Here’s the thing about hometown talent: they are without a doubt the happiest act on the festival bill. Governors Ball boasted an especially close connection to its major talent with the 2014 class, and from the headliners down to the indie breakthroughs, they were all so, so happy to be there–and their fans were even happier to see them on their own turf.
Though the majority of Governors Ball’s 67 acts can claim they’ve cut their teeth on the well-worn rock club stages of New York City, few have turned it into a musical destination, a scene that churns work ethic and the right hooks into infamous reputation and inspirational anthems. The Strokes and Interpol both played a heavy hand in defining the renaissance of New York indie, and their sets–reunions of sorts banking on nostalgia without overdoing it–made for a satisfying return to their hits while acknowledging them in a 2014 framework.
It’s crazy to think of The Strokes and Interpol as legacy acts at this point, especially considering how the peak of their popularity hit within the past decade and naysayers loathe the repetition and debate lack of variety in their respective catalogs. The steady hum and build of an Interpol riff is identifiable within the first few seconds of hearing it, yet knowing the name of any given Interpol song is a challenge in and of itself; the same goes for the straightforward delivery and drum gallops of The Strokes. Thankfully, a stretch of new material and the promise of future records kept either set from feeling stale.
Despite their polarizing nature and relatively new return to the festival circuit, the crowds present for both sets were full of people screaming choruses back to Paul Banks and Julian Casablancas as though they’d been waiting a decade to do that at a major production like Governors Ball. (That, and we got to watch Julian Casablancas belt his way through “Last Night” while wearing a Hawaiian shirt, which is something a fan who frequented Lit Lounge probably would’ve freaked out over circa 2003.)
While the weekend was packed with big ticket New York acts like Vampire Weekend, The Stokes, Interpol, Sleigh Bells, and TV on the Radio, some up-and-comers–like Skaters and Lucius– also shined.
Skaters’ aptly titled Manhattan is one of the strongest rock efforts of the year to date–listen to “Miss Teen Massachusetts” and tell us it doesn’t breed the kind of enthusiasm you’d only previously embraced for the band crushes of your teenage years.
And Lucius have hardly spent any time at home in Brooklyn at all, they’ve been touring (strictly sold-out shows) for the majority of the past two years. For Lucius frontwomen Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig–who saved their brand new mirror ball-inspired dresses for the occasion of their Saturday set–getting the chance to play Governors Ball means more than the other major festivals they’ve played. They’ve been regulars on serious festival lineups long before Wildewoman saw its release last October, and though the inventive pop outfit is looking forward to writing its follow-up when touring settles down, they’re clearly at home in their natural element in transit at the moment. “Turn It Around,” their closing number and arguably biggest hit, got injected with a verse or two from Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” a somethin’-special they’d saved for Governors Ball.
“We’ve been looking forward to it for a long time,” says Wolfe of Gov Ball. “It’s a check on the bucket list. [New York] is sort of the mecca for creativity, with unlimited resources in terms of talent. Space can be an issue, but it’s kind of perfect that we’re here on Randall’s Island. You do need a sort of huge celebration for music here, being able to get outside of night clubs and bars and having a place where you can collect and enjoy all of the wonderful things that we have. This is really the only huge festival in the city, and the city is lucky to have something like this.
“New York is so lucky to have the best of everything,” she continues. “And when you can gather together and celebrate that, I guess that’s why the call it Governors Ball–because you have a ball.”