The Governors Ball 2012 Recap: A Tale Of Two Days

By: Guest Editor / June 25, 2012

This weekend marked the second rolling of The Governors Ball Music Festival, and this year the event was wisely expanded to two days and to a bigger NYC island. There were two unique advantages to this: First, the days were split into unofficial themes, with Saturday (Jun. 23) being more dance focused and Sunday (Jun. 24) more rock-centric. Second: No sets overlapped. Though, this does remove the kinda fun sense of pressure/desperation that comes with deciding which bands to see.

So from synth-pop like Chromeo, Passion Pit and Penguin Prison to straight-up EDM from Duck Sauce and Big Gigantic, the mission on the first day was to sweat your ass off. The chilled-out Day Two was just as varied within its respective genre. “Rock”, here, included the likes of Phantogram, Cage The Elephant, Built To Spill, and Fiona Apple.

So did the grand split-style experiment work? Yes! If you went for one day, you got a cohesive mini-festival experience, if you went for the whole weekend, you got an incredibly eclectic survey of the music scene. Plus, the unified daily vibes meant they were taken to the absolute max: Day One in a nutshell was a topless woman in a cape dancing onstage; Day Two in a nutshell was Cults guitarist Brian Oblivion noting, “We’ve done a lot of festivals and this is the most chill one we’ve ever done.”

With some 30 acts and nearly 24 hours of music, there was a lot worth mentioning, so here are some of the totally meaningless awards we scribbled down in our notes:

Biggest Crowd: Modest Mouse

Believe it, people. The indie set is crazy for their Modest Mouse.

Loudest Bass: Duck Sauce

The only thing earplugs were good for at their set was to block the sounds of out-of-shape partiers gasping for air next to you.

Biggest Disappointment — Music Edition: No “Call Me Maybe” covers!

We thought for sure someone (probably on Saturday) would remix or cover Carly Rae Jepsen’s gem. Alas, we were only able to satisfy our Jepsen hunger on the ferry ride home. All those bands and DJs missed a highly bloggable opportunity.

Biggest Disappointment — Fashion Edition: The dearth of rompers

We also thought for sure we’d see hundreds and hundreds of girls in patterned rompers. We were totally wrong. Are rompers out? Or was it just because they are the last thing you want to be wearing when you’re in a port-a-john? File this under: Things We Need To Know.

Best Foster the People impression: Walk the Moon

The guys in Walk the Moon may or may not be FTP’s Midwestern cousins. Their shimmery synths, Big Country-esque riffs and neon palette were right at home in the summer sun. Plus, it’s always nice to see a new band dripping with both sweat and gratitude.

Best idea that shouldn’t work but totally does: Big Gigantic

A laptop. A drumset. And a saxophone. Somehow, those three elements combined to make some of Day One’s liveliest, most compelling music.

Best Time Warp — Hip-Hop Edition: Atmosphere

The Minnesota hip-hop group’s sneakily clever rhymes over spare beats sounded right at home in New York City. On Day One and in the early ’90s.

Best Time Warp — Rock Edition: Chromeo

Are we sure they’re not some secret science experiment blasted here from the ’80s?

Meanest insult thrown at metal fans: Modest Mouse

Both Modest Mouse and Cage played at Metallica’s Orion Festival on Saturday before doing Governors on Sunday. Modest Mouse must not have been received with open arms, because singer Isaac Brock said, “You guys are so much prettier than their fans” and proceeded to s*** on Metallica fans by joking that they all lived at home, had bodies hidden in the attic, etc.

Best Light Show: Passion Pit

Only four bands played at night, but only Passion Pit really took advantage of it, with a giant LED screen flickering all sorts of lightning bolts and hazy neons.

Day One All-Stars: Major Lazer

Saturday’s mid-afternoon show was filthy. Furious. Made you want to f*** somebody, ANYBODY. What more do you want from a live show?

Day Two All-Stars: Beck, Cage The Elephant

Early in Cage’s set, singer Matthew Shultz, his voice clearly deteriorating, told fans he woke up that morning with no voice and that management advised they cancel the show. But the band was having none of it. So whatever notes he couldn’t hit, he made up for with shrieks and sheer energy. The set was pure testosterone and sweat and shredding.

As for Beck, we tend to forget that under all his funk trappings and quirky gimmicks lie some serious guitar licks and indelible hooks. Those two elements are immediate and undeniable live. Speaking of Beck…

Deserving of its own special award: Beck’s last six songs

Beck closed out the festival with his most recognizable and energetic songs. Check out this closing stretch: “Devils Haircut”, “Loser”, “Novacane”, “Minus”, “Where It’s At” and “E-Pro”. This was more than just a wonderful blast of nostalgia; live, these became pure rock freakouts full of chunky riffs and fuzzy wails and thumping beats. The festival ended on a high note.

What were some of your favorite moments from this year’s Governors Ball? Tell us in the comments below, or on Facebook and Twitter.