New York has long proven a precarious, star-crossed market for festival promoters due to restrictions over noise and congestion, competition with the city’s cultural calendar and the increased cost of labor and equipment.
But the three-day Governors Ball looks to have succeeded where other outfits, like All Points West, Vineland, Field Day, Across the Narrows and Bonnaroo N.E., fell short.
My brother, Bryan Armen Graham, and I were there to catch photos of Philly acts War on Drugs, Strand of Oaks and The Districts, and other bands who gave performances worth mentioning.
Early on Friday, Philly’s own The Districts kicked off this year’s festivities with an energetic set that showcased their Strokes and Walkmen influences.
When you’re a heavy blues-rock duo with the word “black” in your band name, you might feel a little discouragingly overshadowed seeing Dan Auerbach and Pat Carney at the top of your festival’s bill. Though not necessarily if you’re Black Pistol Fire, who followed up the Districts’ celebrated set with a blistering assault that could give even the Keys a run for their money.
Montreal electro-funk two-piece Chromeo had some fun with the Friday crowd in teasing the riff from Vampire Weekend's "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” … then bringing out Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig to play a short rendition of that song before segueing into “Bonafied Lovin”.
Toronto rock throttlers Death From Above 1979 fired up the stage with their driving drum-and-bass brand of punk, powering through set hiccups without batting an eye.
In truth, Death From Above’s background projection defaulting to a Mac screensaver halfway through the set might’ve been the most understatedly punk-rock moment of the weekend.
Portland’s The Decemberists brought their air-tight swashbuckling indie folk to a Friday evening audience that couldn’t help but match the dignifiedly idiosyncratic energy.
The singular voice of Florence Welch held a vast main-stage audience in her thrall throughout an hour-long set that drew on Florence + The Machine’s two releases.
Regularly throwing arms to the clouds in a kind of meditatively focused bliss, she broke her set and zen state to attend to an important duty only for a moment: after spotting a crowd surfer with a sign pleading “Hug Me!” How can a flower child do anything but abide?
While fireworks erupted from Drake’s camp across the field, Friday’s rock headliner My Morning Jacket was busy drenching their crowd in walls of color and sound.
Favoring tracks from their recently released The Waterfall, My Morning Jacket made time to play to longtime fan favorites as well, closing out with It Still Moves’ rousing “One Big Holiday.”
It might’ve been tough to catch a smile under the Quaker hat of brooding Bright Eyes expat Conor Oberst. But the same can’t be said for his crowd, determinedly hanging to his every melancholic murmur throughout the Saturday evening set.
Björk lived up to every bit of her long-held daring reputation.
Garbed as a kind of primordial, intergalactic butterfly, the eclectic Icelandic icon strutted before a full orchestra and striking pyrotechnics, which elevated her ambient sonic explorations to even greater heights.
Abstruse, post-modern video installations of birthing insects and splitting organs failed to shake the crowd from howling along to every chorus of her finale, Post’s anthemic “Hyperballad."
On a warm Sunday afternoon, Strand of Oaks – the project of Philadelphia’s indie-rock hyphenate Timothy Showalter – showcased his fusion of rock and synth-pop for the early-arriving audience.
Showalter’s typically grandiose, heavy rock deity charisma was complemented poignantly by some quieter moments of banter, when reflecting on how the band debuted most of their set’s songs just last year in New York, likely to a similar crowd.
Aussie psych-rock upstarts Tame Impala drew a massive crowd for their Sunday afternoon set on the festival’s main stage, including a standout performance of the druggy breakout hit "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards."
The hazy playing dovetailed perfectly into Philly veterans The War on Drugs, who made their first New York City appearance in a year on the secondary Big Apple Stage, with Adam Granduciel channeling Dylan on vocals amid soaring guitars and atmospheric horns.
Noel Gallagher's High-Flying Birds drew heavily from their new LP Chasing Yesterday, though the former Oasis frontman didn’t fail to deliver a few favorites from his former life, including “Champagne Supernova” and a rousing “Don’t Look Back In Anger” set closer.
Noel Gallagher's High-Flying Birds
Noel Gallagher's High-Flying Birds
Noel Gallagher's High-Flying Birds
The Black Keys were left to do the heavy lifting with a visceral retro-rock set on Sunday night as co-headliner Lana Dey Rey battled sound issues on the Honda Stage, prompting a steady exodus by the overflow crowd that had gathered.
Philly music fans packed into Wiggins Park and, later that night, the Susquehanna Bank Center, for XPoNential Festival‘s Saturday lineup. We caught performances by longtime XPN favorite Ingrid Michaelson, Bayou blues rockers C.J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band, and Ryan Adams, among others.
The festivities continued Sunday with performances by Nicole Atkins, J. Roddy Walston & the Business, and Man Man at Wiggins Park. Later, the Susquehanna Bank Center filled up for local band The Districts, and Beck, who could be XPoNential Festival‘s best closing act to date.
Eagles Linebacker Connor Barwin’s “Make the World Better” charity project is hosting a concert to raise money for much-needed improvements to Ralph Brooks Park in South Philadelphia. The park was constructed in honor of Ralph Brooks Jr., who, when he was 7 years old in 1988, had his spinal cord severed when he was struck by a bullet in a gang-related incident. While the park was named in his memory, the violence in the area has continued, leaving the park in dilapidating condition. The purpose of the effort is to give kids a safe place to play and have fun.
The concert will be on Friday June, 20th, and will feature local groups Kurt Vile and the Violators and the Districts, and Houston’s The Tontons. All money raised will be used to improve the park, which involves adding a new, state-of-the-art basketball court, safe and well-lit play areas, a large community garden and a mural by local artist Steve Powers.
VIP/Meet and Greet tickets are available, giving you the chance to hang with Barwin and his Eagles teammates LeSean McCoy, DeMeco Ryans, Jason Kelce, Brent Celek, Trent Cole and more. There will also be raffles for Eagles memorabilia, and some of Kurt Vile’s personal pedals and keyboards. Union Transfer has agreed to offer their venue for the concert free of charge and will be donating all bar proceeds from the night. Connor Brown has promised to match the funds raised from the show, doubling the total amount raised. It’s a night not to be missed. Get your tickets here.