Governors Ball @ Randall’s Island 6.23-6.24.12

by Suzie Conway (Communications), published July 6th 2012

photos by Leslie Fowle (English/Journalism)

A picturesque New York skyline framed the 2nd annual Governors Ball. The festival took place on June 23rd and 24th, with both days being wholly different experiences from one another. The first day was comprised of a mostly dance and electronic line-up, enticing a very young, neon-clad crowd, while the second day brought more mellow old-timers.  A huge open space made for plenty of simultaneous lounging and partying, which made the festival fit for every mood.  And while the lineup of artists was puzzling at first, it all somehow made for a cohesive smaller-scale festival.

Day 1


A shower of sparkly confetti thrown by adorable twin dancers introduced Santigold to the audience for her mid-day set. Favoring new material over her breakout eponymous album, Ms. Santi White didn’t hold back. Even though she claimed she was sick, she rocked the house early on, especially with a killer version of “Creator” and a moodier “Disparate Youth.” She set the bar high early on, but her set ended far too soon. Giving Santigold a 40-minute set, while Duck Sauce had an hour? Does anyone listen to anything but “Barbra Streisand” anyway?

Special Disco Version

James Murphy and Pat Mahoney of LCD Soundsystem make up this outfit. In part due to LCD Soundsystem’s disbandment in 2011, SDV drew a raucous crowd, but not at first. Murphy and Mahoney were initially playing a few beats and chatting amongst themselves, to a rather limp crowd, probably a few minutes before they were lined up to start. But once they started in earnest, Murphy wanted to throw down and make it into a “block party.” Smooth and sultry, but bouncy and energetic, the former LCD members certainly made up for a lackluster beginning.

Major Lazer

One thing’s for sure: Diplo likes to party. He came equipped with acrobatic dancers and yelled over his beats asking the audience to strip. Considering it was nearly 90 degrees in New York, he didn’t have to twist too many arms. Watching the set from afar, a sea of bright orange and yellow tanks moved to the music, because Diplo naturally demanded the women to take off their shirts. Despite the obvious crowd pandering, the crowd was clearly more amped post-Lazer.

Passion Pit

Passion Pit was the headlining set of the day (again…Santigold?!) and brought an expectedly satisfactory set. They played some new songs from their upcoming album and ended the set with “Sleepyhead” and “Little Secrets.” I would have expected something more from a headlining set, but if nothing else, it was a soothing interlude as the sun began to set.

Kid Cudi

Super chatty and enthusiastic, Kid Cudi was insistent on “going through the whole Kid Cudi catalogue.” Little did he know, that wouldn’t happen. Kid Cudi was cut of pretty promptly at 11, the stated ending time of the festival (there was no camping on festival grounds), to a befuddled performer and audience. Cudi didn’t even get to his biggest singles, but it was lights out early at Governors Ball.


Day 2

Devendra Banhart

Banhart, well-known for looking disheveled and wacky, looked decidedly put together. No longer sporting his long, mangled hair and peculiar clothing, Banhart calmly took the stage and sang some sweet acoustic tunes to melt the coldest of hearts (or maybe that was just the sun). What felt like an audience intruding on a serenade was one of the more unexpectedly lovely sets of the day.

Fiona Apple

There are no two ways to go about it, Fiona Apple kicks ass. Emerging from a several-year-long hiatus, Apple had more fire and passion than anyone else who performed, by far. She ripped through a searing rendition of “Sleep to Dream” and a heartbreaking “On the Bound” where she screamed “you’re all I need” to a captivated crowd. She’s well known for her onstage antics, but she kept her cool throughout the set, letting her music prevail. It’s nice to have her back.

Explosions in the Sky

As epic as one would expect, Explosions didn’t disappoint, but didn’t especially stick out, either. It mellowed out the masses well, with more people lounging during this set than others. However, people were talking and yelling through most of it, which made it hard to really enjoy it.

Modest Mouse

They were anything but modest as Isaac Bruck and company tore it up with rousing renditions of old hits. Modest Mouse rocked the house with “Satin in a Coffin,” “Dramamine,” and “Bury Me with It.” Noticeably missing from the set was breakout single “Float On,” which one would imagine they’ve tired of by this point. They also lilted their way through new fan favorites like “Dashboard” and “Missed the Boat,” which was disappointing. But even if the band wasn’t enthusiastic the whole time, everyone else was.


A light rain began to fall as Beck took the stage for his first show in New York in four years. Expectations were high, and Beck surely delivered. Favoring old tunes from Odelay! And a few off of his most recent album Modern Guilt, Beck was lively, utilizing a great backing band for an enormous festival-closing sound.


Beck ended a festival day that probably made most in attendance yearn for the days of 90s alternative. But with so many great performances on day 2 in particular, it left everyone wanting more than just the old hits. So a humble plea from Ball attendees to most of the day’s performers: please grace us with new music.


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