Ups and Downs of Governors Ball 2011

As with any large-scale fest, Governors Ball over the weekend had its logistical ups and downs.

Water was in short supply; food was predictably expensive. Organizers deserve top marks for making sure ferries ran early and often — though lines were at times over a quarter-mile long, they moved relatively fast — and for having enough beer vendors to last the length of the festival. But the security was unusually surly, and the lack of signage, especially explaining which areas were open to the various types of festival passes, was glaring.

The use of two stages to accompany the Ball’s 12 artists without their sets overlapping was an ingenious maneuver, and gave attendees the opportunity — if not the energy — to catch every set in its entirety.

That’s something that few other high-profile fests could claim, and there was an undeniable joy in bouncing rapid-fire between artists: catching the finale of Empire of the Sun’s colorfully costumed phantasmagoria before running across the festival grounds as Girl Talk started his own onstage dance party, or transitioning from Passion Pit’s early-afternoon DJ set to Das Racist’s characteristically hilarious live show.

But the alternating stage schedule had two distinct downsides — expedited sound checks and abbreviated set lists. Neon Indian had the most distracting sound issues, as low end sounds often overpowered more melodic instruments, and made a mess of “Should’ve Taken Acid with You.” Girl Talk simply never had enough volume, even with auxiliary speakers set up in the middle of the audience. And Big Boi could have used about twice the time he was allotted; at one point he was zipping through about one Outkast megahit per minute even as Empire of the Sun was warming up across the festival grounds.

One thing Governors Ball had pegged was its patrons’ demographic.

While nearby Northside Festival’s biggest draw this weekend was a collection of midtempo rock bands (Guided by Voices, Wavves, Surfer Blood), Governors Ball closed out with Girl Talk and Pretty Lights, two top 40-sampling DJs who cut their teeth at the kind of college parties of which Saturday’s fest resembled a supersized version.

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