The second day of The 2016 Governors Ball Music Festival was also its final day. (The threat of severe thunderstorms led the festival's organizers to cancel the Sunday programming – most notably including Kanye West.) But until the unexpected deluge of rain came pouring down around 7 p.m. on Saturday, the festival was running quite smoothly. The festival's inability to deal with severe weather may reignite the discussion over whether a large music festival can thrive in NYC, but preceding the rain and the ensuing mess of Saturday night and Sunday, there were no major logistical or programming snags – something that very few festivals can claim.
Torres – 1:30 p.m.
A native Georgian, Mackenzie Scott has been living in Brooklyn for enough time now to make her Governors Ball set a hometown show of sorts, but like the juxtaposition of her home cities, her intimate contemplations were in an unfamiliar place: a large scale festival. Perhaps unexpectedly, Torres' performance didn't come across as out of place as it seemed on paper. Some of the songs on her sophomore effort, 2015's excellent Sprinter, tap into Scott's most dissonant tendencies, doubling down on volume and her sparingly-used howl to translate the songwriter's often-existential questions. Those songs ("Sprinter", "Strange Hellos") worked as intended, but the quieter songs ("Honey", "New Skin") took a less expected route. Scott still remained the centerpiece of those performances, but she increased the volume on both her vocals and guitar, making the performances almost shoegazey in their usage of noise as depth. A clever move, certainly, but if you're going to bring a set of songs about your internal theological struggle to a sunny afternoon crowd in NYC, you're going to have to be creative.
Against Me! - 5:45 p.m.
There's no denying that Against Me!'s music has a degree of gravity to it – naming an album Transgender Dysphoria Blues pretty clearly says that some heavy stuff is in store – but it doesn't mean that an Against Me! show can't be fun, which was the word that would probably best sum up Laura Jane Grace and co.'s Saturday evening performance. Running breathlessly through one bounce-friendly punk anthem to another, the group was the most physically active act on Saturday, as was their crowd, who bounced, shouted, and rallied through sixty straight minutes of AM! cornerstones and a number of just-as-vibrant new tunes from their forthcoming record. Only once did the mood ever get slightly serious – when Grace mentioned a recent anecdote about being harassed in public and flicking the offender off, the crowd flipped their birds in solidarity and resumed jumping along with the song. In a city where a massive tower is named after a certain public figure who has come to represent what many fear the most, it was a heartening moment seeing the volume of the crowd and band match the volume of their good intentions.
Haim - 6:45 p.m.
Haim may have taken last year off the road, but joining a certain pop megastar's squad ended up gaining them more exposure than a hundred festival sets could have, so now that they're back, the trio are about as close to the edge of stardom that you can get before becoming the real thing. The sisters' subheadling slot was a confirmation that their live show will remain their strongest asset for the time being, however. Set with a new light show, new digs, and a pair of new songs (both of which sound like a natural progression from their first album), Este, Danielle, and Alana basically stuck to what they do best: play a song, engage in banter, jam, and repeat. Despite being a fundamentally similar set to the one they toured into the ground in 2013-14, HAIM remain a well-oiled machine, even more affable and technically impressive than they were the first time around. A great number of festival goers left long before The Killers' headlining set began as the weather that would eventually derail the festival commenced during Haim's set, meaning that for many, the Los Angeles trio's performance was effectively a headlining performance – which is not that farfetched of a future possibility.
Purity Ring - 8:15 p.m.
As a result of the pouring rain, one could say that Purity Ring's set was one of the best attended sets of the festival, as every single person that could fit into the tent stage (the only stage that was covered) squeezed themselves into that space to preserve what was left of their mud-covered shoes. Perhaps because of that, the densely-packed throng at the stage went absolutely wild for everything Corin Roddick and Megan James did in their hour onstage. The duo's stage lights came on? Huge roar. Any time a song started, built, or released? Huge roar. Pretty much anything else? Huge roar. But Purity Ring's lights-and-music assault was the perfect foil to dark skies with rain coming down. The songs – especially those on last year's Another Eternity – are thick and immediate, and there's not much to be said about Purity Ring's live show that couldn't better be illustrated by photos. Trying to forget your chances of catching trenchfoot is easy when those two things are right in front of you.
Only a year or two after establishing itself as the first NYC music festival to actually pull off an event with the caliber and scope fitting of the city, The Governors Ball Music Festival is at a crossroads. Stereogum's Michael Nelson does an excellent job explaining it in depth, but due to the ...