How different are Jack White and Skrillex anyway? Both coax other-worldly screeches and crunches out of their respective instruments — one a guitar, one a computer. Both have, uhm, weird hair… Okay, let’s stop before it gets out of hand. But, the comparison was a good thought exercise while watching confused EDMers (with glowsticks, dilated eyes and sparse clothing) walk completely lost through Jack White’s crowd at Governors Ball on Saturday. But the best part, even though some of them seemed in the complete wrong space, was watching them suddenly get into what probably sounded like some sort of evil hoedown.
White’s headlining set against Skrillex might have been the smartest booking of the weekend. Both artists brought in huge crowds to the second day of Governors Ball and had their respective genres pretty well represented throughout Saturday. But the smartest move is that this booking probably didn’t give many fans a tough decision to make between Skrillex and White — they likely don’t have the biggest crossover audience.
A big prelude to his album release on Tuesday, White brought a career spanning set to Governors Ball. He hit the Stripes, the Raconteurs and his own solo material off “Blunderbuss” and “Lazaretto.” A mad scientist on the guitar, White squealed through takes on his own various bands, while introducing the crowd to the saloon rock he’s brewed on his new album, with tracks like “High Ball Stepper” and “Lazaretto” early in the set. He’s a humble and accommodating festival headliner. On stage he sympathized with the audience’s sun drenched skin and soothed it with the hits from his many projects. To close his encore, White gave fans a wild take on “Seven Nation Army.”
Even out of more proper beer-soaked, small and dark confines, the Strokes‘ first festival performance in three years was a loving trip through its early days. With beers flying and the crowd sucked in as tight as it could get, the Strokes gave an unselfish performance, playing a whole list of hits from “12:51” to “Reptilia” and “Someday.” And the greatest hits setlist was somewhat surprising, given that the band could have walked out on stage and focused on material from last year’s “Comedown Machine.” This was the Strokes as fans lovingly remember them, and there was a sense that during this hour and a half even the band members were briefly transported back to small clubs in the early 2000s. It was drastically different from Julian Casablancas’ strange set on Friday. With the Strokes, he had a new energy, pulling from his bandmates, his hilarious blue Hawaiian shirt, the wild crowd and hopefully the hometown setting. After “Last Nite,” the band left for a brief set-break and returned for an encore of “New York City Cops.”
Days after announcing their new album, Spoon performed a late afternoon set on Saturday as if the band had a new lease on life. As it performed a list of fan favorites, along with a couple new tracks, the band was grateful for its New York audience.
“We’re the last ones on this stage, right?” singer Britt Daniel said. “That means all the people here in the front are here for us, and that makes a huge difference.”
Even at 5 p.m. English electronic duo Disclosure was able to get the sun-baked audience moving a bit. Using a mix of live instrumentation and electronics, the breakout house musicians played tracks like “Latch,” “White Noise” and “When a Fire Starts to Burn.” But taking breaks between dancing and looking at the stage, it was obvious that without guest vocalists or a light show, Disclosure doesn’t have much to move the audience in the middle of the day. Either way, the young musicians have more than enough command over their material to handle the enormous crowds that had already flooded the festival early throughout the day.
Joe McCabe is a New York photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb. Check out his website.