The Winners and Losers of Governors Ball 2016
Now that Governors Ball 2016 is officially over it's time for a recap of the weekend's events. With the entire third day cancelled due to inclement weather (the first time this has ever happened), the festival experienced its fair share of ups and downs. Let's take a look at the biggest winners and losers.
- Anyone Who Ate a Ramen Burger: Is it worth buying a three-day pass just to hang out on Randall's Island all weekend eating ramen burgers? Probably not, but I'd still consider doing it. Say what you will about the musicians, crews, and volunteers—the real heroes of Govball were the people cooking these things.
- Christine and the Queens: I was expecting their set to be good, but Christine and the Queens turned out to be some of the best performers of the weekend. It's clear the French troupe of musicians and dancers take their live performances seriously, but despite the professional level of choreography there wasn't a single moment that felt rigid. Héloïse Letissier and her band of male dancers and instrumentalists didn't miss a beat, from the gender-bending discotheque jams to the gentle mashup of a traditional French song and Kanye West's "Heartless."
- Dance Music Connoisseurs: If you came to get your groove on, Governors Ball delivered. Years & Years had the crowd dancing, and Thundercat laid down the funk like Randall's Island has never heard. Unfortunately Galantis didn't get to play, but affiliated act Miike Snow played a booming set Saturday night as the rain began to pour. The gold medal for best dance music goes to Jamie xx, though. I've never seen a live dance set better than his performance on Friday. Watching him perform was a reminder that curation and live DJing is an art precious few master.
- Jon Bellion: The Long Island native is dropping his major label debut on Friday, and there's a good chance his Governors Ball performance was his last hurrah before colliding with stardom. Bellion embraced the opportunity to retire some of his old songs, but the real treat was hearing music from his upcoming album The Human Condition. It's refreshing to hear an artist put time and effort into creative, well-executed live arrangements instead of just regurgitating studio recordings.
- Mario Batali: Action Bronson was as wild as one might expect: he smoked a copious amount of weed, brandished a watermelon handed to him by a member of the crowd, and for one bizarre moment retrieved a full tray of food from backstage and held it like a baby while he rapped. The most unexpected moment of his set was when he brought out professional chef Mario Batali from backstage and had the crowd chant his name.
- Prince: As people poured into the festival they were greeted by a giant mural of Prince near the main stage. Later on, HAIM and Bloc Party both put their own spin on Prince's "I Would Die 4 U." As rainclouds began to loom over the festival on Saturday, Mac Miller led his crowd in a sing-along of "Purple Rain." Christine and the Queens performed a verse of "I Feel For You," and Wyclef Jean (special guest of The Knocks) gave Prince a shoutout. During one of the biggest performances of Friday night, Beck shared a touching memory about receiving the Grammy for Album of the Year from Prince and giving him an impulsive bear hug. Beck then went into an acoustic rendition of Prince's hit song "Raspberry Beret," which can be heard below.
- Black Pistol Fire's Guitar: Does it count as a raucous rock set if none of the instruments get smashed? It doesn't matter, because Kevin McKeown--guitarist and lead singer of the duo Black Pistol Fire--wrapped up a fiery performance by destroying his guitar and hurling the pieces into the crowd. Not only was it one of the liveliest rock shows of the weekend, but it triggered a "Where's Waldo" game as festival-goers tried to spot people walking around with guitar debris for the rest of the day.
- Dance Music Connoisseurs: Despite all the festival's danceable moments, it still had some duds in the dance music department. Less than 24 hours after Jamie xx played a spacious, nuanced DJ set, Louis the Child turned the same stage into a disjointed tangle of beats and generic tropical EDM remixes. The duo attracted swarms of teenyboppers who seemed unfazed by all the awkward remixes and conflicting, overlapping key signatures. The most memorable part of their set was the abruptness with which they kept cutting the sound from their recordings every thirty seconds, just to insert a completely unrelated track in its place.
- Grass: Governors Ball is cursed with bad weather. The festival is no stranger to rain, but it's never had an entire day shut down because of it. Unfortunately for the landscapers at Randall's Island, even canceling the final day wasn't enough to stop much of the grass from getting churned into mud. While it wasn't as bad as the 2013 festival, large patches of mud were already starting to form beneath audiences Saturday night as people walked between stages in the rain to catch their favorite acts.
- Prophets of Rage: After weeks of buildup, fans were thrilled to find out that the mysterious "special guest" slated to perform on Sunday was Prophets of Rage. The supergroup consists of Cypress Hill emcee DJ Muggs, Public Enemy leader Chuck D, and Rage Against the Machine sans vocalist Zack de la Rocha. If day three hadn't been canceled, the band would have performed on the main stage soon before Kanye West closed out the festival.
- Webster Hall: Fans with Sunday-only festival passes were not happy when the third day of Governors Ball was completely shut down, especially since many of them were drawn to the festival by the promise of a closing performance from Kanye West. When Kanye Day was canceled, the "most influential human being" (according to himself) tried to book a popup show at NYC's Webster Hall. Unfortunately the venue had to preemptively cancel the show at 1:30 in the morning, inciting "near riot" conditions in the East Village as fans swarmed the streets and destroyed cars.
- Women: Music festivals notoriously book male acts more frequently than female acts. Last year Governors Ball had one of the most balanced lineups of the summer with a measly 30% of their acts having at least one non-male member. This year that number is up to 34%, but it's still a long way from a fair split. Additionally, Governors Ball has never hosted a female headliner on their main stage. This weekend saw coheadliners like Robyn and M83 close out both nights, but they played at the back of the festival while all-male headliners The Strokes and The Killers took the main stage.