Governor’s Ball Festival Returns to Randall’s Island With Kanye, Kendrick, More

It’s freezing and gross in a considerable chunk of the country, which means it’s time to start thinking about summer, and with it, the crowded, drunken, heavily-Instagrammed bacchanalia that is the summer music festival. Your first major festival lineup announcement of 2013 happened today, in this case the third-annual Governors Ball Music Festival, which returns to its home on Randall’s Island June 7th, 8th and 9th. The biggest names on the flyer are Kanye West and Kings of Leon, as well as one blacked-out name to be revealed later (let the speculation begin!). The bulk of the bill features people whose albums you really liked last year, or whose albums you didn’t really like but maybe read about a lot on music blogs, including Japandroids, Kendrick Lamar, Grizzly Bear, the xx, Nas, Dirty Projectors, Best Coast, The Lumineers, Gary Clark Jr., Beach House, Azealia Banks and dozens of other year-end list luminaries. Like musical confetti made from cut-up Pazz & Jop ballots. 

Other notable names on the lineup include one of BlackBook’s Stars of 2013, HAIM, Swedish party starters Icona Pop, Erykah Badu, Feist, festival regular Pretty Lights, Wild Nothing, Fucked Up and Dillon Francis. Those less inclined to care about the music can find food courtesy of a few familiar trucks, including Asia Dog, Mexicue and Pie for the People. There is also ping-pong, croquet and bocce and something called a "Silent Disco," which seems to be on the bill at a lot of festivals and the impetus for some half-baked thinkpiece somewhere about the way we live and share music now. Tickets for the big festival thing go on sale this Friday at noon. 

Several top-rated tracks of 2012, including Kendrick Lamar’s "Backseat Freestyle" and Japandroids’ "The House That Heaven Built," soundtrack the Austin Peters-helmed lineup video, which features Jonathan Sollis and Fabrizio Goldstein strolling around New York in tuxes and dark sunglasses, on a neverending quest to make it rain. Watch.

Japandroids’ “The House That Heaven Built” Video: Like A Beer Commercial, But Actually Fun

Canadian garage-rockers Japandroids released your summer party soundtrack, Celebration Rock, back in May. Ecstatic single “The House That Heaven Built” sounds like it was made for barbecues and beer commercials, and its video—Japandroids’ first music video, directed by Jim Larson for Pitchfork.tv—has that feel as well, especially with that build-up as they take the stage. Unlike most beer commercials, though, the crowd’s excitement feels real.

The black-and-white clip follows the band through some scenes from life on the road, involving crowd surfing, whiskey and weaponry. Crack open a cold one, watch and rock out while it still feels like summer.

Pitchfork Recap: Japandroids Blast Off on Friday Night

I arrived a little after the gates had opened and after almost an hour of hard rain had fallen on Union Park. The schedule was already fifteen minutes behind, and no one had started playing yet. Not the best way to begin a three-day festival. The weather seemed to make an impression on a lot of potential festival-goers, too, as it was the sparsest crowd I’ve ever seen, even for a Friday. But for those who did make it out, acts like Japandroids, Clams Casino, A$AP Rocky, and Dirty Projectors did Their best to make sure it was worth it.

Best Set: Japandroids
After a soggy start, these guys are exactly what we all needed: a shot of straight-forward, fist-pumping rock’n’roll to get everybody excited about seeing live music again (so, basically the opposite of Lower Dens). They kicked it off with “Adrenaline Nightshift” and, I know this is going to sound like hyperbole, the clouds started to part and the sun was shining before the song ended. The band didn’t let off the gas until they were done. It was glorious. It’s amazing to see how big a band with only two guys can sound. The only thing that bothered me was seeing a kid that couldn’t have been older than 17 sing his heart out to “Younger Us.” I’m not sure if he really gets what that song is about. Oh well; he’ll know soon enough.

Biggest Disappointment: the sound
Festivals in general have a reputation for spotty sound. Pitchfork seems to draw a lot more criticism than other festivals, partially because they book a lot of acts with complex sounds that end up having problems, but mostly because every year it really does seem as bad or worse than the year before, leading to complaints about prices going up but the sound not improving. This year the weather at least gave them a reason for much of the problems, causing equipment malfunctions and postponing or even canceling important sound checks. Still, a legitimate excuse for the issues doesn’t make them easier to deal with, and acts like Olivia Tremor Control definitely suffered. There’s nobody to blame, really, but it certainly put a damper on things.

Biggest Surprise: Willis Earl Beal
Because of the previously mentioned sound problems, I left Olivia Tremor Control a few songs early just in time to catch the last ten minutes of Willis Earl Beal. All I really knew about this guy was that he was from Chicago and that he used to post flyers with his phone number, telling people that if they called he’d sing them a song. I’m glad I made it a point to see him because he really was incredible, mixing elements of soul, blues, and lo-fi with a stage presence that’s exceedingly rare at this festival. He was as passionate and intense as he was self-effacing, telling the crowd, “Thanks for coming to my poetry reading. There’ll be real songs coming up after me,” before leading them in a sing-along about keeping the tears (and in this case, the rain) at bay. Only the most cynical music fan wouldn’t have been won over.

Listen to Japandroids Cover Nick Cave’s ‘Jack the Ripper’

It’s hard to go full speed all of the time, even if your new album is called Celebration Rock. On this cover of Nick Cave’s "Jack the Ripper," Japandroids reign in their excessive energy for something a little gloomier, joining the Old West to the new blues. They don’t quite replicate Cave’s brooding snarl, but you can hear guitarist Brian King (I imagine he’s the one singing) just straining not to break into hysterics. Listen to it after the click, via Stereogum.

It’s actually kind of strange to hear Japandroids singing about girls in a way that doesn’t involve them shout-vomiting all over themselves, but there you go. "Jack the Ripper" will appear as the B-side on the 7” single for "The House That Heaven Built," which is out on May 4. Celebration Rock, Japandroids’ new album, is out on June 5. 

Listen to a Shout-y New Japandroids Song, ‘The House That Heaven Built’

Okay, it’s been a really heavy day for music, but bear with me: Shout-rockers Japandroids have released a new song called "The House That Heaven Built" off their upcoming sophomore album, Celebration Rock. Filled with preciously dramatic lyrics like "When they love, and they will / Tell them all to love in my shadow," it definitely cements their status as a band you’re meant to scream along with until your lungs bleed. In case there was any doubt about that, check out Celebration Rock‘s track listing, filled with pointedly epic titles like "Adrenaline Nightshift," "Evil’s Sway" and "Continuous Thunder." Listen to "The House That Heaven Built" at SoundCloud and pump every fist you’ve got.

Somewhat related: I’ve been looking for a proper song to double up with this clip of Cody The Howling Dog and found a perfect partner in Japandroids’s "Young Hearts Spark Fire." I think it’s something you’d like to watch, if you’re a fan of extremely stupid Internet ephemera (and who ain’t?). When you’re done marvelling at my meme-ing foresight, go to Japandroids’s website to see where they’ll be playing on their summer tour. Celebration Rock is out on June 5.