Governors Ball Day 3: A Strange Future and Revenant Weekend

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Earl Sweatshirt and Tyler the CreatorTechnically, these two had separate shows - but because they were back-to-back and located just across the field from each other, they teamed up for what was basically an hour and a half of Odd Future.  Earl started off with an announcement: “here’s how this is gonna work: I'll do some songs for about 45 minutes, then we’re all going to run across and see Tyler's show. If everyone follows instructions we’ll get this s*%t done.”  And he did have instructions, often to comedic effect. “For this next one, sing along…for this next one, put your hands in the air…for this next one, you don’t have to do anything just listen.”

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Tyler was crude, blunt, outrageous and potty-mouthed, of course. At one point he realized there was a VIP section and cussed them out for living off of their rich parents, opting to hang out with “the workforce” at the other side of the stage. I preferred Earl’s rapping. In a live setting, Tyler was nearly impossible to understand with his harsh, gravely voice.  Earl’s verses were executed with precision, and carried well through the crowd. Both played off of each other smoothly, joining voices to emphasize certain cadences. It was clear that from their perspective, this was basically a comfortable hang-out among friends.

 

The Head and the Heart

This was another rare example of talented musicians playing entirely live with minimal assistance from technology. The balance was spot on, which was impressive considering the size of their group.  The harmonies were pristine, showcasing the musicality of most of their members who provided both instrumentals and vocals. If it's not already clear, I was very impressed with this live performance. There was nothing flashy, no bombastic displays of head-banging nor decorative stage setup. Instead, well-composed music and talented musicians made this one of my favorite shows of the weekend. They said goodbye with “Rivers and Roads,” prompting the audience to sing along.  It was a memorable experience, hearing everyone around me settle into a different voice in the harmony. I hope to see them again someday.

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James Blake

I made a lot of enemies this past year because I could not get into James Blake. My opinion changed after seeing him live. The ebb and flow of his sounds had a surreal command of the audience, having them swaying gently one minute, and thrashing their hands over their heads the next. I have to acknowledge the unsung hero: the drummer. There is plenty of rhythmic intricacy in Blake’s music and the drummer, on his own, accounted for almost all of it in the live setting.  The union of Blake’s technological and musical intelligences was most apparent during his finale, in which he live-looped his voice singing each part of a hymn, resulting in a complete, homophonic composition. After adding some keyboard accompaniment, he walked off stage and let the loops play autonomously.  It was a powerful statement and left everyone—even me—with a favorable impression.

 

Vampire Weekend

The grand finale of the weekend was the eclectic, indie-pop phenomenon, Vampire Weekend. They played through songs from every album, and even some early material that never made it onto an album. Opening with “Diane Young” from their most recent album was a good call, given its high energy and funky chanting in the chorus. They played flawlessly. Granted, their early music isn't terribly complicated, but there are some rhythmic challenges (namely off-beat sequences) in a number of they keyboard and drum parts that were executed accurately in-time. They held it together, even in the most polyphonic moments. Humorously, the audience sang along not only with the words, but with the wordless riffs played by the keys and guitars. To conclude the show, singer Ezra Koenig ran into the audience to throw $2 bills around “for good luck.”  How generous.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oG6lTQNW04I