Day One Governors Ball, Friday, June 1st, 2018, Reviewed
The headliners yesterday were Jack White on one stage and James Blake on the other, and I missed them both though the truth is the day wasn’t about white boys, electronic or rock or anything else, but about hip hop. Artist for artist, and set for set, that’s what I loved most and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Some of that was because I ran into my young friend Sydney, there with a fistful of millennials, who insisted upon me catching some acts I would have missed. Top of the list was 6lack -a rapper who can sing extremely well. I caught 6lack opening for The Weeknd nearly exactly a year ago and he didn’t leave much of an impression: a year later, the Atlanta, Georgia rapper and singer sounds nothing like trap and not much like new r&b either, more like the Weeknd without the world beating hooks. Sydney, at five foot eleven, towered above me though not her boyfriend, singing along to the best of his songs, “PRBLMS” and “Ex Calling”:
“I can see my ex calling
Oh no now my next calling
I don’t know why I stress all them
I just want the best, darlin'”
I arrived around two in the afternoon and it certainly felt as though Governors Ball, now firmly produced by extremely professional Founders Entertainment, is an exercise in discipline though they still risk and sometimes fall into disaster by having it so early in June. In the week building to this year’s festival the weather warned of three days of rain and thunderstorms but despite yesterday being as humid as possible, there was barely a cloud in the sky and not that much shade anywhere.
I missed A$AP Twelvyy but arrived in time for Wolf Alice. The UK’s alternative rock songs were excellent on their debut album and huge breakthrough My Love Is Cool though their concert at Le Poisson Rouge was blah. Last year’s Vision Of A Life was a dog that didn’t do well, and without a song half as good as “Bros,” though in a flip they were loud and gregarious and busy and fun on stage, Ellie Rowsell has come into her own as a lead singer and focal point. Belly, no not the girl group, the r&b guy was next, essentially reinforcing Mumble Rap, and he was a towering presence. Belly is signed to XO (The Weeknd’s label) and the Palestinian native is a first rate rapper and a good enough singer, though what impressed most was how he suddenly has figured out how to control his space. Alvvays are a Canadian alt rock dreamscape band that always seemed a little on the twee side, they did on stage as well, but even from a distance their hooks never stopped hooking. Goldlink is a Sydney fave though he seemed very quiet yesterday, perhaps because he is as much about the vibes and soft electronica as being about the beats.
The next artist was a man I personally thought blew Kendrick Lamar off sure when I saw him last year, DRAM has a quirky, fun, personality that doesn’t hide his crazy skills as a singer and as a hook merchant. While he hasn’t managed to beat his set closer “Broccoli,” he uses it for a one two exit, first Chance The Rapper’s gorgeous “D.R.A.M. Sings Special” and then his biggest hit where he plays a game I first saw Aaliyah do back back when she was at Radio City, he pretends to leave without performing his biggest hit. So what was surprise guest Shawn Mendes doing there? Apparently, he came to Governors Ball as a youngster (how young? It’s only been around eight years), I saw him on Taylor Swift’s 1989 tour in 2015 and was impressed with his skills and self confidence with just an acoustic guitar in front of 80K fans. Live, he has changed with a sexually charged aura and an electric and acoustic guitar killing em dead with “In My Blood”. “Aww he’s getting better looking with age huh?” My partner in all things pop Maggi Kinney claimed. I was impressed enough to buy a ticket for Shawn’s Barclay Center gig this August. Following 6lack was a mesmerizing Post Malone who had the audience dazzled by his rough, husk of a voice, and funny, druggy persona. “Who’s fucked up? Who’s on drugs,” he asked before his best song ever, “Better Now”. Post is a huge star right now and his terrific beers and bongs went platinum and for good reason, he has handfuls of bangerz and he bangs them hard.
Song for song, yesterday didn’t have a show as genius as Kanye West in 2013 or Fiona Apple in 2012: sets that worked as complete game changers. But there was an astonishing lack of clinkers, the vibe was a great deal of fun, a cool, sweet, you’re doing great, vibe and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Wolf Alice – B+
Belly – B+
Alvvays – B
Goldlink – B-
Dram – A-
Shawn Mendes – B+
6lack – A-
Post Malone – B+