Governors Ball’s 2017 Lineup: One Day Later

A close look at this year's highlights, surprises, omissions, and least interesting acts


It’s coast vs. coast and California already played the first move. Right on the heels of Coachella’s highly-anticipated poster, Governors Ball rolled out their lineup and tipped their hat to the festival giant while boasting their own grabs. It’s only the New York City festival’s seventh edition, but they’re planning to bring some heat come June 2nd, despite the limitations of Randall’s Island.

For one thing, the top of the bill is full of surprises — if not because of dodged rumors, then because of faces that aren’t shoe-in staples. There’s Chance the Rapper who grew in size last year, tackling everything from politics to late-night shows, and who Coachella failed to grab. Next is Phoenix, the French act that will get everyone dancing without being overly obnoxious about it. Childish Gambino steps up to bat fresh off a dramatic stylistic change full of soul. And, of course, Tool, a band who’s hard at work on their first new record in over a decade but whose fanbase is still growing despite the silence.

Considering how Gov Ball started, it’s comforting to see their growth in booking over the years. A couple of guys decided to start a music festival, so they poured their money into it, tried to make friends, and managed to pull it off based on good intent and even better passion. Now they got acts that span generations like Wu-Tang Clan and The Avalanches. They grabbed Lorde and Logic in the same breath. Sometimes when you’re young and dumb, your dreams become a reality that benefit thousands in the heart of the Big Apple.

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Despite this, the festival has become less a voice for New York City than it has for trendy teens. Recent years has seen the grounds swarming with high schoolers and college kids, hoping to catch the acts they may otherwise be too young to see at bars or venues. So, how do you handle that? Cater to them, of course. YG, Local Natives, Marshmello, Mac DeMarco, Charli XCX, and Banks all warrant places in future Snapchat stories.

But the city’s music obsessives — and also those in New England who drive down — will be pleased to see a solid undercard as well, from indie rock (Parquet Courts, Warpaint, Franz Ferdinand, Car Seat Headrest) to hip-hop (Skepta, Danny Brown, A$AP Ferg) to R&B and soul (Kehlani, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, Francis and the Lights) to electronica (The Range, Phantogram, RÜFÜS DU SOL).

At last, 2017 is the year that Governors Ball gets to throw curveballs of their own for a different coast filled with music fans. They may not have ridden the AEG wave, but they built a sturdy foundation and climbed it. How that all pans out for them is left to the distant future, though, naturally, that didn’t stop us from trying to predict how it will unfold anyway. Click on ahead for our complete rundown of the festival, from highlights to omissions.

–Nina Corcoran
Associate Editor



Chance the Rapper

Chance the Rapper // Photo by Philip Cosores

Photo by Philip Cosores

Our 2016 Artist of the Year, Chance the Rapper, clearly shows no signs of slowing down in 2017. He just dropped a Christmas mixtape with Jeremih, he apparently still has plans on releasing a proper debut album (whatever that means anymore), and he’s been teasing a collaboration alongside Childish Gambino, who’s right there with him at the top of this year’s lineup. And if you recall, Chance crashed Gambino’s Gov Ball set way back in 2014, so perhaps Mr. Glover will return the favor this time. Even if he doesn’t, you can still expect Little Chano from 79th to put on a Big Show from Randall’s Island. I’ll walk myself out, thank you very much.  —Michael Roffman


Childish Gambino

Childish Gambino // Photo by Heather Kaplan

Photo by Heather Kaplan

Were you not listening above? No, but seriously, having Chance and Gambino together on a lineup right now is like seeing Burton’s Batman and Donner’s Superman collide. The two are currently the brightest masterminds in pop culture, and what’s more, we’ve yet to really see how Gambino plans to unpack his funky epic, “Awaken, My Love!”, for the festival setting. Odds are he has something up his sleeve, at least if we’re to take his small-screen ambition into consideration. If anything, we love a good graduation story, and his top billing finds him returning three years later as a total valedictorian. Somebody squeeze this guy’s cheek and take him to a nice dinner at Applebee’s, stat. —Michael Roffman



Tool // Photo by David Brendan Hall

Photo by David Brendan Hall

It says something about a band when they can remain a prestigious festival headliner for nearly 20 years. That’s the boat that Tool is in, having headlined the first Coachella and still having marquee power as it tops the Gov Ball bill. It will be the prog metal band’s first NYC date since 2006 and their first concert in the Northeast since 2012, meaning that Randall’s Island should be crawling with heshers come June. Sounds great to us. –Philip Cosores





Photo by Philip Cosores

Out of all the rumors for Governors Ball, perhaps the one most frequently discussed — or never discussed at all, depending on who you talk to — was Phoenix. The French act stepped into the shadows after 2013’s Bankrupt!. Now, it seems, they were simply eager to work on a new record. Considering the band put on a rousing performance full of crowd surfing and group dancing in 2014, one that included the singer’s wife, Sofia Coppola, it’s pretty much a guarantee they’ll bring another sizeable crowd, only this time with a new album in their back pocket to get hyped about. –Nina Corcoran


Franz Ferdinand

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Photo by Heather Kaplan

It wasn’t long ago that Franz Ferdinand could hold down the main stage at a music festival after dark. And while the hits stopped coming for the Scottish band around the time of 2009’s “No You Girls”, it’s not like the band have simply given up. Following an intriguing collaboration with Sparks as FFS, the band appears to be back — with new tunes likely and a trip back to the alt charts to be hoped for. Rock music benefited from the band’s swagger, and Gov Ball should follow suit. –Philip Cosores


