Girl Talk, Empire of the Sun, & Big Boi Shine at Governors Ball

There were plenty of outdoor events this past weekend to keep you slick with sunscreen and sweat: the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, the Northside Festival, Pride Kickoff. But where all things shiny are concerned – from glitter to lasers to, yes, copious perspiration – nothing compared to the lineup at this year’s Governors Ball. Thousands flocked to Governors Island to dance their collective asses off to the sounds of Passion Pit, Big Boi, Das Racist, Miami Horror, Empire of the Sun, Girl Talk, and Pretty Lights.

The crowd was a mix of indifferent twenty-somethings and drunk high school girls clad in glitter and face paint. There was enough neon, Native American prints, and feathers to make you re-think what decade you were in.

Those of us who are of age partook in delicious Six Point Sweet Action and Magic Hat #9 brews to stay hydrated in the actually-quite-tolerable 78-degree heat. Big Boi played all of his Outkast hits and Empire of the Sun put on an interesting show with other-worldly shimmery silver and blue costumes (I still can’t get “Half Mast” out of my head). The crowd’s energy reached its climax around 9pm, when Girl Talk took to his computers. Filling the stage with audience members, shirtless and standing on top of a table, Girl Talk took the crowd from swaying to sweating throughout the entire set, finishing out with John Lennon’s “Imagine,” complete with audience sing-along.

Drenched and drained, I only managed to catch a few songs by Pretty Lights. The bass was vibrating from my chest to my toes and — of course — the light show had the whole crowd in a trance.

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Our Man in Miami: Basking in the Beauty of Miami Horror

Incongruity becomes me. I drive a ’76 Buick Regal and use a 4G phone. I wear suits and ties where shorts and sandals are pretty much de rigueur. I dig listening to The Archies while reading Nietzsche, and reading Mickey Spillane while listening to Wagner. When most of the land lies down to bed for the night, I rise. When everyone’s hell bent on heaven, I’m among the heaven-sent who descend. So it stands to damn good reason that I’d dig Miami Horror, the nightmarishly-named Aussie outfit who make music so beautiful it hurts. I can’t recall exactly when or where I first came across the name, nor what went through my mind in the nanosecond it took for me to click back and see if I could believe my eyes. Some kinda tragic headline, I surmised. Most certainly, I didn’t think music, let alone a sound so robust it makes the disco it emulates almost pale in comparison. And when I did find out Miami Horror was a man (now a band), I figured he’d cribbed his moniker from a tabloid a la New York’s legendary 3 Teens Kill 4. You know, the kinda front page story that grabs folks by the throat.

Alas, as you’ll read, I was wrong, way wrong. In fact, I was so far off base I may as well have been on another playing field altogether. And when a know-it-all like me so completely misses the mark, well, getting to the core of the matter becomes of paramount importance. So when I heard the man (now band) would be holed up at The Fontainebleau and staging at LIV, I set my sights on a sitdown. And when I found out the man (and band) had barely left the grounds in the two days they’d been in town, I insisted we preface said sitdown with a drive around.

That’s how I found myself playing tour guide for Miami Horror’s main man, Benjamin Plant. The rest of the band had gone to the frolic in the sea, but managers Jerry Soer and David Kirkpatrick were courageous enough to jump in and join me on a whirlwind look at South Beach.

Backed by a monologue that must’ve sounded as mad as the cat in the hat who was uttering it, I pointed out local landmarks like The Octagon, where my French designer pal Daniel Venissac lives in Muhammad Ali’s old apartment, Frank Gehry’s soon-to-open New World Symphony complex, which bookends nicely Cesar Pelli’s Arsht Center across the Causeway, and our once dearly beloved Burdines, Florida’s first department store, which has now gone the way of Macy’s. I took ‘em on a stroll down Lincoln Road, and told of its boom and bust and boom again history, and how it was designed by the late, great Morris Lapidus, the very same mind behind The Fontainebleau. And after a dynamite meal at Rosinella (where else?), I dropped off the now fully-informed trio at Mac’s Club Deuce, the dive bar to end all dive bars, and the one remaining element of old South Beach.

It was while we were breaking bread that I managed to shut up and let Ben get a word in edgewise. Here are a few of them.

It just so happens that both Massive Attack and MGMT will be coming to Miami on the same date. If you had choose one of the two, which would it be? I’d have to say Massive Attack, because I’ve seen MGMT.

Really? How were they? A lot of people were disappointed by their show, because they basically just stand there and do nothing. But that’s exactly what I expected. Everyone else thought that because their music is so unique, they’d have this really crazy show or something. They don’t.

What other of the new crop of bands do you dig? There’s another Australian group called Tame Impala, and they’re pretty much Psych Rock with Cream influence and John Lennon-like vocals.

They’re also from Melbourne? No, they’re from Perth.

Is it something you might wanna remix? They wouldn’t really want a remix, because the music is so organic. There are a couple synth noises here and there, but it’s mostly all guitars, heavy phasers…

What about dance music? This guy Lindstrom from Norway, he has some pretty cool stuff. It’s not that dancy, but it’s that kinda new disco that’s goin’ on now.

You know, I interviewed Calvin Harris when he was in town last year, not that you sound like Calvin Harris, but there is a similar slant. And it always puzzles me how this strange blip in the aural cosmos – ’77 or ’78 to ’81 disco – got a hold of you guys. Obviously you weren’t around then. What happened? Did you hear an old Donna Summer record and go nuts? Yeah, I think so. Pretty much. I tried to keep Illumination influenced by disco, but not really disco. I think what happened was that for 10 years there was this house thing, which was obviously influenced by disco; in fact it’s probably more disco than all this new stuff, just a newer version of it. And that’s where the influence first came from. Then people started looking into house’s influence, and that led back to original disco. Okay, you’ve probably answered this a million times, but where did the name Miami Horror come from? I was looking at visual words. I wanted something that had more depth to it than just a word, i.e with a more visual aspect. Miami was quite colorful. It was probably when I was into more ‘80s sounding stuff, too, so that made it appeal to me even more. Horror was a nice contrast with Miami, and both words together have a lot of repetition, you know, two i’s, double r’s, two o’s. Horror can almost be mirrored. It’s just a visual thing really.

So you didn’t come across some tabloid headline that led with “Miami Horror”? No, nothing like that. It’s just two words that happened to come together really well.

So what do you think of Miami anyway? Well, we’ve seen more in the last 40 minutes than we have in the entire two days we’ve been here.

That’s my fault. Had I known you’d be in town early, I would’ve snatched you up sooner – or at least given you an itinerary of hot spots to hit. There’s always something goin’ on. Next time, for sure. We’ll be back.

I’m gonna hold you to that. Please do.