NYC festival Governors Ball returns to Randall's Island the weekend after Memorial Day (June 3-5), with three full days of music. We're torn about which headliner to see on Friday (The Strokes, whose new songs are not half bad, or Robyn?), but Saturday is a little easier (M83 are up against The Killers). It's hard to justify missing Kanye West on Sunday, though it sadly means it won't be possible to see Death Cab for Cutie.

Throughout the three days, the conflicts actually aren't so bad, besides De La Soul vs Against Me! on Saturday. We made a list of 20 artists we'd especially like to see at GovBall (including both De La and Against Me!), and you can check out our list below in alphabetical order.

  • photo via Instagram
    photo via Instagram

    Action Bronson

    With a sound that's part golden era MC, part millennial goofball, Action Bronson is sort of the perfect rapper for a generation that's obsessed with the '90s and obsessed with their own randomness. (He has a cooking show! He goes on acid-fueled motorcycle rides in his music videos! And he kinda sounds like Ghostface Killah!) He's been churning out quality mixtapes/albums for the past five years or so, last year's Mr. Wonderful being the latest, and his live shows are always fun (and usually include an unusually large bag of weed). [Andrew Sacher]

  • photo by Amanda Hatfield
    photo by Amanda Hatfield

    Against Me!

    Against Me! quickly became a favorite in the punk (and folk punk) world with their still-great early 2000s records like Reinventing Axl Rose and As the Eternal Cowboy. More recently though, singer Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender and the band subsequently released Transgender Dysphoria Blues, which was easily their best since the early days if not just their best album yet. It has them sounding reinvigorated as a driving punk band, belting out huge anthemic choruses, and writing the most powerful and honest lyrics of their career. Their live shows have been great too (they’ve had a new lineup since the release of that album), and there’s no doubt in our minds that the GovBall set will rip. [AS]

  • Bat For Lashes at Coachella
    Bat For Lashes at Coachella

    Bat For Lashes

    Having maintained a spooky aura since she started Bat For Lashes over ten years ago, Natasha Khan is a magnetic performer who is always worth catching live. Hopefully she'll be previewing a few songs from new album The Bride which is out in July. [Bill Pearis]

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    Beck may be best known for "Loser" and his groundbreaking 1996 Odelay album (not to mention beating Beyonce at a recent Grammys), but he's been cranking out varied, excellent albums ever since. Even when his latest record is on the mellow side, he still brings the gold to festival performances. [BP]

  • photo by PSquared
    photo by PSquared

    Big Grams

    Big Grams is the collaborative project between Big Boi and Phantogram, who first worked together on a few songs on Big Boi's 2012 album Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors. They'll play highlights off that album (including the great "Lines") and they also do live mashups of a couple OutKast and Phantogram songs, which is worth seeing them for alone. [AS]

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    One of a few rock bands on the Governors Ball lineup that actually rocks, Bully deservedly picked up some buzz last year for their debut album Feels Like, which is a major throwback to '90s alt-rock/punk. There's no lack of bands doing that right now, but Bully are one of the few with the kinds of choruses that got their influences on the radio. [AS]

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    Christine and the Queens

    Christine and the Queens blur the lines between gender, genre and language barriers with their sound that isn't quite like any other band on the festival. Christine takes influence from Beyonce and Rihanna, but also samples Arctic Monkeys. She has one song that's a cover/mashup of French singer Christophe’s 1973 song of "Paradis Perdus" and Kanye West’s “Heartless.” And she and her on-stage dancers are constantly challenging what it means to be masculine or feminine while performing. If you see this set, you won't forget it. [AS]

  • Courtney Barnett at Coachella
    Courtney Barnett at Coachella

    Courtney Barnett

    One of the biggest success stories of this decade (recent SNL appearance included), Courtney Barnett's rise still seems amazing. Granted, she's a charmer whose relatable lyrical skills are matched by serious guitar chops. We have heard people say they don't like her, but we don't believe them. [BP]

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    De La Soul

    Long Island hip hop legends De La Soul have a suitcase full of festival-ready classics -- "Eye Know," "The Magic Number," "A Rollerskating Jam Named Saturdays," "Ego Trippin'" to name four -- that beam out positive vibes. They've also got a new album that features appearances by Damon Albarn, Snoop Dogg, David Byrne, and more. Might we get some special guests during their set? [BP]

