Not even a full day after Coachella released their lineup, New York’s Governor’s Ball dropped their poster too even though the festival is two months after the California one. The festival is three days, but they are billing four names as headliners making us wonder if they are doing it to hide the fact that artists two through four might be a bit weak on their own but as a whole look great. What is clear is what a huge booking Tool is. The fact that they haven’t played Eastern US in about ten years is one thing, but they just have been AWOL as a whole. Does this mean their long awaited follow up to 2006’s 10,000 Days is ready? Probably not, but with Tool it is impossible to tell. Gov Ball will probably sell out of day passes because the Tool fans will turn out for sure.
Finally making the jump to headliner status is Chance the Rapper, not totally unsurprising given what a crazy year he just had. After releasing his third mixtape Coloring Book, he has dominated the news and his crowds have grown tenfold in only a few short years.
Phoenix has kept a low profile since they finished touring behind 2013’s disappointing Banrupt! album. They have new material coming out this year and hope to prove that they don’t just have great booking agents but actually deserve to be in the top spot. They previously headlined a weak Coachella back 2013 and never made the jump anywhere else. Expect them to headline other small to medium fests this year.
Lastly is Chance’s BFF Childish Gambino in the number four slot. At the end of December, Donald Glover surprise released Awaken, My Love! that actually features no rapping from the rapper, as he switches up his style to RnB and it works extremely well. Bino brings a massive crowd wherever he plays, so it only makes sense that he is given headliner status even if some people are left scratching their heads.
With the arrival of Coachella East last year aka Panorama Festival, these next few years are critical for Gov Ball to ensure they have a definitive voice to remain competitive. It seems like they are positioning themselves as a premiere hip-hop fest and that goes well beyond having Chance and Bino as headliners. Some iteration of Wu-Tang Clan will play. Which members from the large rap group will show up remains to be seen but the New York legends have so much material to work with if one or two key members is a no-show that it’s all good. On the more pop side of things you have Wiz Khalifa, Logic and Rae Sremmurd, all of whom will bring the party. TDE and A$AP Mob both feature massive leaders, but have two secondary weapons that are big on their own in ScHoolboy Q and A$AP Ferg. With Q’s Blank Face LP he seems to be getting ready to rival label mate Kendrick Lamar soon. Thoughtful gangster rapper YG will get the crowd shouting “Fuck Donald Trump” as New Yorkers really don’t like the President Elect (I barfed on my laptop writing that title) and Danny Brown will get the crowd turnt up as we explore the dark parts of his insane brain with him.
Not to be outdone against Coachella, Gov Ball has a few tricks up their sleeves too. The most interesting is having a Mark Ronson vs Kevin Parker set, which seems to mean that they will DJ back and forth and have a bit of a throw down. The two have their tentacles in so much current music these days you will easily see their fingerprints over what they play. Quite a ways down the poster you see a name that really sticks out in Franz Ferdinand. When did they become such also-rans? Sure they haven’t had as much commercial success in recent years but they are still making quality music and a similar band from their era like Bloc Party gets placed pretty damn high when they play fests. Indie darlings Car Seat Headrest look like they will be popping up on most festivals this year so their inclusion here is more so to highlight their guaranteed breakthrough. People have been clamoring for Grime to make its proper invasion in the states and Gov Ball gets the two biggest names, Mecrury Prize winner (and Drake best friend) Skepta and the huge in his homeland Stromzy. Hopefully this means they will be everywhere this year. Lastly way down near the bottom of the lineup is Beats 1 radio host Zane Lowe. Sure he isn’t a big name in music making, but in taste making he is the king.
Having Tool as your headliner means that hard rock will be present in some form or another, and even though hip hop seems to dominate the bill, you have acts like Cage the Elephant, who’s set always end in lead singer Matt Shultz literally standing on the crowd to sing. Brooklyn kings Parquet Courts will get things sweaty, Brits Royal Blood make so much noise for a two person band you might go deaf and The Orwells looks to make a lasting impression as they gear up to become a household name.
Canadian music never seems to be on display at Gov Ball, despite the fest being so close to us, but there are a few names. Majid Jordan, known for Drake’s Hold On We’re Going Home will probably surprise concertgoers that they aren’t even American. Likewise Mac Demarco is basically a Williamsburg hipster so he is a honourary New Yorker at this point. Far down on the bill is The Strumbellas who will probably not have a lot of early day conflicts and will showcase a really strong set that will be sure to get people talking.
Is this the best festival? Not by a long shot, but if you are a big hip-hop fan that likes to dabble in other genres it will hit the sweet spot. After a disastrous flirtation with EDM a few years ago the only straight up club DJ’s will be Flume and Marshmello, more of a token bone being thrown towards those that want to dance than anything. It’s a deep bill that might lack some star power but you can bet there will be lots of hard choices to make when the schedule comes out.