New York’s Governors Ball returned to Randall’s Island Park this past weekend for its seventh consecutive year, bringing with it one of the festival’s most comprehensive and diverse lineups to date. Despite a forecast of rain in the days leading up to the opening of the festival’s gates, fans flocked from all over New York City and beyond to catch some of the biggest names in music today. Throughout the nearly completely sold-out weekend, dozens of acts performed across four stages, with upwards of 100,000 attendants each day, many of whom were under the age of 21. Here’s a breakdown of the best sets we saw at Governors Ball 2017.
To celebrate the release day of their new album Gone Now, Jack Antonoff and his band brought the early-afternoon excitement to the main GovBallNYC stage, Antonoff clad in a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off as he pranced around the stage with his guitar. The band showcased tracks from the new record, including “I Miss Those Days” and “Don’t Take The Money”, as well as closing the set with their smash hit “I Wanna Get Better.” Antonoff seemed genuinely excited to be there, and even more excited to finally be bringing the songs from Gone Now into the public world, after working on it in private for nearly two years.
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Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem getting a boost during her Gov Ball DJ set • • • • • #govball #govball2017 #govballnyc #govballnyc2017 #governorsball #governorsball2017 #musicfestivals #musicfestival #livemusic #festivallife #festivalpassport #festivalseason #festivalvibes #lcdsoundsystem @nancywhang @lcdsoundsystem
A pleasant surprise addition to the Friday lineup was an interlude DJ set Nancy Whang, who just last week wrapped work on the highly anticipated forthcoming LCD Soundsystem album. As technicians set the stage for Lorde’s performance later that evening, Whang stood behind a dual turntable to the right of the stage, spinning tunes to placate the ever-growing crowd. Although it was clear that many in the crowd were expecting something… louder from a “DJ set” at a festival that also hosted a DJ called Marshmello, they still seemed to get into the dancing spirit and were (luckily) respectful of one of New York’s legendary modern musicians.
Having written most of her new record Melodrama in a NYC diner, Lorde treated her dusk-covered Governors Ball performance as a full circle moment. She beamed out at a rabid crowd, launching into Pure Heroine opener “Tennis Court” after teasing the opening bars of “Green Light” with her face covered by a tattered wedding veil. Gone are the days of the shy teenager that delivered one of the greatest pop albums of modern memory; Lorde is back in full-force, and she’s thanking everyone for coming to her party.
Backed by a full band, her voice was impeccable, and she brimmed with confidence as she strutted across the stage, performing tracks old and new, even deciding to pull out her latest single “Perfect Places” for its live debut. For her performance of “Liability,” she invited Jack Antonoff out onstage to help with a piano, before, much to the delight of the massive crowd, the duo also did an impromptu cover of Robyn’s “Hang With Me,” which they credit as a large inspiration during the writing process for Melodrama
Finally, with the sun dipping behind the Manhattan skyline across the river, fans shrieked before quickly giving way to a massive singalong: “I do my makeup in somebody else’s car.” As the sky turned from blue to purple to black, the green stage lights became ever more powerful as Lorde descended from the stage to run along the crowd as green fireworks exploded in the sky, delivering the epic conclusion to her set with “Green Light.”
Melodrama is almost here, and Lorde is ready for it.
Chance The Rapper
Fresh off his angelic performance at Boston Calling last weekend, Chance once again brought it all for the Governors Ball crowd, which he noted to be one of the biggest crowds he’s ever performed for. Though the setlist was more or less the same as the week before, the energy of the crowd was otherworldly, making for another incredibly memorable performance. Chance’s use of a backing band in the Social Experiment instead of backing tracks allows him to manipulate the songs to fit the mood, telling the band to speed up or slow down or repeat a refrain without hesitation, which makes every set somewhat unique.
He seems genuinely grateful for the support of his fans and the ability to be performing for crowds so large, being sure to note the smaller venues across the city like Terminal 5 and SOB’s that he has become accustomed to over the last few years, and how a crowd as big as the one in front of him at Governors Ball is staggering for him. For the finale performance of “Blessings (Reprise),” Chance brought out his friend Ty Dolla Sign (who surprisingly has an amazing voice?), and the duo hugged it out as fireworks lit the sky once again, marking the end of day one.
Day two of Governors Ball was anchored by the anticipation of the return of Childish Gambino, multi-industry powerhouse Donald Glover’s first and last North American musical performance in support of 2016’s incredible soul-infused Awaken, My Love. The crowd in front of the Honda Stage stretched all the way across the field back to the parallel Big Apple Stage as Glover and his band launched into “Me And Your Mama” and “Boogie Man,” funky bass guitars, synths, and wah pedals screaming right from the get-go. “This is the only show I’m gonna do this year,” he said as the two opening tracks came to a close. “I’m gonna try and blow the sh*t off of this motherf**ker.”
At one point early in the set, Glover even jumped into the crowd to flip someone’s phone from portrait to landscape. “That’s not right,” he said. Sadly, as festival-goers realized that Gambino wasn’t going to be sticking exclusively to rapping as they had expected, many started to filter out of the crowd toward the exit; the tweens did not f**k with the funk.
However, in front of staggering visuals Glover did slip back to the Because The Internet days, notably performing epic versions of the Chance-featuring “I. The Worst Guys,” as well as “IV. Sweatpants.” After taking his shirt off, he threw in that well-received cover of Tamia’s “So Into You,” and even revealed the name of his son — which he had previously made a point to keep private — when he said “This song is dedicated to everybody in this crowd and my young son, Legend,” before performing “Baby Boy,” which easily one of the most tender cuts on Awaken, and one that was clearly written for Legend.
Finally, the set came to a close with Glover delivering a meme-referencing monologue, telling a story about a hopeless romance that ends with a couple locked in the bathroom after a stroke of bad luck as they hear “the perfect song to make out to.” The crowd took the hit, and it wasn’t long before the band burst into Gambino’s smooth hit “Redbone,” sending everyone into a dancing frenzy. “You’re in my heart,” Glover said as the final notes of the track rang into the night. Then came the kicker: “I’ll see you for the last Gambino album.”
Check out videos of Gambino’s one-off performance below.
Childish Gambino setlist:
01. “Me and Your Mama”
03. “I. The Worst Guys”
04. “II. Worldstar”
05. “Have Some Love”
06. “The Palisades”
08. “III. Telegraph Ave. (“Oakland” by Lloyd)”
11. “I. Crawl”
12. “IV. Sweatpants”
13. “V. 3005”
14. “Stand Tall”
15. “So Into You” (Tamia cover)
16. “Baby Boy”