Randall’s Island was the setting for three days of music, food and games known as the third annual Governors Ball Music Festival, but another attraction came to define this year’s events: mud.
Due to torrential downpours on Friday, the grassy area next to Icahn Stadium that’s usually a driving range became a huge mud puddle that destroyed sneakers, sandals and flip-flops alike. Some gave up on wearing footwear altogether and traveled from stage to stage barefoot. But none of it could take away from the music on display for all three days of the festivities.
Despite artists like Feist killing her set because the rain led to her being shocked a few times while playing her guitar, Erykah Badu and the Cannabinoids worked through a medley of hits as she sucked the crowd inside the rain-less Skyy Vodka Tent and into her world. On Saturday, Kendrick Lamar provided energy that the crowd didn’t match during his set. Nonetheless, they still rapped along to every one of his tracks.
Thievery Corporation had everyone who was in their late teens to mid-20s when “The Mirror Conspiracy” was released dancing in the mud for the entirety of their hour-plus set. And Nas, just a few miles away from his old Queensbridge neighborhood, played a combination of hits and deep album cuts from “Illmatic” all the way to his recent release, “Life is Good.”
Sunday provided a good set of performances from rapper Freddie Gibbs and Bloc Party, but most concertgoers spent the day buzzing about what Kanye West would do during his closing set that night. During Grizzly Bear’s performance at the main stage, it was clear that about a third of the people there were camping out early to get prime spots for West’s performance. Even Grizzly Bear’s band members noted that fact when they told the audience that they’ll be joining them to watch.
As for the actual performance? West delivered in typical fashion. Opening (and closing) his set with the track “Black Skinhead” off his upcoming “Yeezus” LP, West dove into a treasure trove of hits, playing everything from “All Falls Down,” off of his debut album, “The College Dropout,” to more recent fare like “Clique” from the GOOD Music compilation album “Cruel Summer.”
It was during “Clique” that West went into his usual dialogue with the audience, talking about how he no longer wants to be on the radio and doesn’t care about outside opinions with the exception of those around him.
However, despite West’s presence overshadowing everything around him, the best performance of the weekend should go to guitarist Gary Clark Jr., whose display of virtuosity and musicianship left the Honda Stage crowd amazed and calling for an encore. Speaking in one-sentence intervals, Clark preferred to let his music do the talking, as his set covered songs from his self-titled debut and his most recent album, “Blak and Blu.”
It was 72 hours filled with good music, lots of mud and lots of sweaty people who enjoyed every minute of it.