This past weekend marked the seventh annual Governors Ball at Randall’s Island Park. Known as New York City’s home festival before Panorama and Meadows came to town, Gov Ball is made up of great music, New York culture, and maybe too many amped up high schoolers. Here are the three performers that stole the show.
Childish Gambino never ceases to amaze- and his performance on Saturday was no exception. The multi-genre, multi-platinum artist took the stage wearing all white, backed by an electric band and vocal group. Just a few minutes in, he confirmed two things: yes, this was his only show of 2017; and yes, he insisted that it be in New York City. Performing the best of “Awaken! My Love” and classic hits such as “Sober” and “3005”, Gambino exuded both the intensity of a ‘70’s rockstar and the soul of a preacher. The performance exhibited sounds and aesthetics that spanned several styles of music and performance, and acted as a statement of Afrofuturism. Closing with an eccentric version of crowd favorite “Redbone,” Glover left us with a final cliffhanger: “I’ll see you for the last Gambino album.”
Perhaps the most energized crowd on Day 3 of Governor’s Ball was found moshing to U.K. grime rapper Skepta mid-day at the smallest stage in the festival. While the genre has not fully made its way across the pond just yet, performances by the grime gatekeeper and past collaborator Stormzy proved to solidify its’ presence in the United States. Taking the stage in all black, Skepta lit up the audience by opening with the title track of his most recent album, Konnichiwa. Fans packed the Bacardi tent, rapping along to the most prominent tracks of Skepta’s catalog. Fellow grime artist Shorty joined Skepta on stage, and acted both as a hype man and supporting rapper for several songs in the latter half of the performance. Approaching the end of his time on stage with “Man” and “Shutdown,” Skepta finished his set by playing Playboi Carti’s hit “Magnolia,” as a sign of respect to the New York City crowd.
Cage the Elephant
An intense performance by Nashville natives Cage the Elephant left viewers with one question: was that Matt Shultz or Mick Jagger? Taking the Governors Ball main stage in front of thousands of fans, the lead singer told the crowd, “Let’s throw a party”... and that they did. Cage brought a veteran level of showmanship that was fueled by a young fire and intensity, with ripping guitar solos and charismatic movement on stage. Crowd favorites like “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” and “Shake Me Down” had fans shamelessly singing along, while the quintet seemed to enjoy every minute they played. At the end of their performance, frontman Matt Shultz paid respects to recent events in Manchester and London, offering the simple bid to fans: “Let’s celebrate love.” After finishing their set with “Teeth,” Shultz jumped into the audience and somehow managed to crowd surf hundreds of feet, over the entire crowd all the way to the back of the audience. It was incredible.
By Pj Walshe