Who will you end up watching? Let the battle begin!
The storied history of the contemporary music festival, begun either in the romantic mud of Woodstock, New York or listening to a talking haze of pot smoke named Gary Tovar in boardroom in California, steers its mighty head for another go at the New York media marketplace. Has it really been seven years since Dave Matthews and Bassnectar first brought respective houses down at Governors Island? The fest would move over Randalls for the space but its the spirit of those great ol' corporate rockers we groove.
So, as you commute this weekend and see the children of rich people, Citi Bank employees or journalists like yours truly waving their armbands in your rent-paying faces in the train, ask yourself this: will they be catching the poet of Detroit's mean grind, Danny Brown or Michael Kiwanuka, among the many likable men on the Big Little Lies soundtrack? Top Dawg Entertainment's Schoolboy Q or Auckland's Lorde? The living members of the Wu-Tang Clan or some guy in a smiling white hat?
Set time conflicts! No matter how much money your family has given you, you can never have it all! Unless they, like, bought you a helicopter. That would be nice. Please, daddy?
Friday: 12:45 pm
Roosevelt vs. Michael Bloom
It's Friday morning. Maybe we took off Friday from job for this and maybe it's raining. The Governors Balls are known to do this. Last year, only expecting to be drenched in the pure sexual energy of Miguel's Wildheart tour, I ended up pouting by the Ferry Terminal and missing out from that set from the Killers that Stereogum told me "guaranteed one endorphin rush after another." Shucks.
So where do you hide? Berlin-by-way-of-Cologne synth-pop stylist Marius Lauber just released a gorgeous collection of downtempo beats that have won him applaud from music festivals around Europe and mild acclaim from the tastemakers at Pitchfork. On the other hand, he has yet to respond to the questions I sent his publicist. Mr. Bloom, on the other hand, told us he's got an "11-piece band of some of the baddest cats in NYC."
Our choice: Michael Bloom. He went to Yale! Did you?
Friday: 3:45 pm
Charles Bradley vs. Charlie XCX
Charles and Charli! What a fun pair, unfortunately they're playing at the exact same time at two different stages. A charttopping synth-pop queen who really deserves a better time than the middle of the afternoon (she played the slot right before this, back in 2015), her London pep was the best thing about zeitgeist-dominating hits like "I Love It" and "Fancy" along with her own "Boom Clap" from the soundtrack of The Fault in Our Stars. Charli is kind of pop singer who will leave you thinking she's Madonna, bitch and is down with Lil Yachty too.
Bradley, on the other hand, hitchhiked across the country for most of his life before settling down to the become one of the most beloved old school funk singers of our time at the age of sixty-three. On his last record, he delivered a version of Black Sabbath's "Changes" that took back every piece of soul Ozzy stole and blew the dust right off. Damn.
Our choice: Charles Bradley. He'll keep the sun up.
Saturday: 2:15 pm
Car Seat Headrest vs. The Range
Another interest study in complementary careers: James Hinton spent over 200 hours scanning YouTube for obscure audio samples to put together his breakthrough record, last year's Potential while Will Toledo spent the last six years recording low-fi GBV indie in the back seat of his car before getting enough of a following to get Matador to release his breakthrough, last year's Teens of Denial. So, rave like its 1992 or mosh like its 1993?
Our Choice: The Range. Car Seat's team didn't give me tickets to his After Dark show at Webby Hall on Friday and I'm major petty about it. Maybe you'll have more luck for me if you're dying for the second coming of Robert Pollard's tonsils.
Saturday: 3:45 pm
YG vs. Rae Sremmurd
Oooooo. Damn, Live Nation, couldn't you have slotted, I dunno, The Strumbellas opposite YG? You got the gagworthy The Head and the Heart playing against A$AP Ferg, which is a pretty smart call in separating the wheat from the chaff. But YG and Rae are a tough call. Mike WiLL Made-It's house band, Slim Jxmmi and Swae Lee owned much of last year's sound: Lee penned most of the crazy beats in Bey's "Formation" and the duo broke as household names in their own right when "Black Beatles" went viral.
YG, on the other hand, made a name for himself by presenting a version of Compton at odds with the stay-in-school-and-don't-join-gangs message of Kendrick Lamar. You invite Kendrick to the White House. You spin YG when you want to hear "Fuck Donald Trump."
Our choice: YG. Because, fuck Donald Trump, right?
Saturday: 9:15 pm
Phoenix vs. Childish Gambino
Okay, what's the deal with Phoenix? Where so many of my generation have heard the second coming of the Strokes or, in the words of Lo Moon's Matt Lowell, "something incredible with their production," I have never heard very much more than four boring ass French dudes. Parts of Alphabetical click but "1901" is just Best Buy music at this point.
Donald Glover, on the other hand…Have we reached a consensus on "Awaken, My Love!"? People, or at least the charts, seemed to find "Redbone" pretty chill but, as our Liam Berry noted, "There are, however, too many terrible songs to ignore on this album." Of course, Glover might have just been shooting himself in the foot with the publicity; once you create an app to sell tickets to a secret performance of your album in the middle of Death Valley and it's not My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, people are going to feel cheated if it's just an unearthed lost Funkadelic album. Still, you can never have too many of those.
Our choice: Phoenix for the crowd, Gambino for the music.
Sunday: 3:45 pm
Skepta vs. Warpaint
An honest tough call over here. Warpaint's latest effort, Heads Up, was a downtempo turn to old school R&B, a creatively interesting way to go after the massive success of their more mainstream Sirius-ready sophomore breakthrough. Plus, Shannyn Sossamon used to play drums for them, so that's got to worth something. It'll be a lean, breezy summer afternoon with these guys behind the sets.
Our choice: Skepta, if you can make it.
Sunday: 6:45 pm
Cage the Elephant vs. Phantogram vs. A Round of Mini Golf
It's Sunday evening. You've worked hard, listening to all that music. Sure, you could just crash at the Casa Bacardi or the Miller Lite Bar and pregame Tool or Wiz Khalifa in an expensive stupor. (really, we've got nothing on that. It's an odd pair. "Black and Yellow" vs…. Ænima?) Or maybe if you didn't catch enough of Phantogram when they played last year with Big Boi and did a weird perversion of "Ms. Jackson," there's that. Catch the Elephant's popularity outside of Grammy audiences confuses me. Do they still sound like the Black Keys if they were actually trying to sound like the White Stripes?
Orrrr… there's a four course, 36-hole miniature golf set up on the festival grounds on Randalls Island. I'm told that it was there last year, also. Featuring "water hazards, a cave, rock formations," the Gov Ball press reads, "a few surprises," this really sounds like a strange blast. Imagine telling this to the guys at the water cooler!
Our choice: "Putters, balls, and high fives are available for your mini golfing pleasure."
Flume vs. Chance the Rapper?
You know, when I caught Mr. Harley Edward Streten performing behind a haze of purple lights and recorded blips of women moaning, a few years ago, he span a ten minute thing of "Juicy."
Our Choice: Flu…nah, I'm kidding.
Andrew Karpan lost all his money and most of his memory at Burning Man once. It was worth it, though. Follow him on Twitter.