The Voodoo Experience: New Orleans, USA, October 28-30, 2011
The final day, Sunday, was anchored by Ray Davies, The Original Meters and Cheap Trick, as well as festival closers Fatboy Slim, The Raconteurs and to a slightly lesser extent Bonerama, featuring Dave Malone of The Radiators.
Sunday's lineup also featured TV on The Radio, The Limousines and Odd Future on the main stage. In addition to The Meters and Bonerama, The WWOZ stage was home to outrageous performances by The Stone Foxes, The Sheepdogs, Givers and Dr. John. The Bingo! Parlor Stage featured Fishbone and Portugal, The Man as well as Cheap Trick. While Ray Davies was undoubtedly the main attraction on the Preservation Hall Stage, Glen David Andrews, The New Orleans Klezmer All Stars, Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Del McCoury and Ma Maison, with the Trey McIntyre Project and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, all gave amazing performances.
Glen David Andrews (Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews's cousin), a veteran of the Olympia, New Birth, Treme and Lil Rascals brass bands, set the tone for the day with a funky jazz-funk/fusion set from the Preservation Hall Stage. Andrews, who is sometimes called The King of Treme, and is accomplished trombonist in his own rite, stuck mostly to singing, as his high-powered ensemble ran the gamut of musical styles ranging from funk, traditional jazz and gospel to rock, blues and back to funk during its show. And the audience definitely heard him scream.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. When people look back on the past, it is easy to identify key momentsthat point where, for good or for bad, things change. For The Sheepdogs it was winning the Rolling Stone "Choose The Cover" contest during the summer of 2011. Since that time the previously unknown band has signed with Atlantic Records, appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, has been on a whirlwind tour, played Bonnaroo, and has now appeared at Voodoo. Its southern rock-meets-funk-and-country sound served the group well at its midday set on the WWOZ stage. Attendees who knew the band's history were impressed, while those unfamiliar were pleased that they stayed for the set. One older member of the crowd was overheard saying, "They sound a bit like Dave Mason [Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famer and founding member of Traffic] when he rocks." Heady praise.
Another "new" band making its Voodoo debut was The Limousines. The group's early afternoon The Voodoo Stage set is sure to get them an invite to perform at a future festival. The duo was in the Halloween spirit, performing dressed in skeleton costumes. Admitting that the band had performed in Houston the previous night at a private party, lead singer Eric Voctorino and the band's energy was turned up to eleven. Victorino did his best Mick Jagger impersonation, as he raced around the stage while the band played its most well-known songs "Internet Killed The Radio Star," "Very Busy People," and other songs from Get Sharp CD (Dangerbird, 2011), as well as a cover of New Order's "Temptation."
Lafayette, LA's Givers is yet another up-and-coming band that made an excellent impression on the Voodoo Experience crowd. This young soul-pop collectiveKirby Campbell (drums/samples/vocals), Taylor Guarisco (guitar/vocals), Tif Lamson (vocals/percussion/ukulele), Josh Leblanc (bass), and Nick Stephan (synths/samples/vocals)is a band to watch, and should be very big very soon. Appearing in the early afternoon, the crowd around the WWOZ Stage grew as the "ya gotta hear these guys" word and vibe spread through the festival area. The Givers' fantastic set was punctuated by "Up Up Up," from its debut, In Light (Glassnote, 2011).
Fishbone played its customary funky set on the Bingo! Parlour Stage. Leaning heavily on Crazy Glue CD (DC Jam, 2011) the band delivered a set filled with its distinctive and eclectic brand of alternative rock. The goofy sense of humor was never more evident than on its psycho-funk version of "Date Rape" and a new song, "DUI Friday." Introducing the next song, "Crazy Glue," saying, "They say that crazy is someone or something out of the norm. Crazy is good. You get to create somethingmusic, art...I want to be crazy. I want to be a crazy motherfucker. 'Crazy Glue.' Hmmm...'Crazy Glue...'Yeah." With that Fishbone launched into the song.
