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Highlights from the 2014 Governors Ball

I went to the Governors Ball this past weekend, and found my prince. Actually, I found a few of them. Jack White. Julian Casablancas. Chancelor Bennett, aka Chance the Rapper. Andre 3000. James Blake. Through their respective sets, I found joy, and release, and delight, and solace – and just good ol’ fun.

It was my second time going to Governors Ball – an event that has had its fair share of mishaps when it comes to 3-day festivals. This year’s was filled with enough highlights for organizers to re-claim some of the points they lost with their disorganized response to last year’s mud-bath.

The first night’s big attraction for me was Damon Albarn, seeing as I missed the Blur frontman at SXSW (at the same time, missing a man who rammed through a street-crowd and killed 3 people). He played songs off his first solo offering, Everyday Robots, setting a low-key vibe for his show. Although I felt a little like a cheating girlfriend, I had to leave Albarn’s gig about 3/4 songs in to catch OutKast. Such is the dilemma of a woman with too many choices.

The reunion of Big Boi and Andre 3000 was long-anticipated – almost everyone I spoke to earlier in the day was there for them – yet the duo had some catching up to do, considering their less-than-lauded Coachella set. But Friday night on Randall’s Island was all theirs, as they bounced around the stage, performing classic after classic – from B.o.B to the wholehearted Miss Jackson and the irresistible Heya. While Big Boi was doing his thing, it was Andre, clad in an “Art or Fart?” t-shirt who truly stole my heart – spitting out his raps with a kind of playful glee.

Jack White’s glee was of a different kind, as he lead a group of musicians in a set that was oh-so tight, the following night.  He may have got into trouble for his words in recent weeks, but on Saturday Mr White spoke nothing but niceties to the crowd, relaying that he hoped we’d all made friends and had a beautiful day out in the sun. He flexed his best during a set that consisted of solo material, White Stripes tracks and an odd Raconteur song or two, ensuring he still has a place in my heart with Lazaretto, his latest album, releasing this week.

Firm favourites Phoenix put on a fantastic show. Having seen them at Cannes last year, I knew how adept lead singer Thomas Mars is at hyping up a crowd and keeping the cheer flowing. And in an almost masterful display of true festival magic, the crowd was getting down to Love Like a Sunset, just as the sun itself was going down too. 


Another popular act, Chance the Rapper was such a hit, I could hardly see him through the masses that tried to squash into the Gotham Tent to hear him perform. His band really gave him a full sound – the live trumpet player especially – earning him massive points in my book. I hope to see him again, a little more closer up than I did at Gov Ball. 

At least I got to see Julian Casablancas twirl around in his new outfit The Voidz, before going back to his well-worn suit The Strokes. Oh, but did I fall for their suave rock ‘n roll on that sticky Saturday afternoon! The Brits brought it too – in their own doses. Frank Turner’s break-up remedies perfectly filled the mainstage, and even though James Blake’s melodies and melancholy floated out of the Honda stage, rather than bounce perfectly off the walls of an intimate venue, the experience was still soul soothing.

There were many more snippets of love and affection in between – culminating in Ezra Koenig and Vampire Weekend relishing a set made up of their 3 albums, including, my favourite, Modern Vampires of the City. But as I left the festival grounds for the final time, I realized that perhaps I’d allowed the male-fronted bands to distract me from seeing the female ones. Aluna Francis of AlunaGeorge held her own for a short, invigorating set; but I couldn’t get anywhere near La Roux’s antic-filled show, and I completely missed Jenny Lewis, reading later that the former Rilo Kiley singer held within her heartfelt set the promise of music festivals to come.

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