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.

Handmade Decadence & Vintage Super Soakers at Urban Oasis The Palms

In the lobby at The Palms, there are five Super Soakers in a glass display case. “We had to source each of the Super Soakers individually,” I was told by merchandise manager Jeffrey Opdyke. “I mean, these things are rare on eBay. I wanted to really represent the classic aesthetic.” This attention to detail is evident all over the new indoor/outdoor pool, bar, and pop-up shop from 3rd Ward and a handful of other New York-based arts and events companies. The paint inside The Palms is the perfect shade of white and yellow, in stripes of an ideal width. The pools are pristine. The food is quality. The drink selection is enviable. Everything in the tiny shop is interesting, from the current issue of Spanish design bible Apartmento, to the miniature rubber duckies, and of course, to those Super Soakers, which sell for $55 each.

The Palms is not oppressively perfect, not a “Oh god, is my shirt nice enough to be here?” kind of place. It’s perfect is exciting, liberating even. It inspires total trust in the masterminds behind this month-long celebration of summer in a reclaimed parking lot in Queens. Everything you touch, whether it’s a chilled bottle of prosecco, a lobster roll, or the bottom of a dumpster, which house the swimming water, is just as you’d want it to be. So why not touch everything? The Palms claims to be an “ode to the Boca Raton of a bygone era,” but what it conjures in less specifically-minded visitors is a mix of mid-century vacation destinations filtered through a DIY lens: Ocean’s 11 and Don Draper’s fateful trip to LA as interpreted by Michel Gondry. The interior of the space—a reclaimed bank, the vault now full of designer T-shirts and reasonably priced sunglasses perching on safety deposit boxes—is the kind of perfect that seems imported from another outer borough, Brooklyn. There’s not a hair out of place.

The outside, though, is where the real action is. Deck chairs are arranged in a semi-circle around a ping-pong table. There are squares of astroturf for lounging on as you nibble lobster rolls from the Red Hook Lobster Pound or tacos from Mexicue (available on different weeks), or have your photo taken by nightlife photographers. Then, of course, there are the pools, which are, from a certain angle, perfect. Stand in one of them, and all you can see are beautiful people lounging half-naked, giggling, and kissing under oversized Christmas lights, as rented lifeguards shoo away anyone who tries to bring a drink onto the deck (something that’s strictly forbidden). You can feel lush foam padding under your feet, listen to the hum of the filters (yes, the water is filtered), and just exhale in a profound way New Yorkers rarely get to do without a trip to the Catskills. Walk down the wooden stairs towards the striped changing tents on one side of the DJ booth, and the illusion unravels a bit. That deck is just a series of 2x4s cobbled together and suspended improbably high in the air—you can walk right underneath it, in fact. The pools, as has been widely advertised, are just steel containers of various sizes, although calling these retro-fitted steel receptacles “dumpsters,” while technically accurate, seems a tad misleading.

To me, though, this makes the whole thing immensely more charming. The visible seams of The Palms put it in the finest Andy Hardy “Let’s put on a show” tradition. It’s DIY luxury, homemade decadence. It’s also a fucking blast, even though most of the crowd is a little more attention-seeking and Eurodisco than I normally like, and, as a vegetarian, I can’t partake in the lobster rolls. (And yet, I didn’t have the best abs in the room.) Still, it’s impossible not to be dazzled.

So, get there early, buy a soju cocktail, or smuggle in some weed — as my nose told me more than one person had — and enjoy yourself. That’s what it’s there for.

All Photography by Karen M Plemons