Many fledgling and lesser-known bands were ushered onstage, sandwiched between more established acts while playing at the same time as another established performer. One such act was Morning 40 Federation, which appeared on the Bingo! Parlour Stage between Fishbone and Portugal, The Man, and opposite Dr. John's show on the WWOZ Stage. The set was loud and tight, as the group performed songs from its self-titled 2004 BRG Records release and Ticonderoga (M80, 2006). The performance was top-notch, with the hysterical "Dumpster Juice" the highlight of the set.
Dr. John & The Lower 911, along with special guests Irma Thomas, Cyril Neville and Walter "Wolfman" Washington, brought a little of old New Orleans to the Voodoo crowd. The spot-on insanely funky set opened with "Iko, Iko" and also featured "I Been Hoodooed," as well as "Right Place Wrong Time," but it was The Soul Queen of New Orleans, Irma Thomas singing her classic "Don't Mess with My Man," that stole the show.
Ray Davies, who was famously shot in New Orleans while chasing a mugger a few years ago, performed a mixture of Kinks and solo material on the Preservation Hall Stage to an initially small crowd. Shortly after the opening "I Need You" and "This Is Where I Belong," it was during the opening strands of "Where Have All The Good Times Gone" when the crowd began migrating over from the WWOZ stage, where Dr. John's set had recently ended.
Dressed sharply in a sports coat and an open collar button-down shirt, Davies performed "Dead-end Street," an acoustic version of "Sunny Afternoon" on which he elicited sing-along help from the audience, "Long Way From Home" (another acoustic performance) and a rockin' version of "20th Century Man." Davies peppered his set with stories about his life and the creation of the songs, the best being his description of the creation and evolution of "You Really Got Me." As Davies explained it, "We had a piano in the living room. My brother Dave heard me picking the chords on the piano'bop, bop-bop-ba-bop-bop' and in his inimitable way looked at me perplexed and said 'what the fuck is that.' I explained that it was our new song. He shrugged and walked away."
With that the band launched into what is arguably The Kinks' greatest hit. The show ended with "Low Budget," which Davies explained was "written in rhyming slang and might at times be difficult to understand." During the tour de force performance of the songnot only appropriate for our fiscal times, but need to translationsDavies changes one of the verses to "Excuse my shoes, they don't quite fit/I bought them at Winn Dixie and they hurt me a bit..."
The original Meters performed together at Voodoo in 2006 and, not long after, the band members again went their separate ways. For some reason the reunion fizzled; at the time, the group sounded good, just not great. Five years is both a short time and a long time. For the members of the group, who are all growing older, it was a long enough time for them to set aside their differences and set out to offer up the funk to the massesmany of whom are not old enough to remember the band in its heyday. Guitarist Leo Nocentelli, bassist George Porter Jr., keyboardist Art Neville and drummer Zigaboo Modeliste took to the WWOZ Stage during the last afternoon and was immediately a magnetizing force as the small stage was immediately surrounded by a huge crowd that would have been more at home and less pressed together had it been on the Voodoo Stage.
Introduced with the statement of, "The moment you've all been waiting for...," The Meters did not disappoint. The sounds of "Fiyo On The Bayou" and "Hey Pocky Way" filled the air and the party was in full force. Early in the show the crowd was promised a surprise, and were told, ..."you all, when you see it, it's gonna mess you all up," and the surprise was monumental. Cyril Nevillea member of the band in the late '70scame onstage with the Bonerama horns to perform "No More Okey Doke," and the performance, which was already a dream come true for many, got even better. The band fed off the energy from both the special guests and the crowd during "People Say" and "Ain't No Use." It was magical. If the band decides to continue with its reunion, it would be a wise move to include Cyril on all other dates.
