Events — 20 June 2011
Governor’s Ball Music Festival 2011: Highlighting the Unsung Artists

Blog: The Governor's Ball Music Festival

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The Governor’s Ball Music Festival 2011
Governor’s Island, New York, NY
June 18, 2011

Governor’s Island is not your typical concert festival venue. The 172-acre island in Upper New York Bay is an impressive slab of land, right smack in the center of the New York harbor. The northeastern half is currently open to the public, which includes paths for running and bicycling while the southwestern half which contains the abandoned U.S. Coast Guard housing and service areas is closed off. The island is filled with several abandoned buildings giving it a eerie, yet cool ghost town vibe. On Saturday, June 18th Governor’s Island hosted the inaugural Governor’s Ball Music Festival, produced by Founders Entertainment. The day long extravaganza featured a cornucopia of acts ranging from rock to hip hop, indie and pop, with mixtures of food and art, and everything in between.

The weather on Saturday was flawless, with not a cloud in the sky. Our crew hyped for this, so we wanted to get over to the island first thing in the morning. The Governor’s Ball was an all ages event, so catching an early morning ferry from Pier 11 near Wall Street helped to beat the insane crowds that would follow throughout the afternoon. Once docked, we walked toward the concert grounds. Despite a lengthy delay in getting inside, the layout of the Festival was ideal, with plenty of food and drinking options available between the two massive stages with a distance that was easily walkable. Magic Hat Brewery was on hand for adult beverage service, cooking up a special beer specific to the event for the event called “Guvnor’s Island Golden Ale.” Let’s just say we had our share of them throughout the festival. The food options also seemed limitless- from a pulled pork sandwich to a fish taco to vegetarian and vegan food options.

One of the key factors that set the Governor’s Ball apart from most other festivals of the same ilk is that the bands were scheduled so that they would not overlap. You truly underestimate the importance of this until you get to an outdoor festival, as most of the time, stages are at least a half mile apart from each other, making it hard to see every band you came for. Speaking of the music, it must be said that Governor’s Ball is one of the most diverse concerts that we have ever been to. Most of the time, a festival will stick to one specific genre, but this was not the case here. The Ball brilliantly mixed hip hop and rock acts, and left nobody scratching their heads.

The lineup had been in place for months, but acts were still being added in the days leading up to the festival. Brooklyn’s own Das Racist was one of the late add-ons. Their unique blend of humor and style separates them from most mainstream hip hop acts. Having never seen them live, we raced to the front of the crowd for a prime view. Each member of Das Racist brings their own personality and rapping technique to the table, which translates brilliantly on stage. The energy level with these guys was high from beginning to end. I could best describe the performance as an out of control house party, right before the cops show up. Just an all out fun performance.

Australia’s Miami Horror took the stage in the mid-afternoon. We hadn’t heard much about this band prior to the festival, so we had to whet our curiosity and check them out. Right off the bat, it became clear that the group was infusing rock with a retro disco sound. The combination worked fluidly, as the songs were danceable, and got the crowd shaking their butts. Lead singer and guitarist, Ben Plant caught our attention right away with his seriously funky guitar playing. Clearly Prince was a major influence on this guy, and he was grooving like the paisley legend throughout the performance.

Aside from the incredible live performances from the bill’s bigger acts like Girl Talk, Big Boi, Empire of the Sun, Pretty Lights and a really fun DJ set from two members of Passion Pit, crowd favorites Mac Miller also proved to be a somewhat unsung highlight. The young self taught musician- pianist, guitarist, and drummer- brought a massive crowd toward the stage for his afternoon hip-hop set. His youthful energy bouncing around the stage as amateur lyricists in the crowd sang along to his every verse. It should also be noted that we saw more fans walking around the grounds wearing Mac Miller shirts than any other, so it sure seemed that he kept the merchandise tent busy.

The neon sunglasses were out in droves on Saturday as a humid June afternoon into evening brought out a youthful New York crowd to a fantastic day-long event that combined all of the elements of eclectic music, local eats, and ultimately, self-expression. The inaugural Governor’s Ball Music Festival may have had its share of minor glitches, but the show became a celebration for the beginning of a New York City summer- one with perfect weather, great sounds, and a ton of memories. One event, with so many wonderful things happening simultaneously, that a simple review of it cannot fully encapsulate its experience.

- Alan Smithee & Jane Van Arsdale

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