Festival Season is officially underway, and one of the next ones up is NYC's Governors Ball, which goes down this Friday (6/1) through Sunday (6/2) on Randall's Island. There are a lot of cool acts playing and some tough conflicts, and if you're still figuring out what to do, perhaps our list of 12 acts we're excited to see will help.
If you're wondering about transportation to the fest, one of the easiest ways is just to walk across the RFK Bridge or the footbridge at E 103rd St. You can also take the X80 express bus at 125th St and Lex, the Brooklyn shuttle that leaves from N 12th St and Wythe in Williamsburg, or the Manhattan Ferry from the East 35th St Ferry Landing. If you're driving, there's no parking allowed on the island.
Once you're there, you'll probably want to check out the festival map to navigate the festival's four stages, food vendors, bathrooms, and free water refill stations (you're allowed in with either a factory-sealed, non-glass water bottle or an empty water bottle). You also might wanna download the mobile app. Leave your vape pens, totems, acoustic guitars, selfie sticks, dones, and large umbrellas at home (the fest is rain or shine).
YEAH YEAH YEAHS
After going on a bit of a hiatus, NYC indie rock heroes Yeah Yeah Yeahs finally returned last year and played Kings Theatre, their first hometown show in four years. They played all but one song of their classic debut Fever To Tell, and it was just as spectacular as YYYs were back in the day. It's great to have them back, and since this is just their second hometown show since returning and they haven't gone on a proper tour yet, it's still a very special chance to see them. It's doubly exciting because...
...they're playing back to back with fellow early 2000s indie rock star Jack White. (Fun fact: YYYs first-ever gig was opening for White Stripes at NYC's Mercury Lounge in 2000.) Jack's new solo album has gotten mixed reviews, but that's no reason to second guess catching his live show. He still plays tons of White Stripes, as well as some Raconteurs and Dead Weather, and his live show is still loose, rockin', and unpredictable. We just caught him at Boston Calling this past weekend, and he truly ripped. It's a tough conflict that Jack plays against James Blake, but as far as a high-energy festival set goes, Jack is your best bet.
Even more so than Jack White, Eminem's latest material isn't so hot, but live he's still got it. We also just caught him at Boston Calling, and when he played his many classics, it felt just like the old days. He still delivers every rhyme with fury and precision -- even the newer songs sounded good live just because Em performs so well these days.
THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM
NJ heartland punks The Gaslight Anthem are finally back from hiatus and have upcoming shows in just a handful of places, including Governors Ball and a GovBall After Dark show. Making their return even more exciting, they're playing their best and most loved album, 2008's The '59 Sound, in full for its 10th anniversary. The album holds up super well, and its impact can be felt on tons of bands who have had breakthroughs since (including The Menzingers and Japandroids, who both play GovBall the same day as The Gaslight Anthem). If you haven't heard the album in a while, it's worth revisiting before these shows -- it's all hits and it's gonna be a thrill to hear them all played live again.
Indie synthpop duo sylvan Esso only just released their latest album What Now in 2017, and they already returned this year with a new single, "PARAD(w/m)E." It's more proof that this duo's creative juices are still flowing, and as they reminded us at SXSW, their live show is still as fun and high-energy as ever. There's no way you can see them without dancing and smiling the whole time.
After a few years of singles and EPs, Moses Sumney released his great debut album Aromanticism on Jagjaguwar last year (and just followed it with a remix EP for its track "Make Out In My Car" featuring reworks of that song by Sufjan Stevens and James Blake). He's still a fairly new artist but it's already clear that he's a force of his own. His soulful, eccentric voice is powerful and doesn't really sound like anyone else, and that comes across even more so in a live environment than on album. Even if you aren't familiar with his songs yet, Moses' live show will surely impress.
Like Moses Sumney, Kelela has been putting out material (EPs and mixtapes) for a few years, but it wasn't until 2017 that she released her debut album, the great Take Me Apart on Warp. Kelela is an R&B singer, but her music is just as much rooted in underground/experimental electronic music, and the way she blends those sounds is very compelling. She's got pipes that have the ability to soar across the festival grounds, while her beats should have everyone dancing.
Margo Price knocked it out of the park with her 2016 debut album Midwest Farmer's Daughter, which pulled from country, Southern rock, soul, folk, and more. It was an album that was rooted in '60s/'70s country music and challenged a lot of the trends of today's pop country, and she challenged those trends even further on its follow-up, All American Made, which was more political than its predecessor and angered some people in the process. "I would say that if we want to keep celebrities and politicians separate, then we shouldn’t elect a reality TV star as the president," she said to her haters. It should be awesome to hear her bring these songs to life at Governors Ball, and though fellow GovBall performer Jack White won't be able to join her on stage like he recently did in Nashville because he plays Bunbury that day, maybe she'll have other exciting surprises in store. She also plays a GovBall After Dark show.
Though Rocky and Ferg remain the most famous A$AP Mob members, A$AP Twelvyy has been making a name for himself as the group's third string. His 2017 debut album 12 featured a Who's Who of modern-day New York rap (Rocky, Ferg, Flatbush Zombies, Joey Bada$$, etc), and Twelvyy was never out-rapped by any of his guests. He's a ferocious MC, and it's worth getting there early to see him now (he plays at 12:45 PM) so you can say you did once he rises in fame.
Chicago rapper Vic Mensa put out tons of music in the form of mixtapes and singles before finally releasing his debut album The Autobiography last year, and now that the album's had some time to settle in, it's clear that The Autobiography has just as many highlights as his earlier material. (He still may not have topped his Kanye collab "U Mad"... but some Autobiography cuts come close.) You may have seen him opening Jay-Z's 4:44 tour last year, and he had no trouble winning over the arena crowd when he did so at Brooklyn's Barclays Center. He'll likely go over just as well (or even better) at GovBall and his smaller GovBall After Dark show.
DC rapper GoldLink made some noise in the underground before signing to a major and releasing At What Cost last year. Even with the major label backing, he kept his indie-rap style intact (guests include other "indie/alt" leaning acts like Kaytranada, Jazmine Sullivan, Wale, and The Internet's Steve Lacy), and At What Cost also proved that GoldLink is an increasingly skilled MC. He rattles off mouthfuls of syllables and makes it sound easy, and the record's got hooks for days too.
Manchester Orchestra rocked at Boston Calling this past weekend, and they surely will at GovBall too, but they're on at the exact same time as Pusha T playing his first show since releasing the great DAYTONA, so we may have to lean in Push's favor. (He was a last minute replacement for Brockhampton.) The new album has Pusha rapping his ass off over Kanye-produced beats, which is one of the best ways to hear him, plus we can likely count on hearing him do some of his other fan-fave 'Ye collabs (like maybe "Mercy" or "Runaway") and maybe a little Clipse too.
All set times here. Who are you most excited to see?