At Voodoo, Portugal, The Man played to an exuberant and excited crowd, while easily showing why it is one of the most-hyped new bands. The Bingo! Parlour stage set was a loud and joyous psychedelic rock jam session. Having recently released its first major label album, In the Mountain in the Cloud (Atlantic, 2011), the Alaskan-born group did not forget its indie roots, playing tracks from its entire catalogue. Guitarist/vocalist John Gourley, along with the other band members, cast a spell over much of the audience. The people in the crowd were either lip-synching the words to the songs while bopping, dancing and swaying to the music, or were completely awestruck, staring at the stage in astonishment. This is a special band.
Cheap Trick, who flew in specifically for the show and immediately flew out afterward, sounded fantastic on The Bingo! Parlour Stage. Opening with the crowd favorite and quite appropriate "Hello There," its loud, fast and rockin' set featured excellent solos over killer riffs and included "Dream Police," "She's Tight," a cover of The Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour," "Surrender," and "Out In The Street," also known as the theme song to That 70's Show.
TV On The Radio put on one of the best shows of the festival. The Brooklyn, NY-based group played many of the songs from its 2006 Interscope release, Return to Cookie Mountain, and only "Caffeinated Consciousness" and "Second Song" from Nine Types of Light (Interscope, 2011). The band was amazingly tight, with guitarist Kyp Mallone leading the way as they blended many musical genres.
For those not interested in either Cheap Trick, TV On The Radio or The Meters, Ma Maison, with the Trey McIntyre Project and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, delivered a show consisting of classic New Orleans music featuring trumpet sousaphone, trombone, saxophone, piano and drums. The music was accompanied by a stage performance in which skeletons danced across the stage while acting out the lyrics. Highlights of this set included: "Everybody Looking For The Short Dress" and "Heebee Jeebee Dance."
The Raconteurs took the stage to some of the loudest cheers and applause of the festival. Former White Stripes front man Jack White and co-leader Brendan Benson delivered call-and-response blues riffs throughout the thundering show, and especially on "Level." The band's tight set also featured "Consoler of The Lonely," "Old Enough," "Broken Boy Soldier," and "Rich Kid Blues." The smoking encores, which had everyone in the crowd on their feet were "Salute Your Solution," "Steady As She Goes" and "Carolina Drama," which featured Benson on slide guitar and White on acoustic guitar. For some reason, the band ended its set a bit earlyplaying for only one hour and forty minutes of the allotted two hours. However, as the completely sated festival-goers made their way of City Park and toward Carrollton Avenue, there was nary a complaint.
While The Raconteurs was the closing headliner for the festival, Bonerama and Dave Malone (of the Radiators) were the local heroes who put the final exclamation point on this year's festival. Bonerama opened its short set with "Close The Door" and "Mr. Go," after which Dave Malone joined the band and the show took a turn into Radiators territory. In a stroke of musical genius, the band played Radz favorites such as "Like Dreamers Do," "Never Let Your Fire Go Out" and "Confidential," as well as "Indian Red" and Allman Brothers Band' "Whipping Post," in a mash-up style that mixed the best of Bonerama with the best of The Radiators sound. It sounded even better that expected.
By the end of the festival, the tens of thousands of revelers got exactly what they came forthree days of music, madness and fun and an opportunity to "Worship The Music."
In the thirteen years since its inception, The Voodoo Experience has become a New Orleans institution, playing host to a wide-ranging lineup of multi-generational and multi-genre musical artistswell over 600 and counting. Stephen Rehage has gone on the record as saying that he's always looking to bring the "best of the best" to Voodoo. When asked about creating a dream bill, he responded, "We have been privileged to work with many of the artists that Ias a tone-deaf, untalented, wanna be musiciangrew up listening to and idolizing. But I would have to admit; I am still waiting on [David] Bowie and Tom Waits." Perhaps in 2012, at the fourteenth ritual, these two icons will be headlining.
All Photos (and additional contributions): Christine Connallon