by Tristan Rayner in New Music on Thursday 12 June 2014

Lost At E Minor headed to one of the headline popular festivals of New York City’s summer: Governors Ball, on Randall’s Island, just off Manhattan. With headliners including Outkast, Jack White, Skrillex, The Stokes, Vampire Weekend, and a long, long line-up of acts across the three full days of performances, it’s a huge event on a beautiful island, with an outlook across to the uptown Manhattan skyline.

The Governors Ball of 2014 had a few distinct streaks through it: rock, electronic dance music, rap, New York’s own, and more.

Outkast headlined the rappers, with the odd-couple of Andre 3000 and Big Boi under scrutiny after their slightly disappointing Coachella set. Resurrected for a big festival schedule, there’s no doubt a little ring-rust could have set in for the duo.

But as they ironed out the bugs, their show just got better, and classics like Ms Jackson, Hey Ya, and Roses brought the house down. Backed by a live band, the two rappers worked through their set with funk and R&B, ripping through a high-speed barrage of syllables and cooing choruses with their singers.

Inviting a bunch of models on stage to dance to Hey Ya and holding the big screens with aplomb with more visual effects were fun touches.

On the pumping dubstep side, headliner Skrillex brought huge energy, thumping beats, and what looked like a full futuristic space fighter onto the stage. With big stages allowing big props, both Skrillex and the team of Axwell and Ingrosso (two-thirds of Swedish House Mafia) were blazing with special effects. Indeed, Axel/Ingrosso ended their set, and the festival on Sunday, with fireworks.

The Glitch Mob brought together a pumping sound under the Gotham Tent stage, a slightly odd venue which didn’t allow as many people as it could’ve to see the acts performing.

But not all festival-goers were there to get excited by special effects and laserlights. The rock’n’roll front was held down by Jack White, and New York’s own The Strokes, plus Vampire Weekend, who both delivered a set low on shiny gadgets and high on guitar fuzz.

Hotly anticipated, The Strokes were clearly one of the most popular on the bill, and delivered a great set. Julian Casablancas sang with heart and pain and romance and sorrow, while also managing to flash a smile at our photographer, which you’ll see below.

Jack White reached back and further back into his catalogue to bring out a range of White Stripes hits, Raconteur singles and his own solo work. (He, of course, made sure to include the brute-force of Seven Nation Army, which fans were hanging out for.)

There were plenty more acts across the three days, including female stars such La Roux, Grimes, Sleigh Bells, and more.

This was our first chance to sample a big US festival to review the sets and shoot the performers, and get an idea of how America gets down to party. Are Americans festival goers? Could they make Splendour in the Grass seem second-rate?

Well, the answer is that it’s not that much different to Australia: you’re still going to have a ball, but there are just a few things you’ll find that are different:

One place, one time only. Most festivals in Australia travel around, limiting the number of acts that can perform, with at least Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane seeing the same acts. With Gov Ball, it’s New York, and New York only. And that means a lot more acts performing, more transport options, and more food and bar options. The infrastructure and set-up means shorter lines, more options, and a better experience.

Ferry, subway, walk, and booze bus means no camping. Ah, the Australian tradition of pitching a tent and becoming encrusted with filth and friends over a long weekend. Not at Gov Ball. With Manhattan just a short walk across a bridge, and Brooklynites being served by a dedicated booze bus plus ferry service, there’s no place like home.

Food. They take the food very seriously in New York, and that translates to the options available on the ground. We sampled Philly Cheesesteaks and New York’s finest burgers from foodtrucks, and we weren’t charged the Earth. This is quality stuff: the food is a big part of why you’d go.

Beer and alcohol. Think 600ml+ Fosters cans. Spirits. Cocktails. Bottles of wine. Think more bars, less lines, and a more relaxed take on ‘Responsible Service of Alcohol’. And a fair price to pay. This is a place to party without spending your entire pay packet on a round of drinks.

So, the final question: would we return? You better believe it.

[Photos by Elise Boyd]