  • photo by Amanda Hatfield
    photo by Amanda Hatfield

    Father John Misty

    Josh Tillman's Father John Misty persona is a grand showman in the grand '70s tradition of Elvis, Glen Campbell and other rhinestone cowboys. He's not afraid of embracing cheese and melodrama, and he's always swinging for the fences. It's an over-the-top act, but it's an entertaining one, and he's got the songs to back it up. [BP]

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    Joey Bada$$

    Joey Bada$$ wasn't born until the year after Illmatic and Ready to Die came out, but he's clearly spent a lot of time studying those and a handful of other '90s classics to shape his delightfully retro sound. (He's even since worked with Illmatic producer DJ Premier.) He doesn't reinvent the wheel but he does it well, and he definitely knows how to work a festival crowd. [AS]

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    Kanye West

    The last time Kanye West played Governors Ball, he debuted about half of the then-unreleased Yeezus. It was wild, genuinely unpredictable, and had a stage setup that was remarkably different from the eventual Yeezus tour. Will he do something like that again? He already released the confusing-but-fascinating new album The Life of Pablo this year, but he also suggested that's merely one of three albums he plans to release in 2016, so it's not out of the question. And I mean, this is Kanye West we're talking about. Really nothing is out of the question. [AS]

  • photo by Tim Griffin
    photo by Tim Griffin


    M83 had a genuine mainstream breakthrough with 2011's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, and this year they followed it with the confusing Junk, which seems intentionally built to alienate fans. No matter your thoughts on the new stuff though, M83 have a lengthy, mostly-great career with plenty of fan favorites to whip out at Governors Ball. Not to mention their huge stage show is perfect for a festival. [AS]

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    There's no lack of musicians pushing the boundaries of R&B right now, but Miguel is pushing them further than most. Rock, soul, funk, pop, psychedelia and more are all fair game to pop up on a Miguel album, and he handles it all like a pro. Not to mention he's got genuinely impressive range as a singer, which even some of his most popular competitors like The Weeknd and Drake can't say. [AS]

  • Nothing at Shaky Knees (photo by Benjamin Adams)
    Nothing at Shaky Knees (photo by Benjamin Adams)


    Governors Ball's lineup is pretty diverse, but if you're looking for heavy music, there's really not much in the way of that. Except Nothing of course. The shoegaze band have a hardcore upbringing and that comes across in their live shows, which feel closer to punk/metal shows than to most bands in their genre. If you need a loud change of pace during your GovBall experience, you can't miss Nothing. [AS]

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    For a unique dose of funk and the best bass playing you'll see at the fest, head to Thundercat's set. He's played with Flying Lotus, Kamasi Washington, Kendrick Lamar and more (not to mention Suicidal Tendencies), basically becoming the go-to bass player for anyone looking to blend hip hop and jazz in the 21st century, but he's also got plenty of great solo material. His latest release is last year's very good The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam mini-LP. [AS]

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    Torres can do the quiet singer/songwriter thing, but she can also make speaker-blowing rock with riffs that would make Rid of Me-era PJ Harvey proud. Her live shows are always great, and her set will be one of the only real-deal indie rock sets you can see at the festival. [AS]

  • photo by Mimi Hong
    photo by Mimi Hong

    Vic Mensa

    Of all the rappers on this festival, Vic Mensa is the one who feels most likely to be a lot bigger this time next year. He’s already got collaborations with Kanye West, Skrillex, Chance the Rapper, Flume and Kaytranada, and doesn’t even have his debut album out yet. We’re hoping it drops sooner than later, and all the signs seem to suggest it’s gonna be absolutely killer. [AS]

  • Vince Staples at Coachella
    Vince Staples at Coachella

    Vince Staples

    Long Beach rapper Vince Staples landed on almost every AOTY list we saw last year (including our own) for his jaw-droppingly good debut album Summertime ’06. It’s a double album, and it’s got the kind of delivery and storytelling that have historically signified a truly great MC but Vince never sounds like the ’90s. His live shows are always killer too. [AS]

  • Whitney at BV-SXSW (photo by Amanda Hatfield)
    Whitney at BV-SXSW (photo by Amanda Hatfield)


    When Smith Westerns split, Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich formed Whitney, leaving their old band's glam sound behind in favor of laid-back, melodic country rock. Light Upon the Lake is one of the year's best (and buzziest) debuts, warm and inviting, with Ehrlic's falsetto snuggling in with the horns. Erhlich also plays drums, which which brings a different dynamic to their appealing live show. [BP]

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