Throw Yourself an Alternative Governors Ball With These Ten Concert Picks


There are more than 50 artists set to perform at this weekend’s Governors Ball Music Festival, and even if you can’t make it out to Randalls Island Park, there are still plenty of opportunities to enjoy Gov Ball artists and other performers as they descend upon NYC venues for the week. The festival itself is hosting twenty satellite shows beginning Thursday night as part of the Governors Ball After Dark series. Not all of the acts could throw us a late-night bone (c’mon, Björk!), but we’re still lucky to get previews or encores from the likes of Benjamin Booker, Conor Oberst, White Lung, and more.

If you couldn’t get off work for the weekend, or if that ticket price was a little too steep to justify slicing into your food budget, we’ve got you covered with ten select shows from both festival-endorsed bands and some good-ole touring acts to make for a suitable Alt Gov Ball experience.

Thursday, 6/4
Benjamin Booker
Irving Plaza
8 p.m., $25
This Southern guitar-slinger will begin his Governors Ball weekend eighteen hours ahead of his scheduled Friday-afternoon time slot. Benjamin Booker has been turning heads with his power-chord-heavy, soulful melodies (Jack White is a fan and brought the 25-year-old on tour last year), and his self-titled 2014 debut is a promising answer to the tired question: What ever happened to rock ‘n’ roll? Booker played to a sold-out crowd back in early April, and this Irving Plaza date might be the best chance to see him before he rises to even higher peaks.

Bowery Ballroom
8 p.m., $25
Wire are one of those classic, archetypal Brit-rock bands that often get thrown into the “inspired by” list when discussing contemporary great acts, but sometimes this grouping makes you forget what it was that Wire truly inspired. Three of the four members came out of art school and showed that punk went beyond the spiked-hair, spit-on-the-crowd aesthetic. Their songs were quick, one- or two-minute punches and proved punk could yield a chorus, best heard on their seminal 1977 album Pink Flag. Both Wire and show opener Julian Lynch are outside the Gov Ball realm, making them an apt substitute for the long weekend.

Friday, 6/5
Little Dragon
Brooklyn Bowl
11 p.m., $27.50–$30
You might have noticed the phrase “Feat. Little Dragon” on your iTunes or Spotify on recent Gorillaz, DJ Shadow, and SBTRKT tracks, but the Swedish electro foursome Little Dragon are a powerful force all on their own. Need convincing? Give “Ritual Union” a quick spin. Little Dragon formed in 1996, but it wasn’t until the late Aughts that they hit their stride, eventually earning a 2014 Best Dance/Electric Album Grammy nomination for their most recent effort, Nabuma Rubberband. Although their sun-setting Saturday-afternoon Gov Ball time slot should provide a stunning ambiance for their colorful sound, this Friday-night bowling alley habitat, where they’ll be surrounded by crashing pins, ought to work just fine.

Atmosphere + Bishop Nehru
Irving Plaza
11 p.m., $25
There aren’t many comparisons you can initially draw between Minneapolis’s Atmosphere and Rockland County’s Bishop Nehru, besides the way both hip-hop acts make rhyming look easy. The whimsically fun Atmosphere (the duo’s respective handles: Slug and Ant) scored a hit with their single “You” back in 2008 on the strength of Slug’s journeyman rhymes and Ant’s undeniable production. Nehru, on the other hand, reached critical acclaim before even reaching his maximum height (the New Yorker is only eighteen) and has collaborated with the evil genius MF Doom, as heard on last fall’s NehruvianDoom. The two acts play either early- or mid-afternoon slots at Gov Ball, which makes this late-night performance a great second opportunity to catch them in their zone.

