Governors Ball 2014: 37 Must-See Bands

PMA's guide to Governors Ball 2014.
Governors Ball 2014

byADAM OFFITZER < @aoffitzer >

Last year’s Governors Ball was the Tough Mudder of music festivals – attending the event was a physically challenging, hygiene-destroying experience brought about by Tropical Storm Andrea. The hard rain and heavy winds defined the festival on Friday; the inescapable mud was the story on Saturday; then the glorious sun came around on Sunday (along with the glorious Yeezus) to make it all about the music.

Despite the horrendous weather, there remained a positive energy of togetherness and goodwill running through the proceedings – the festival organizers did everything they could to spread good vibes on social media and jumbotrons, and the artists (fully shielded on stage) played through the sloppy conditions with smiles.

This year, if holds true, we don’t have to worry about another Tropical Storm. Instead, the true struggle of Governors Ball 2014 will be picking between the endless scheduling conflicts all three days. Let’s try to build the perfect itinerary.


Friday, June 6

12:15 – 12:45 – HAERTS @ GovBall NYC Stage OR Little Comets @ Honda Stage

We’re big fans of HAERTS at PMA (especially the soaring sound of “Wings”), and their live show has an excellent reputation. If you want sweeping synths and powerful vocals, they’re a perfect start to the festival. If you’d prefer some tropical, British pop-rock with hand-claps and hints of The Kooks, check out Little Comets.

12:45 – 1:30 – Little Daylight @ Gotham Tent

Little Daylight makes readymade festival music. Dance beats, electronic energy and a powerful, airy voice at the top to carry it home. Carefree fun to start the day.

1:30 – 2:15 – Run The Jewels @ Honda Stage OR Jason Isbell @ GovBall NYC Stage

2:15 – 3:00 – Ratking @ Gotham Tent OR Kurt Vile and the Violators @ Big Apple Stage

What do you want from your Governors Ball experience? To lie down, drift away, and let two calm, relaxing rockers carry you through the afternoon? Or to stand up, go crazy and get screamed at by two in-your-face rap collectives? The choice is yours. If you’re into both types of music, and want to go half and half, get your dose of rap from Run The Jewels, and your guitar fix from Kurt Vile.

3:00 – 3:45  - Janelle Monae @ GovBall NYC Stage

3:45 – 4:45 – Bastille @ Big Apple Stage

In a festival full of indie rock favorites and up-and-coming rappers, there’s not too much room for mainstream pop stars. But for two hours on Friday, you can hear some hits. Monae is a joyous, electric performer who always aims to provide a spectacle.  Bastille may be a bit corny, and it’s easy to group them with other flash-in-the-pan pop-rock groups (Imagine Dragons and The Neighborhood), but their debut album has some genuinely strong melodies and ambitious tracks, and “Pompeii” is an excellent single. Their poised, confident SNL performance should translate well to the big festival stage.

4:45 – 5:45 – Julian Casablancas + The Voidz @ GovBall NYC Stage

5:45 – 6:45 – Neko Case @ Big Apple Stage

In a strange bit of festival awkwardness, Friday marks the first of two performances from Casablancas at this year’s Ball – one with his new band, and one with The Strokes. It’ll be interesting to see what Casablancas has in store for this hour-long set, since he has yet to release any studio recordings. But be warned - apparently his performances at Coachella/SXSW were...unfortunate. The safer bet is probably Jenny Lewis at the Honda Stage. Speaking of safe bets, Neko Case is up next, with a very consistent solo career under her belt and a great reputation as a live performer. She’ll be perfect to carry Friday into the evening. But if you want, you can leave her set ten minutes early to catch the end of La Roux at the Gotham Tent (assuming she closes with “Bulletproof,” which…she has to, right?).

6:50 – 8:15 – Phoenix

8:00 – 9:15 – TV On The Radio

An unfortunate overlap between these two exceptional live acts. You should catch the entirety of Phoenix, just so you don’t miss “1901” and “Lisztomania,” before heading over for an hour of TV On The Radio. They premiered three new songs at BottleRocklast weekend, and it’s been a while since their last album in 2011. Should be a cool homecoming for the Brooklyn rockers, who play every song a million times louder live. If that’s not your thing, head over to watch PMA favorite Grimes make wonderfully weird sounds at the Gotham tent.

9:15 – 11:00 – Outkast

You have to. The strange reviews from the initial Coachella set were a little scary, but the buzz has been getting better and better lately. Regardless, you just have to see Outkast so you can tell your friends you did. After all, if you went to a music festival in 2014, and you didn’t see Outkast, did you really go?


Saturday, June 7

1:30 – 2:15 – Papa @GovBall NYC Stage

2:15 – 3:00 – Tanlines @ Big Apple Stage

An hour and a half of standard, catchy indie rock to start your day. If you want something with a little more edge, Deafheaven is also on at 2:15 – but that’s a lot of heaviness for your ears to handle so early in the afternoon. Tanlines, on the other hand, is a duo with some smooth electro-pop-rock for your listening pleasure.

3:00 – Lucius @ GovBall NYC Stage

Lucius had the Best Album of 2013 That Nobody Talked About: Wildewoman, eleven tracks worth of glorious harmonies, pop-rock melodies and unexpected left turns. By all accounts, their live show is an exceptional display of tight, stunning vocals in the vein of Dirty Projectors. Prepare to be blown away.

