Some acts are not made for festivals. These open air music marathons are brash, loud, and fueled by fried food and light beer. Everyone's covered in mud from at least mid-calf down. Some of us are pretty sunburnt. But when I saw that Bjork was playing Governors Ball, I thought of all the non-festival-ready acts in music, she could arrest the mid-afternoon attention of the crowd. After all, this was New York, and New Yorkers know what's up. Unfortunately, New Yorkers do not know what's up.
Despite Björk's elaborate performance (an entire string section dressed in white, video accompaniment on the jumbotron, and a winged dress designed by Nikoline Liv Andersen with a mask by James Merry) it was apparent — consistently throughout the crowd (I moved around consistently in hopes of finding some spot of aural solace) — that the crowd was way more interested in being at Björk's performance than actually seeing Björk's performance. Her mousy voice was a mere whisper on the wind compared to the roar of people chattering about who they'd see next or whether Weird Al was worth ditching The War on Drugs on Sunday. Should they get another beer or will they be too drunk for Ryan Adams? Would their friends judge them if they wanted a Red's Apple Ale instead of a real beer? Come on, guys, be real with them. They need to know.
Meanwhile Björk is prancing across stage in a meticulously crafted costume, with her perfectly curated set, and from where I stood (stage left, up close; stage left, further back, the hill at the back of the stage where people generally go when the crowd up close is to unpleasant to properly enjoy the music). The crowd felt almost as thick as it had for Drake — Friday night's headliner — except that you could not find a single spot where 50 people at a time weren't chattering about their own nonsense. And unlike the fairweather Drake fans, who politely made a mass exodus once they realized the Canadian rapper wasn't just playing the hits, the chatterers all stayed for Björk. Even in front of the VIP section, where people from record labels and folks who paid big money to have nicer views of performances hang out, there was a deafening roar of useless chatter.
So, dear future festival crowds: Do me a favor. If you want to see someone like Björk, then see someone like Björk. If you only think you want to see Björk, maybe shuffle on over and watch whoever's performing opposite. Or go lay in the grass near one of the quiet stages. (This should really be true for all bands, if I'm being honest. Talking to you, Gov-Ball-crowd-at-Future-Islands.) Because while maybe a festival isn't the best setting for the Icelandic singer, it was the setting we were given. And it would have been nice to say, "I saw Björk and she was awesome" instead of "I saw Björk and I couldn't hear her, but man was she wearing a cool outfit."
Images: Santiago Felipe/Courtesy of Björk (2)