Governors Ball: The Strokes scorch on home turf
Plus: Beck pays tribute to Prince, Robyn brings the disco fire and other highlights from Day One.
Last week, after a three-year absence, the Strokes debuted a brand new EP: Future Past Present. And Friday night, they brought those new tunes, along with all their hits to their biggest hometown show in over a year as they headlined the first evening of Governors Ball.
“Thank you so much for standing here and watching us play,” frontman Julian Casablancas said to fans who outlasted early afternoon rains to enjoy a cool, dry evening. “The old Governors Balls!”
Over the course of a breezy 90 minute set, the group treated fans to a diverse setlist that included well-worn favorites like “Reptilia,” which unsurprisingly received the biggest reaction from the crowd, “Under the Cover of Darkness,” “Sometimes,” and “Last Nite”—during which the frontman offered a rare smile—but also less frequented songs like “Ask Me Anything” and “Red Light,” both deep cuts off 2006’s First Impressions of Earth, along with “Soma,” and “Alone, Together,” from their 2001 debut. Their three new songs also got a turn and fittingly, they ended with a one-song encore of “You Only Live Once,” the original YOLO.
But perhaps the most profound moment was the one that came a third of the way into the evening as the group paid tribute to their longtime collaborator, art director Brett Kilroe. Over the course of his two-decade career, Kilroe designed album artwork for the Kings of Leon, the Foo Fighters, Missy Elliot and, of course, the Strokes. In 2011, he was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. He died this past March.
“I need to talk about this great loss to our family,” Casablancas said before reminiscing about when the band met Kilroe at RCA Records when they first signed. “My wife said something really cool,” the singer continued, “‘He knew everyone better than they knew themselves.'” His portrait and his most famous designs were projected to the crowd. They dedicated their next tune, the rarely-heard “Electricityscape,” to the 45-year-old. After, it was head-banging business as usual. —Madison Vain
Below, see more highlights from Governors Ball’s opening day.
Christine and the Queens
The camera crew had a hard time keeping up with Christine and the Queens, who lunged, gyrated, popped, and locked her way across the festival’s main stage on Friday afternoon. The solo project of French singer Héloïse Letissier, Christine and the Queens is as much about dancing as it is singing. Her performances of songs like the gender-bending “iT” and the outsiders’ anthem “Tilted” wowed as much as her energetic moves, which have more in common with modern dance and theater than they do the routines of other pop stars. Though a thrilling cover of Technotronic’s ”Pump Up the Jam“ shows she could go toe-to-toe with the biggest divas, Letissier takes pride in standing out. At one point, she picked up flowers from a bouquet used earlier in her set, compared their petals to Beyoncé’s perfection and Rihanna’s “raw sexual power,” and then sang bits of “***Flawless” and “Kiss It Better.“ It was fitting introduction to Christine and the Queens: sharply funny, a little weird, full of love for pop music—and up there with any star she mentioned. –Nolan Feeney
A day after releasing the EDM-inflected single “Wow” and announcing his next studio album will arrive in October, the 45-year-old alternative icon took the Governors Ball mainstage for a career-spanning set. He didn’t play “Wow” — or any other new material — but touched on highlights from nearly every other corner of his catalog, including Midnite Vulture‘s playful funk (“Sexx Laws”), Sea Change‘s melancholy folk (“Lost Cause”), and The Information‘s kaleidoscopic electronica (“Think I’m in Love”). And Beck’s backing band unified the disparate aesthetics with a simple, no-frills sound, streamlining cuts like “Devil’s Haricut” and “Qué Onda Guero.” The singer also paid tribute to Prince with covers of “Raspberry Beret” and “1999” and told a heartfelt story about going in for a bear hug with the Minneapolis legend after he presented Beck with the award for Album of the Year at the 2015 Grammys. –Eric Renner Brown
The 27-year-old member of the xx affirmed his status as one of electronic music’s brightest young talents with his brilliant dusk set at the Bacardi House Stage. Jamie bookended his set with standouts from his Grammy-nominated 2015 masterstroke In Colour — “Loud Places” to start, “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” to finish — but did some impressive crate-digging, from throwback soul and disco to cacophonous techno to Kyla’s “Do You Mind,” which Drake samples on his chart-topping “One Dance.” — Eric Renner Brown
For her first run of American shows in two years, Robyn treated the stage as if she were throwing her own little basement disco and closed out Day One of Governors Ball with the day’s sweatiest dance party. The Swedish pop star—along with backup from singers Zhala and Maluca—eschewed playing proven crowd favorites like “Call Your Girlfriend” and “Show Me Love” and opted for hot remixes of her most beloved tunes. And her set design involved an array of moveable floor-length mirrors, which she’d use to shimmy and shake in front of; sometimes, she’d disappear behind them and allow her guests to take center stage. Sure, she’s never been an easy artist to peg but it was a thrill to see the singer chase her muse with new iterations of her best material: “With Every Heartbeat” was transformed from a club-wrecker into a gorgeous ballad, punctuated with ghostly vocal samples; “Don’t F—ing Tell Me What To Do” thumped harder than it ever has before. Robyn also unleashed new songs like “Right Time” and “I’m In Love,” which found her going deeper into club-music tropes. And the ebullient electro-anthem “Set Me Free,” from last year’s La Bagatelle Magique EP, was the most jubilant moment of her set. Fans hoping to hear their favorites were in for a treat, however: a remixed rendition of “Indestructible” hewed fairly closely to the original—just proof that some of Robyn’s songs are so perfect to begin with, they don’t need any tweaking. —Kevin O’Donnell