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Governors Ball 2016: Michael's Friday Sound Bites

By Michael L. McGlathery
By Michael L. McGlathery, Crimson Staff Writer

Years and Years gave an energetic crowd what it wanted: an excuse to dance and smile through the light rain that began to fall on Friday afternoon. The group tamped down its characteristic dark undercurrent in favor of a fun-loving appeal that brought Justin Timberlake to mind. Frontman Olly Alexander, clad in a gorgeous cream jumpsuit with a rainbow stripe, gave up every word with an easygoing, jubilant energy. Even with only one album under their belts, a set of originals from Years and Years is exciting and infectious, and a “Hotline Bling” cover actually came across as one of the set’s low points.

Action Bronson swaggered through a triumphant set, reveling in the sizable corner of the hip-hop world he’s come to inhabit. In case you haven’t been keeping tabs on him, the rapper has his own food show with VICE now, called “F*ck, That’s Delicious.” The rapper’s set probably featured food most prominently out of all the sets this weekend: He smashed a watermelon that had been confiscated from a member of the crowd and later brought out his friend and legendary chef Mario Batali. Bronson’s boisterous self-deprecating humor made for an engaging show; the slight edge of humility (“Who the fuck would ever think you’d see this face on TV?”) combined with emphatically-delivered bars (“At times my only friends in life are drugs and the cannoli”) kept the performance engaging the whole hour long.

Big Grams seems almost too much like a mashup oddity to work well live (the group formed from the union of electro-pop duo Phantogram and legendary rapper Big Boi), and the trio had a bit of an awkward rapport onstage, but that didn’t stop them from putting on a pleasurable show. In fact, that awkwardness was part of the appeal of the live performance—Phantogram’s Sarah Barthel openly expressed her surprise and delight at every new song as the trio rolled through the latter half of the setlist. The pleasure of watching Big Grams is the pleasure of watching a group still a little bit in disbelief at its own existence. One of the set’s highlights was a mashup of Outkast’s “Mrs. Jackson” with Phantogram’s “Mouthful of Diamonds.”

Father John Misty brought his unique persona and voice to the Honda Stage in the late afternoon. Onstage, the wily, unapologetic lunatic that frontman Josh Tillman has woven into Father John Misty’s public persona—take a look at the band’s Twitter feed for a glimpse of that—took a backseat to the rocking compositions of their 2015 album “I Love You, Honeybear.” Tillman performed with his entire body, writhing on the stage and swooping with his guitar like it was an extension of his body. He has a strange sort of charisma for a frontman; for all the hubbub he ironically invites online, he’s an incredibly earnest performer, almost to the point of awkwardness. For a little while after his band had left the stage at the end of the show, he remained, meekly waving and bowing. “True Affection” and “Holy Shit” formed the climactic heart of the set.

—Staff writer Michael L. McGlathery can be reached at

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