit, with absolutely no warning to anyone…). Yet perhaps superior was America’s own Local Natives, whose mix of natural country-folk and more impatient indie-rock fit the mood of the stormy day.
The many loyalists of the many great acts still to come were still out, despite the weather worsening as the skies darkened further – and all the fans were set for disappointment, as set after set was cut short due to not just rain but threat of thunder. Beach House started late and were basically invisible (not that you can seem them much at their regular shows – QRO photos), while Leslie Feist sweetly said she had to stop or she’d be electrocuted, the young Young the Giant rebelled futilely against being told to stop, and Erykah Badu gave the weather the middle finger.
There were still many umbrellas in the air in front of the main stage, waiting for Kings of Leon, only for them to turn when it was announced that they whole thing had been suspended for the night. Later, at their very late after-party at Irving Plaza (QRO venue review), Barlow of Dinosaur Jr. joked, “We are Kings of Leon, and this is ‘Sex On Fire’…”