Governors Ball All-Access Review: The Perlmutter Top Five
Greetings from festival season, I could not have been more in my element the past three days at Governors Ball – if there was one word to describe the festival this weekend, it’d be mud! Remember that scene in Forrest Gump when he describes all the kinds of rain and mud they had in Vietnam? Well, that was this weekend. Friday was a tropical storm – but that didn’t stop the 40,000+ people from having a ball, literally, and especially me.
I had the privilege of meeting up with some of the members of our Campus Vinyl BucknellU team – one of which was working VIP (Connor) at the You’re Doing Great Stage- which you had to say in a Mexican accent any time you said the name of the stage. If y’all are trying to go for free, I strongly recommend volunteering. Jenny, another member of our team, did that and got to see all her favorite acts without paying a dime. Shwing!
It’s impossible to cover every artist that played at the festival – so I’ll give you the Perlmutter Top 5.
1. Local Natives: First of all, if you don’t know Local Natives, download both of their albums right fucking now, because you’re being an idiot. They are taking Indie-Rock to the next level with beautifully intricate harmonies, incredible rhythm sections, and engaging hooks. Aside from their musical genius, they put on an incredible show. It’s that much more appealing when the band you are watching is visibly into it as much as you are – each member of the band was going nuts on stage as the entire crowd sang along to fan favorites such as “Sun Hands,” “Who Knows Who Cares”, “Breakers”, “Heavy Feet,” and much more. I was amazed at the lead singer Kelcey Ayer’s talent – not that I didn't’ see it coming - but when you can sing that high on a record and do the same thing live it is very respectable. These guys are the shit.
2. Thievery Corporation: I had previously heard of this band from the critically acclaimed soundtrack from the movie Garden State. I knew the song “Lebanese Blonde,” and thought it was a groovy, engaging, bassy tune with soft vocals. Usually when I’m seeing acts I’ve never seen before, it’s hard for me to become initially engaged with what I’m watching. This was the opposite; I had no idea they were such a worldly band. They are usually just two DJ’s, but their live show brought a whole crew of talented musicians. They had a great percussion section, a chick singer (Yes!), and - out of nowhere - four Rastafarian dreadlocked Jamaicans came rolling out to drop rhymes over this incredible trip-hop/jazzy music. I thought it was awesome, and am currently hitting them up on Spotify as we speak.
3. Gary Clark Jr: This guy is the real deal – as a guitarist, I’m so pumped that a contemporary musician is making blues modern and something that crowds can nod their heads to. Aside from his face melting solos as he shreds through pentatonics like it’s nobody’s business, the thing that impresses me most about him is how he does so much with so little. Meaning, he’ll take a basic chord, play it over and over again in different rhythms while adding a small change to the chord, whether it’d be a note, a hammer-on, etc. This is the first time I’ve literally heard a guitar cry; you could hear the passion in his blues that truly does tell a story. He was all about letting his guitar roar; he didn’t have to play anything while he did this, he just let the amplifier’s feedback and his tones/settings take care of the rest. I recommend listening to his live stuff on YouTube, and to NOT download his studio album. Artists like Gary are special in that they sound better live when they aren’t overproduced in a studio; the iTunes Live Session is perfect. Get on it.
4. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros: Listen, I’m not going to ramble about how “Home” is the best song in the world. What I will say though, is that when 40,000 people are singing it all together, you really do feel like you are at home. Watching these guys is a sight within itself; they roll so deep. They have at least 10 people on stage at a time, and draw their inspiration from 60's communal musical communities based in Southern California. They are all about spreading positive vibrations, and you couldn’t be unhappy while watching this live show. I only knew a few songs, but I didn’t care at all. I was totally entertained and loved everyone’s stage presence. It was cool how Alex Ebert (lead singer) traded vocals with Jade Castrinos; it was very fitting and ascetically pleasing. To give you an idea of the wide variety of instruments they use, I’ll name a few: trumpet, ukulele, saxophone, marimba, accordion, clarinet, viola, lap steel guitar, fiddle, synthesizer, and many more. Towards the end of the set, Ebert handed the microphone to someone in the audience and said, “Tell us a story!” I thought that was freaking awesome; they truly are humanitarians and care about everyone’s well being. I love their indie folk rock / neo-psychedelia sound, and recommend seeing them live; it’s truly an experience.
5. Swear And Shake: I wanted to give my last selection to a band that literally played the first slot at the main stage at 12:00. Before the festival started, I looked at the lineup and Spotifyed (yup, I’m making that a verb) a few bands I’d never heard of. These guys were one of them, and they were a great opening to my weekend. I’d describe them as a freak-folk rock act, similar to bands like Dr. Dog, Vetiver, and Midlake. They had a chick singer who was killing it, who also played guitar and had the coolest hair. I’m not one to comment on fashion shit, but this girl had the grooviest hair and it made me that much more engaged. Oh yeah, and about the music – they were cool, man. Download their EP called Extended Play.
Free Hi-Chew, an abundance of mud/muddy people, camelbacks galore, and awesome spirits helped me enjoy my weekend. I got lost from my friends on Saturday (of course..) but made so many new friends. You just gotta be friendly, and migrate with the masses. Now off to Bonnaroo! The article on that guy will be one for the record books.
Happy festivalin' and keep those records spinnin',