White Lung
Knitting Factory
11:59 p.m., $12
Not only are Canada’s White Lung performing at the absolute last minute to make this a Friday-night show (allowing just thirteen hours before their Gov Ball set), but included in this show’s promotion is a listing of the venue’s happy-hour prices: This is a band that demands your blood, sweat, and Jim Beam tears. White Lung specialize in provocative lyrics and brutal attacks via fuzzy guitar and howling screams. White Lung’s summer 2014 sophomore release, Deep Fantasy, was an able aural assault on the music community with its mighty clout of distortion. It’s amazing what a band can do with just 22 minutes of your time, which is how long it takes to listen to the album front to back. Imagine what a full-hour show with them will do.

Charli XCX
Rockefeller Center
6 p.m., FREE
Charli XCX has been seeping into our brains since she provided the hook to Iggy Azalea’s smash “Fancy”; she solidified her residency with her sophomore record, Sucker. That album title does her style justice: Provocative and punchy, Charli XCX is a disobedient counter to Lorde’s reign. She seems like the type of act who’d show up late to class, slap a “KICK ME” sign on the teacher’s back, and then escape out the back window before lunchtime. When “Fancy” became the 2014 song of the summer, some wondered if we deserved a better hit. In 2015, no one’s questioning the might of XCX or her ability to wow crowds at festivals and straight shows alike.

Saturday, 6/6
Conor Oberst
Music Hall of Williamsburg
11 p.m., $30
It’s OK to admit that a Conor Oberst track made it onto that mix CD you left in a significant other’s junior-high locker. We all did it. And even if that scenario has never once crossed your mind, that feeling of eager young love is exactly what Oberst capitalized on and perfected with Bright Eyes. Now settled in his current solo endeavor, Oberst has officially shredded that hair-over-the-eyes, sad-boy-blues image. He’s not afraid to rock out a little. (Throw on this recent more-than-appropriate track for a taste: “Governor’s Ball.”) Oberst’s Saturday Gov Ball slot coincides with Björk’s, making it a difficult choice for fans of both acts, but this Music Hall of Williamsburg late-night show shall bring a little balance back to the Force.

Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions Concert Tour
The Theater at Madison Square Garden
7:30 p.m., $50.50
Video game soundtracks have often provided musical joy, from Tony Hawk’s underground skate-punk to Mario’s eight-bit pop, and now we can add the Pokémon series, whose themes are available to hear performed by a legitimate symphony. Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions matches orchestral arrangements to visuals from the Pokémon video game series, and this New York performance is only the second date in their massive, worldwide tour spanning the Americas to Australia. You really can’t get a more alternative Governors Ball experience than that of Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions.

Sunday, 6/7
Bowery Ballroom
8 p.m., $12
Calexico have remained fairly consistent throughout their career: never quite reaching critical mass, yet never taking their eye off the ball. They’re reliable. And in this current musical climate of surprise stylistic left turns and unexpected album drops, reliability is comforting. Since appearing on the I’m Not There Bob Dylan covers compilation, Calexico have been an ideal addition to any major stage bill with their authentic performances that rarely draw away limelight. Calexico are currently touring in support of their recently released eighth album, Edge of the Sun, with which they continue mastering their take on midtempo indie and Americana-infused rock. Sometimes their roots in Tex-Mex accordions shine more than their happy-wanderer persona, but as a whole, this band sounds confident in its short strides.

Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires
SummerStage at Flushing Meadows Park
4 p.m., FREE
Of all the shows occurring this weekend outside of Randalls Island, this is the one worth skipping the Black Keys for. Charles Bradley‘s is a Cinderella story that’s easy to continue cheering for, an arc that brought him from James Brown impersonator to soulful headliner in his own right — and that’s just part of his charm. That tender, loving voice can summon tsunamis with its emotional highs or pacify tigers with its calming cool. But more importantly, Bradley convinces you he’s the real thing through his sweat-soaked shirts and soul-cutting gaze. I don’t know why it’s so hard to make it in this land of milk and honey, but just hearing Bradley ask the same question in “Why Is It So Hard” somehow makes it all feel a little bit better.

See also:
This Is How Sharon Van Etten Thrives (and Survives) at Music Festivals
Eight Ways You Can Rock Governors Ball on a Budget
The Cool People of Governors Ball

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