Headed into Governors Ball for my second year in a row, I was a bit more prepared for what was to come. And while Gov Ball isn’t exactly a destination festival like Bonnaroo or Coachella, it merits some special attention being held in New York City. Especially when it stands as a vehicle for the return of Outkast to the Big Apple, alongside such acts as James Blake, Jack White, TV on the Radio, Disclosure, Chance the Rapper, Earl Sweatshirt and more.
What everyone was really curious about was how Outkast would fair on the big stage. Yes, we all know the weight their reputation holds. But we were also hearing reports of lackluster performances at earlier festivals. Taking to the GovBallNYCStage as the sun fell behind the skyline on opening night, it was clear the many thousands in attendance were equally as curious. Let me make note, I have never seen Outkast perform before Gov Ball. So for me to compare this performance to prior ones wasn’t in the deck. What I did know, though, is that in order for Andre and Big Boi to live up to expectations, they had to find a way to best capture their massive catalog in just under two hours.
With a simple set to back them up, Three Stacks and Daddy Fat Sax took to the stage right on time, with an immediately explosive live band. Despite missing several years performing together, it became clear right off the bat that the time these two spent growing up together was a bond that would never be broken. And what better way to snap back into the groove than with “Bombs Over Baghdad”? Which was quickly followed up by other hits like “ATLiens”, “Rosa Parks” and “Da Art of Storytellin'”.
There came a point in the performance where it was rather evident how big of a divide there was in Outkast’s diverse fanbase. While older diehards were chanting lyrics to deeper cuts like “Skew It On The Bar-B”, it took a more popular song like “Ms Jackson” for 3000 and Big Boi to find full participation. Something you’d expect even more of at a festival like Gov Ball where it might be many teeny boppers first time out of the house alone. But I digress. Beyond that, though, it is a testament to this duo’s ability to be all inclusive while never departing from their rich artistry.
An artistry that allowed them to go from Big Boi’s solo cut “Kryptonite” to Andre’s 2003 smash hit “Hey Ya!”. And don’t get me started with “Roses”, perhaps the group’s most sing-a-long friendly track. It was infectious, actually, hearing everyone from 40-year-old couples chant the catchy chorus alongside millennials without flinching. Oh, and let me mention yet again how amazing their live band sounded. Yeah, they were that good.
In retrospect, Outkast was by far the big draw of the weekend festival, but I can’t discount some of the other standouts. On that list I would include Disclosure, James Blake, TV on the Radio, Spoon, and Chance the Rapper. And if you’re wondering why Run the Jewels and Ratking didn’t make the list, it’s because I was stuck in the office while they kicked off the festival early Friday afternoon. A major bummer indeed.
While Gov Ball isn’t going to be the next big thing in music festivals any time soon, as Tyler even mentioned he had never heard of the festival until he was billed to perform, it is a step in the right direction. But for those of us who don’t feel like straying far from the city, Gov Ball serves as a great way to see a rather impressive lineup of artists over a weekend, while also come across a new name or two like BANKS or Ratking.