Sitting pretty in the main stage at the close-out spot, Vampire Weekend played through their discography in an incredibly even & thorough manner, while Axwell ^ Ingrosso (2/3 of EDM kings Swedish House Mafia) were detonating a metric ton of fireworks and dropping as much bass as their time and sound-system allowed, with barely more than a recorded single to their names. This is the state of music in 2014.
Last year, Kanye West was performing the then-still-unreleased Yeezus in Vampire Weekend’s spot while The Avett Brothers played their brand of twang-rock to their most strident supporters on the other side of the Randall’s Island-based festival. This seems to be Gov Ball’s business model: take big names with completely opposing sounds, and put them as far as you can on the same field.
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By my eyes, it was a smash success. As much as you could overhead the crowd for Vampire Weekend bemoan their lack of sparklers, they left grinning from a set that did a good job of spanning their catalogue. From the opening jump of “Diane Young,” to mid-set revivers “Horchata” and “Cousins,” you couldn’t go three songs without one of the bands singles, except for an encore of deep cuts “Hannah Hunt,” “One (Blake’s Got a New Face),” and “Walcott.” The encore being all non-singles gave any fans who weren’t true-believers an excuse to walk down field to the Axwell ^ Ingrosso set, which was just one of three of the day’s EDM sets.
While Skrillex performed on Saturday, and 2/3 of Swedish House Mafia headlining on Sunday night, the fact that Gov. Ball’s stages also featured the light-up-Venom-masked The Bloody Beetroots and the somehow-even-trippier Empire of the Sun sent a message that EDM is just as dominant and mainstream a genre of music as parents are worried it is. Luke Steele of EotS said it was “as if he was visiting from another planet.” Even though he and his crew of oddball dancers were as if they were The Fifth Element rejects, it’s hard to argue that EDM isn’t carving its own niche in the mainstream.
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Gov Ball, which rarely ever has two sets in a row at the same stage, and no shows playing at the nearest stage, placed Earl Sweatshirt & Tyler, The Creator of Odd Future on opposing stages, ostensibly so that they could make one long conjoined set, mixing OF mixtape joints like “Seven,” “Earl,” and “Bastard,” amongst album release favorites like “Chum,” “Yonkers,” “Burgundy,” and “Bimmer.” If only Childish Gambino and Chance, The Rapper were more obvious a pairing, maybe Gov Ball would have set them up similarly.
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A standout set for anybody who chose newness over uniquity James Blake played an intensely hypnotic set on the Honda Stage while the main stage was filled with music festival frequenters Foster the People. Blake’s set, one of my favorites of the weekend, started with the serene “I Never Learnt to Share,” and the hit single “Retrograde,” but Blake, whose lighting rig gave him a constant halo-effect, also proved flexible. Playing to a crowd at the tail end of a downright exhausting weekend of music, custom live-show arrangements breathed life into tracks some had memorized, and optimized hits for the outdoors acoustics.
Henry T. Casey is a freelance writer who tweets @henrytcasey and wonders if that’s his last music festival. … Youths …
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