3:45 – 4:45 – Chance The Rapper @ Gotham Tent

Back in 2011, I saw Childish Gambino take the stage for a Friday night Bonnaroo set, still months away from the release of his debut full-length album. All he had at the time were a few mixtapes and EPs. But the crowd knew every song. The performance was explosive. It was a real moment – something big was happening. At festivals across the country, Chance The Rapper is having that moment right now. At Sasquatch, he held a massive afternoon audience in the palm of his hand. The same will happen this weekend.

4:45 – 5:45 – Disclosure @ Honda Stage OR Broken Bells @ GovBall NYC Stage

Festival conflicts are the worst. Of course Disclosure will put together a fun, thrilling dance party…but Broken Bells has James Mercer, lead singer of The Shins! Singing! If Disclosure brought along Sam Smith, this would be a no-brainer. But it’s just gonna be Smith’s voice coming out of a laptop. But WHAT IF he came out as a surprise, like he did in Central Park last year? Nope, just looked it up, he’ll be in Nottingham. Okay. Going to see Broken Bells. But if you really want to dance, head to the Honda Stage.

6:45 – 8:15 – The Strokes @ GovBall NYC Stage


7:00 – 8:15 – Childish Gambino @ Honda Stage

This might be the worst conflict of the festival. The Strokes seem like the obvious choice – it’s a rare chance to see them play the main stage at an NYC festival, after three years of not touring, with a collection of old classics and new tracks. But it’s always tough to watch them without thinking about how much they dislike each other, and it never looks like Julian Casablancas is having fun on stage (although reports from their warmup show last week suggest otherwise). Gambino, on the other hand, is always having a BLAST, brings along a full live band, and has a relentless stage presence. Plus, it’s kind of a homecoming show for him, too – Donald Glover went to school at NYU. For fans of both artists, this is an impossible call. Maybe go to both?

8:15 – 9:30 – Spoon @ Big Apple Stage OR Sleigh Bells @ Gotham Tent

Damn. Saturday really is conflict day. Sleigh Bells have an earsplitting, mind-bending live show, a full-frontal aural and visual experience. If you haven’t seen them before, head to the Big Apple Stage. But if you’ve already seen those enormous speaker stacks and just want a good old-fashioned indie rock show, Spoon will provide.

9:30 – 11 – Jack White @ GovBall NYC Stage

Speaking of good old-fashioned rock shows, Jack White is closing Saturday night with an hour and a half of shredding and shrieking. Skrillex is on at the same time, if that’s what you really want.


Sunday, June 8

12:50 – 1:30 – Cayucas

There’s nothing better than perfect summer music at a summer festival. With the sun beating down, the tropical rock of Cayucas will make New York feel a bit like California for 40 minutes…the only time all weekend that Randall’s Island will truly feel like an island.

1:30 – 2:15 – BLEACHERS @ GovBall NYC OR SKATERS @ Honda Stage

Very cute, Governors Ball. Putting two bands with names in ALL CAPS that both end with “ERS” head to head. Good one. But this is a legitimately tough conflict. SKATERS are an awesome New York band with shades of The Strokes. But if you want an energetic live show with guaranteed passion, check out BLEACHERS, the new band from Jack Antonoff (guitarist for fun. and former lead singer of Steel Train). He’s an exceptional performer, and the first two BLEACHERS songs released have been pop-rock perfection.

3:00 – 3:45 – Earl Sweatshirt

3:45 – 4:45 – Tyler The Creator

Two hours of Odd Future. Even if you don’t like the music, or the attitude, it’s going to be fun to watch the boundless enthusiasm of Earl and Tyler, leaping around on stage and wearing some ridiculous hipster outfits. If you’ve never had the Odd Future live experience before, this marks a great opportunity – but stay away from the mosh pits, and get ready to chant GOLF WANG. A lot.

4:45 – 5:45 – Head And The Heart @ GovBall NYC Stage OR J Cole @ Honda Stage

J Cole is great, and certainly puts on a solid, engaging live show. But The Head And The Heart are more than engaging – they’re magnetic. Let their gorgeous harmonies, peaceful melodies and positive messages cheer you up as the festival winds down.

6:45 – 8:00 – Foster The People @ GovBall NYC Stage OR James Blake @ Honda Stage

Seeing James Blake’s unique brand of neo-soul on a warm summer evening will be pretty calm and relaxing; a wonderful palate cleanser from a long day. But if you want to get pumped up for the rest of the night (no pun intended) (okay maybe it was intended), Foster The People have a full new album’s worth of upbeat, funky off-kilter rock that will make for a fun show.

8:00 – 9:15 – Interpol

It’s going to be so cool to see Interpol play “NYC” as the sun goes down on Randall’s Island. They haven’t released new music since 2010’s self-titled album, so Sunday night’s performance should hopefully feature a collection of classics from their 2004 masterpiece, Turn On The Bright Lights.

9:15 – 10:45 – Vampire Weekend

This is what it’s all about. Six years ago, Vampire Weekend was an up-and-coming New York band labeled by doubters as gimmicky and pretentious. Three years ago, Governors Ball was merely another attempt at a New York music festival, with only twelve acts, held on just one day, and featuring two DJs as headliners (Girl Talk and Pretty Lights). Now, Vampire Weekend is indie rock royalty, closing a festival that has become a worthy East-coast competitor to Coachella and Lollapalooza. The perfect cap to what should be an excellent weekend of music.