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Governors Ball Day 3 Recap: Grizzly Bear, the xx, and Kanye West End a Solid Festival

the xx
Ilya S. Savenok, Getty Images

The third and final night of Governors Ball began just as the sun went down over Randall’s Island. Brooklyn indie rockers Grizzly Bear took to the main stage with pure gusto, filling the valley of mud before them with the sweet melodies of ‘Shields,’ their latest record.

Speaking of mud, the much-needed sun, combined with the efforts of festival promoters, helped pack the loose ground back into a walkable surface, making day three the most enjoyable yet.

The G. Bears tore into their newest single, ‘Yet Again,’ with finesse and distortion-heavy drive. Singers Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen harmonized like real pros as the sun slowly dipped below the distant skyscrapers of Manhattan. The final movement, filled with a rip-roaring solo and howling noise, showed that this band could play arenas with ease. Their stage was dressed with giant lightbulbs shaped like jellyfish that gave you the feeling you were in a massive speakeasy.

Several members of the crowd held up posters of Grumpy Cat, prompting Droste to ask, “Can I get one of those?” before signaling bassist Chris Taylor to begin a chill-inducing ‘While You Wait for the Others.’ After churning through their biggest hit, ‘Two Weeks,’ Grizzly Bear offered true fans with slow jams from ‘Yellow House.’ Hundreds of people abandoned the band’s set, but Grizzly Bear couldn’t have cared less.

Up next was Bloc Party over at the Skyy Vodka stage, where it was nice to see singer Kele Okereke and the rest of the gang together. Just last year, the London-based rockers tricked fans into thinking the singer had been ousted from his own — erm — block party. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. As their set went on, the band kicked kinetic unreleased jams like ‘Children of the Future’ and ‘French Exit.’ The crowd didn’t mind the unfamiliar sounds, because each song kept the giant muddy dance party going. Though Bloc Party arguably used to be more popular in the States, it doesn’t appear that their fanbase as strayed too far, given the thousands that stood for their Governors Ball set.

“Alright wakey wakey now time for something a little different,” Okereke told the crowd before going into piano dance ballad ‘One More Chance.’ The band continued to dig deeper into their repertoire before blasting an incredible rendition of ‘Helicopter’ and closing with ‘This Modern Love,’ from their first record, ‘Silent Alarm.’

Governors Ball then experienced a veritable battle of the Brits, as Bloc Party’s set overlapped with the xx’s across the festival grounds. At first, it seemed as though the London punkers were winning out through sheer force of volume. But the xx were playing a long game, slowly luring fans in with their special brand of trip-hop.

Singers Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim harmonized with chilling results, projecting their voices over the expansive knoll. They lacked emotion onstage, rocking all black as if mourning the death of a loved one, but once their mixing master Jamie xx cranked up the volume, waves of bass began to bathe the crowd, urging them to sway away.

‘Shelter’ started off an excellent set, with the whole crowd singing along to the romantic chorus as laser lights projected out over the grounds, creating a cloud-like illusion. It was the perfect band to wind down the evening in preparation for Kanye West. Their bassy rendition of ‘Islands’ showed why they appeal to both rock and hip-hop fans, and if we weren’t necessarily big fans of the icy band before this show, that changed at Governors Ball.

Darkness came to Randall’s Island as we trudged back toward the main stage to see Kanye. The anticipation was palpable, as distant booms from the xx and Bloc Party encouraged the crowd to anxiously push forward for their chance to see Yeezy. By 9:30PM, the crowd was cheering for anything that moved on the incredibly crowded stage. People were swarming like bees to the hive, filling up the valley with the largest crowd Governors Ball has ever seen. Finally, after 20 minutes of delay, Kanye and two mysterious DJs stepped out on stage to rapturous applause.

A frightening montage of barking black dogs played on the overhead monitors before Kanye launched right into ‘Black Skinhead,’ his most metal song to date. The rapper, clad in a leather jacket covered in chrome studs, shouted into a distorted microphone, presiding over a single that sounds like a Depeche Mode banger set to a Gary Glitter beat and mixed with the modern craziness of Death Grips.

West’s second song, the new ‘New Slaves,’ featured massive black-hooded figures on the jumbotron and earth-shaking chord progressions. The first half of Kanye’s set was a rock show even Marilyn Manson would be envious of. The rapper followed up his dark new material with an EDM rendition of ‘Theraflu,’ which made us think that West might be consulting the Knife on his most recent beats.

From there Ye’s set grew darker and darker, and he launched into ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing,’ the brooding ‘Power’ and an unreleased song called ‘I Am a God,” which shook the crowd to its core. Kanye’s set played out like Dante’s trek through Hell, as the Chicago MC passed through the depths of his soul before exiting to a lighter, more danceable head space. West snuck several new tracks into his set (which can regrettably be heard here via Vine) before going heavy into the standards like ‘All of the Lights,’ ‘Flashing Lights’ and ‘Jesus Walks.’ After almost an hour, Kanye finally addressed the crowd during a “Clique” interlude. It wasn’t the craziest thing we’ve ever heard him say, but it was a diatribe against the current music industry.

“We always have to hold our albums till the right moment and s—,” Yeezy lamented, obviously speaking about his new material.

“I could give a f— about selling a million records! At this point, I don’t really give a f— about … outside opinions,” he screamed before covering fellow Chicago rapper Chief Keef’s single ‘I Don’t Like.’

It was just the right amount of angst and emo to end the evening and Governors Ball 2013. We left the festival grounds just as West performed ‘Good Life.’ It echoed around the pillars of the RFK Bridge, just long enough to linger.

See Our 2013 Music Festival Guide

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