Summer music festivals can be a crapshoot: long lines for $8 bottles of water, multiple acts performing at the same time on separate stages, and that guy selling nitrous balloons in the parking lot is usually sold out in a few hours. Saturday's inaugural Governors Ball had all of the surreal trappings of a good festival (funnel cakes!) and few of the snags, as most everyone seemed to leave sunburned and happy.
As is true for any event on Governors Island, the ferry was most people's biggest gripe. At 11:15 when the first ones began taking passengers to the island, the line was nearly a quarter of a mile long, and didn't seem to let up for most of the day. Ticketholders were Tweeting things like "Pretty sure everyone in NYC from age 18-30 in line for the Gov Island ferry right now…#impatient," and we overheard one guy on the ride home say he waited for two and a half hours to get on.
But because the ferry ensured a steady trickle of people, there was plenty of room on the grass to drop a blanket and relax. No overlapping sets (never more than a few minutes) on two different stages ensured that there would be no hand-wringing over who to see, and there was never any of one band's sound bleeding across the field into another's. In a bill that was generous to hip-hop fans, Brooklyn's own Das Racist stood out not merely because they sounded particularly tight but because they actually looked like they were having fun, even at the expense of fresh-out-of-high-school Pittsburg rapper Mac Miller, who also played and who Das Racist gleefully skewered on Twitter before the show. Miller's set was spirited, but for this crowd our money was on LA veterans People Under the Stairs, who combined a perfect blend of danceable funk with pointed lyrical skill.
Chillwave (every time that phrase is used an angel contemplates suicide) outfit Neon Indian blew pleasant, synth kisses to a game audience, and one half of Outkast, Big Boi performed some old standards like "Elevators," and "B.O.B." to the delight of the thousands of shimmying seersucker-shorted white folk. And boy, were there lots of white folk. A sample Tweet concerning the crowd tells the tale: "On the ferry to Governors Island for the Gov's Ball music festival...I think I see 2 brown people lol." Food was plentiful, if expensive. Like most festivals, the $10 burrito man wielded raw power over the ravenous, stoned masses, gleefully telling us that his cheapest wares were $7 smoothies while his white-knuckled fist of bills that could have paid our rent a few times over. Finding a trashcan was also bafflingly difficult, and sadly most people acted as if they were a few miles over in Manhattan and just left their garbage on the ground.
Despite multiple people telling us how they'd already bought tickets to Camp Bisco, we sensed a bit of dance fatigue. Stacking the pop spectacle that was Empire of the Sun (whose costumes somehow combined the aesthetics of Disney's Aladdin with Adam West's Batman) with the sweat-fueled, college party that was Girl Talk, and the trance-inducing sights and sounds of Pretty Lights may have been a bit much. Not that anyone really cared after spending a gorgeous day at Governors Island. By the time the sun went down and Airspace's amazing balloon installation lit up, you could feel the collective ferry-rage dissipate into the air.