In addition to being a great opportunity to get a tan and a foot massage, Governors Ball is also a music festival! Yesterday, the acts included Washed Out, Kurt Vile, Damon Albarn, Jenny Lewis, Phoenix, and Outkast and more. You can check out photos of some of those bands above, along with videos of headliner Outkast below and some reviews.
Outkast: The kinks of their Coachella set(s) have been ironed out from what I saw and heard last night. They came out with mountains of energy behind the rattle of "B.o.B" (Pitchfork's favorite song of the '00s), and pretty much never let up. Both Andre 3000 and Big Boi were energetically dashing all over the stage, which was loaded up with a big live band and a sort of holographic/projection pseudo-cube, grinning madly and beckoning for loads of crowd participation, which they got. Listening to them do what was effectively a tribute set to their past work, it's startling to realize how many of the greatest hip-hop and pop songs of the last 20 years have come from just this one group.
A definite highlight came in the later half of the set (see the full setlist here). A sequence of "Southernplayalisticcadillacmuzik" > "Player's Ball" > "Elevators" > "Roses" > "So Fresh, So Clean" was just profanely good. "Elevators" especially bobbed between amped-up verses and the smooth glide of the "Me and you, your momma and your cousin too" chorus. Outkast's de-facto singer Sleepy Brown was on hand, decked out in a suave purple robe; and it all ended on a decidedly all-things-Atlanta note when fellow ATL mc Killer Mike (of Run the Jewels) came out for his verse on "The Whole World", which closed the set.
They front-loaded their sets with hits and didn't seem to miss a beat through the whole show. If Outkast purists came away from this set wanting more, it's their own damn over-educated fault. The "pop" Outkast material is still dynamite, and they gave the "general interest" festival crowd a very, very pleasing set that had more than a few 90s throw backs ("Hooty Hoo's" goodness was lost on no one, it seemed).
Run the Jewels: A very strong set from Atlanta mc Killer Mike and NYC-fixture El-P. Their material was mighty heavy for 1:30 in the afternoon, but plenty of people in the crowd were on board. Yesterday was light on the "TURN UP" breed of hip-hop and dance music that's so popular these days, so Run the Jewels was a nice dose of early jet fuel to pound a beer to.
Kurt Vile and the Violators: A weak set from a consistently overrated indie almost-rocker. Vile's brand of talk-singing might convey satisfying lyrics on record, but outdoors at the festival it just didn't cut through the chatter.
Janelle Monae: Janelle is a capital-P Professional in all regards, and even if she's been overhyped at times and cloaked in less-than-subtle allusions to Michael Jackson, that peripheral image stuff can't get in the way of how fantastic and polished she and her band are. Standouts were her Prince-collab track "Givin Em What They Love" (sadly no scepter-toting Purple One on hand), the tender "PrimeTime" and set closer/Monae's meal ticket "Tightrope."
Washed Out: It felt like every kid in Bushwick was under the Gotham tent for Washed Out's packed live set, which injected a bit of guitar-and-drumkit oomph into bandleader Ernest Greene's pervasively hip synthwave sound. Portlandia theme song "Feel it All Around" was slowed down to an even chiller pace and set closer "Eyes Be Closed" was divine.
Julian Casablancas: Casablancas was hit or miss for his solo set, the first of two times he'll take the stage this weekend (the second is with The Strokes on Saturday). He and his band nailed his Daft Punk collab track "Instant Crush".
Phoenix: Excellent set from a band that can be inconsistent live. Their brand of impossible-to-get-out-of-your-head songs sound excellent on a massive mainstage sound system. Thomas Mars, as usual, ventured off into the crowd on more than one occasion. Highlights were opener "Entertainment", a stretched-out rendition of "Love like a Sunset" (played, appropriately, at sunset), and the somehow still fun to hear "1901."