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Since Governors Ball moved to Randall’s Island and Rock The Bells relocated eastward to Jersey over the last two years, Full Moon Festival has filled the outdoor music void on Governors Island. The one-day festival, inspired by the original Thai Full Moon festivities on the island of Ko Pha Ngan, has been reinvented here by Matte Projects, the guys behind the Kistuné Club Night Tours and other music and art projects throughout the city. Full Moon Festival featured both upcoming electronic artists such as Chela and Wave Racer, as well as established acts like Penguin Prison and Claptone whose music let people bask outside and hold onto their carefree summer moods for a bit longer.
Warming up the crowd at the Matte Projects main stage was Brooklyn’s afro-rock outfit EMEFE. With a setlist comprised almost entirely of new material, EMEFE’s jazzy, big band sounds and funky afrobeat melodies had people’s hips shaking after drummer Miles Arntzen symbolically dragged people forward. Indie pop-rockers Panama Wedding had an early slot too at the Neon Gold tent. Despite the initial motionless bodies and blank faces that greeted them, their sugary, synth-driven melodies eventually had a few fans breaking the icy chill.
Back at the main stage, the bars and the surrounding sandy, beach-style setting were beginning to fill out with more attendees that arrived on the later ferries just in time for the eccentric bird-masked German DJ, Claptone. The soulful piano and jazz-infused set suited the laid-back Guv’nors Beach Club ambience, with the newly-arrived, tank top-clad fans both warming up their feet and filling their Snapchat and Instagram needs.
Just as the main stage began to pick up a stride, Young & Sick took the spotlight, hoping to win the crowd’s hearts with sleek R&B melodies. Although vocalist Nick Van Hofwegen’s video of mind-bending cartoons and his amusing stage presence intrigued the audience, the band’s performance of its self-titled debut tracks seemed to fall short of expectations. Due to the overloaded bass that literally shook crowd members’ bodies as well as the strained high-note vocals, several people fled from the main stage area mid-set to the other side of the venue.
Back at Neon Gold however, Chela, the solo project of Australia’s Chelsea May Wheatley, took her position just as the sun began setting. The Aussie’s spry, ’80s-esque melodies proved to be the sort of jump-start that everyone needed to break the afternoon lull, as upbeat favorites like Romanticise and Zero had the crowd fully recharged by the end of the set. At the same time, Le Youth’s DJ set redeemed the main stage via his R&B-infused tracks like the Cassie-sampling C O O L and the ’90s-throwback crowd pleaser Rhythm Of The Night, both of which kept everyone’s second wind whipping.
While Penguin Prison kept people bouncing with his twee-pop tracks at the Neon Gold tent, the night became dark in more ways than one as Son Lux, one third of the alternative hip-hop collective Sisyphus, took the main stage. Although probably considered an outlier by many in the festival’s line up, the post-rock outfit proved to be one of the standout performances of the night. The appearance of the festival’s titular full moon resonated with Son Lux’s moody setlist, consisting predominantly of tracks off their most recent album, Lanterns. Although the recorded versions of the tracks come across as controlled, the control during the live performance was akin to bat-out-of-hell. Lott cried out vocals while powerfully shaking his frigid hands as guitarist Rafiq Bhatia ripped the guitar riffs during Easy and Ransom. The band closed on a strong note with the chaotic Lost It To Trying as the crowd roared with approval.
Returning to the beach party vibe at Neon Gold tent, Full Moon Festival alums the Knocks managed to help keep the night rolling. Although the set started out slow, B-Rock and Mr. JPatt eventually turned the mood around near the end with trendy and uplifting club bashers like The Feeling and Dancing With The DJ, as well as the just-released Classic (ft. Powers). Australia’s Aston Shuffle also sustained the vibrant atmosphere at the main stage with a deep techno and house-heavy set. Despite fans having been up on their feet for hours, the main stage was packed to the brim with people dancing their faces off during the bright closer, Tear It Down.
Although fans were just finally coming to terms their exhaustion, Matte’s MC came out to announce a surprise guest before Delorean’s scheduled performance, the New York-local Keisza. The upcoming R&B artist’s set separated itself from the rest of the festival visually, incorporating the only dance routine of the day with backup dancers rather than relying merely on the video monitor’s transitions. Keisza’s performance included her summer radio hit Hideaway that received an echo of cheers, as well as the other house-infused tracks off her Hideaway EP. If a “third wind” is such a thing, this crowd definitely proved its existence during Keisza’s set.
Unfortunately, headliner Delorean’s no-show due to last minute passport issues weakened the effect of Keisza’s performance (the reason could only be discovered afterwards on Matte Project’s Facebook page due to the island’s lack of a strong phone signal). Despite the fact that one of Delorean’s members DJed for 30+ minutes after Kiesza, the crowd was unimpressed by the set and confused by the turn of events, still expecting a full-on performance by the Basque locals. Instead, when some fans were trying to comprehend what had happened at the end of the show, the festival’s personnel told them to “Get the fuck out,” as well as other expletives. For what was turning out to be a solid last hurrah for New York’s summer music festival schedule, Full Moon unfortunately ended on a sour note.