The British have a lot of weird old traditions, but perhaps the most peculiar one is their annual insistence on hanging out in the rain and mud to listen to music. Every year, thousands of otherwise normal-seeming Britons convene in the farms and parks of Reading and Leeds with the knowledge that they and their loved ones have a high chance of getting soaked. And the sick part is, they seem to enjoy it.
From what I could tell, the majority of people at the opening day of the Governors Ball Festival on New York City’s Randall’s Island were not British, and did not enjoy it. Yet amid a relentless battery of heavy rains and high winds courtesy of Tropical Storm Andrea, the festival did its best to keep calm on and carry on by sticking to their schedule of artists, which included Erykah Badu, Local Natives, Young the Giant, Best Coast, and more. At a certain point, though, you gotta know when to call it, and the Gov Ball organizers were forced to cancel the party before the night’s headliners, Kings of Leon and Pretty Lights, had a chance to take the stage. (To make up for it, Kings of Leon is now scheduled to play this evening.)
But the day was still eventful, if only to observe the interesting combinations of man, earth, and music. With the sky falling on their heads and the mud coming up to their knees, a fair number of determined ticket-holding fans braved the unsolid brown field to catch their favorite bands, while the terrified indoor cats hid under the porto-potty tents, where they were able to gaze at the weather apps on their phones without getting any weather on them. Perhaps the most amusing bunch were the freaked-out streetwear kids grouped around a nearby water hose, desperately washing the mud off their limited-edition Nikes.
Some bands got lucky, though. Cali’s Best Coast, for instance, played a great set when it was simply raining and not pouring, while Icelandic folkies Of Monsters and Men drew one of the larger and happier-looking crowds of the day.
But as the rains intensified, things got pretty haphazard. Feist, one of the later acts of the day, was able to get out one song — “A Commotion” — before the stormy downpour caused technical difficulties and ended her show. For most people, a shortened set from Beach House — the Baltimore duo whose lush organ-driven music is more or less designed for rainy days — provided the last bit of live music they’d get to hear before an hourlong wait for the ferry back to Manhattan. But Governors Ball will continue through Sunday, and thanks to some suddenly sunny weather, headliners like Guns ‘N’ Roses and Kanye West won’t have to bring their umbrellas.
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