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Governors Ball 2016: Saturday Round-Up

By Mila Gauvin II and Michael L. McGlathery, Crimson Staff Writers

Mila Gauvin II:

I take it easier today, arriving in the early afternoon just in time to see Jon Bellion perform. I wonder whether it’s the availability Saturdays provide or if it’s Bellion’s performance that has amassed the throng of people milling about the Big Apple Stage, but I’m not complaining. More people bring more zest and buoyancy to what is already a lively event, and today we’re going to need it; yesterday the rain wasn’t too bad, but today it’s going to pour.

I stay camped in front of the stage for about an hour in a valiant attempt to get up close and personal with Misterwives, the next act, and unexpectedly run into a friend from college. In the midst of the thousands of people jampacked onto this tiny island, you’ll probably find a familiar face sooner or later. Though I lose her within the next five minutes, knowing she is here and pondering the other people here who I might also know, I appreciate Gov Ball’s uniting capabilities.

Deciding to not starve myself, I reluctantly go and buy myself a meal. It’s good, but in the meantime I lose my chance of getting a good spot to see Mac Miller. The crowd for him is enormous, the biggest I’ve seen so far for an act who isn’t a headliner. When it finally disperses—and with the amount of people there, it took a while—I stare at the hundreds of people still crowded at the front of the stage. Just as I remained after Jon Bellion’s performance for Misterwives, many have taken advantage of the scattering mass of people to approach the stage in preparation for Miguel, who is up next on the Honda Stage. I become one of the dreaded hasslers, pushing my way forward and towards the middle of the throng. Luckily, I have the excuse that my friend—another one—is saving a spot for me. When I reach him, we wait impatiently for Miguel to come onstage, and when he does, we are not disappointed.

Soaked from head to toe after standing in the rain during Miguel’s electrifying set, I hurry to take cover under the Bacardi House tent just in time to see Purity Ring take the stage. After I am sufficiently spaced out from their music, I trudge through the mud that people are crowding onto the concrete to avoid walking through. My shoes are ruined, and my legs are caked with drying sludge, but at least I can make it to the GovBallNYC Stage faster and in time for The Killers.

Though I’m enjoying the show, I leave before the encore performance everyone stays to wait for, trying to beat the rush and avoid spending the unnecessary hour I wasted trying to leave yesterday. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, the third and final day of Gov Ball, when some of my favorite performers…. Who am I kidding? I can’t wait to see Kanye.

Read more in Mila's quick takes on Saturday's acts and her full review of Miguel.

Michael L. McGlathery:

There’s nothing quite like a downpour to remind you that the real reason you’ve come to a music festival is for the music, not the ambiance. With all the money poured into making sure today’s corporate music festivals (Governors Ball was recently acquired by global behemoth LiveNation) glitter and intrigue, it can be easy to lose track of the fact that they still depend on musicians as their lifeblood. As the dark clouds started to close in on Saturday afternoon and the drops began to fall, people started to move. Some walked briskly to the exits; some whipped out cheap, transparent ponchos; and some, myself included, moved under the shelter of a few of the festival’s large trees. My friends and I were watching HAIM, and under the shelter of the tree we were about 100 yards away from the stage. As the rain picked up, the tree kept us less and less dry, and we had to make a decision: Leave, seek the shelter of the festival’s only large tent, or lean into being drenched and push our rain jacket-less bodies close to the stage? Half opted for the tent, where we were to watch Purity Ring in a half hour. A few friends and I chose to push forward. The first few minutes were full of ambivalence at our increasingly soaked clothes, but by the time HAIM jumped into their infectious, anthemic hit “The Wire” we had forgotten about all that and were bouncing along with the crowd, wet hair whipping around. Though I wrecked a pair of shoes and infected an entire duffel bag of clothes with mildew as a result of my decisions, that’s not the way I’ll remember HAIM’s show. That’s not the way I’ll remember Purity Ring. That’s not the way I’ll remember M83. And that’s certainly not the way I’ll remember Thundercat’s orgasmic (and dry!) afternoon set.

When music festivals flirt with enduring serious or semi-serious weather, they flirt with disaster. In 2013, a tropical storm turned Governors Ball into a sloshing mudpit, resulting in a scary close call with a short circuit for performer Feist and an early end to the festival’s first day. While that iteration of Gov Ball was able to somehow push through the next two days, other festivals have met worse fates. In September 2015, the Tomorrowland festival in Georgia saw rainfalls that stranded thousands of attendees in the mud, far from any passable roads. Fortunately, Saturday saw a manageable enough amount of rain for the headliners to perform (though Governors Ball canceled Sunday’s lineup due to safety concerns).

So I can understand the decision to head home when the rain clouds made good on their threat—there’s no shame in assuring a safe trip home. But those who stayed at the festival enjoyed a special treat: a music festival with slightly smaller crowds, and crowds enjoying the music with slightly more reckless abandon. The audience roared and stared in wonder at the dark majesty of Purity Ring’s set and the genius of their almost-holographic light setup. A thrillingly small crowd crowded the stage to feel the booming pulse of M83’s expansive pop. And a screaming, sopping mass pumped their fists to the chorus of “The Wire.” Come hell or high water, the music will always enchant.

Read more in Michael's quick takes on Saturday's acts and in his full review of Thundercat.

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