Wu-Tang Clan

Wu-Tang Clan // Brittany Brassell

Photo by Brittany Brassell

As a group, Wu-Tang Clan are as synonymous with New York music as it gets. And while we’re not sure exactly what iteration of the lineup we’ll see at Gov Ball or what kind of set they’ll be performing, the stage is set for the legendary group to reaffirm their status as rap dignitaries. With no new release rumored ahead of the lineup announcement, the booking is the kind of left-field thinking that we love out of music festivals. Maybe this signifies a new record from the collective, or maybe we’ll just get the crew back together for a hits-laden one-off. If it’s anything like their last Coachella appearance, when they performed with a freakin’ orchestra, this could be something special. –Philip Cosores


Zane Lowe

BBC Radio 1 - Zane Lowe - last show

It’s not like this is the first time Zane Lowe has DJ’d a festival, but this is still a welcome name to see on a lineup. We thought Lowe was pretty occupied with his Apple Beats 1 gig, but the dude has opened for the likes of Skrillex, Foo Fighters, and Muse in the past and looks to be returning to his performing roots. Or maybe he’ll just get on stage and have an exclusive interview with Drake for an hour before premiering an exclusive single from Portishead. Either way is cool with us. –Philip Cosores



Bon Iver

Nina Corcoran, Bon Iver 01

Photo by Nina Corcoran

With Panorama in town to compete with Gov Ball for bookings, you have to figure the other fest won out at nabbing Bon Iver. Given the recent run of nine (!) NY shows before the end of the year, all signs pointed to Justin Vernon’s band getting the gigs in before the radius clauses came into effect. And with the group’s booking at Coachella, it looks like Goldenvoice might be bringing the exclusive Bon Iver festival appearances to NYC and LA in 2017. If it’s the same show as last year, those fests are in for a treat. –Philip Cosores



Spoon // Photo by David Brendan Hall

Photo by David Brendan Hall

The last time Spoon played Gov Ball, they had a new album out: 2014’s They Want My Soul. Well, guess what? Spoon have a new album due out this year, so it only made sense that they’d return once again. Three years later is plenty of time, too, which is why their inclusion would have been a nice name to look forward to this summer. Alas, the festival promoters’ mathematical minds didn’t factor them in and they remain the underdog. –Michael Roffman

The xx

thexx Governors Balls 2017 Lineup: One Day Later

By now, it’s clear The xx are gearing up for a hell of a year. So why aren’t they playing one of the biggest festivals (in the biggest city) in America? “Say Something Loving” is fresh on people’s minds, they won viewers over on Saturday Night Live in November, and I See You, their third album, seems to be one they plan to run behind at full speed. Maybe The xx are bitter about the last time they played Gov Ball — they performed an hour before Kanye West debuted Yeezus, and, as expected, swaths of people left their set early to get a good seat — but they don’t seem like the type to hold a grudge. So, what gives? –Nina Corcoran


Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams // Photo by Heather Kaplan

Photo by Heather Kaplan

Gov Ball has a tendency to double dip from time to time, especially in rock ‘n’ roll (see: The Strokes in 2014 and 2016). And really, nobody would have batted an eye if Ryan Adams came back two years later for another bout of sunshine on Randall’s Island. His forthcoming album, Prisoner, is arguably one of his best albums to date, packed with all the emotions that make him such a brilliantly tortured artist, and his live show will certainly follow suit. Unfortunately for you, prospective Gov’goers, you’ll have to find Ry Ry elsewhere. –Michael Roffman

Least Interesting

Wiz Khalifa

Wiz Khalifa // Photo by Lior Phillips

Photo by Lior Phillips

When was the last time you thought about Wiz Khalifa? It was probably when he topped the chart with that pretty terrible Fast and Furious song. But unlike many artists who disappear from the public discussion to build intrigue, Khalifa has long been a rapper we’ve wanted to see disappear. It’s a good thing when his stoney anthems are out of the spotlight as he’s never amounted to more than a shittier Snoop Dogg. What might have been seen as an outside-the-box booking internally comes across as poor taste from the outside. —Philip Cosores



logic Governors Balls 2017 Lineup: One Day Later

Photo by Derek Staples

Someone needs to take G-Eazy’s spot as music festivals’ decidedly uncool rapper this year, and that man is Logic. The Maryland artist has shown an uncanny ability to pack rooms and sell albums despite not really making a dent with songs the wider public actually knows. It’s all very counterintuitive to where rap’s trends seem to be heading and particularly notable in just how few people actually seem to care about Logic. When a marquee space is devoted to someone so unexciting, that’s kind of a bummer. –Philip Cosores




Photo by Philip Cosores

The latest EDM artist whose font is getting larger at an alarming pace has a schtick where he looks like a marshmallow. Seriously. See what you started Daft Punk? We thought a big mouse head was the peak of absurdist dance performance identities, but nope. There’s always something worse, and this one is best roasted over a campfire. —Michael Roffman


Judah and the Lion

Judah & the Lion by Sully Sullivan

Who? This alternative rock band from Nashville, Tennessee, currently occupies the No. 1 slot on Billboard’s alt chart with a song — ahem, “Take It All Back” — that is objectively terrible. But it felt like music festivals might have been wise to the song’s shittiness when Coachella passed on them, despite the fact that their tour with Kaleo (who is playing Coachella) takes them right to Indio’s front door. Nope, Govs Ball took the bait on this group. If you want to get the jump on them and check them out for yourself, they’re currently on tour with ::shudder:: Twenty One Pilots. –Philip Cosores