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Live Reviews

2012 Voodoo Experience: New Orleans, Louisiana, October 26-28, 2012

2012 Voodoo Experience: New Orleans, Louisiana, October 26-28, 2012
By Published: December 14, 2012
2012 Voodoo Experience
City Park
New Orleans, LA
October 26-28, 2012

While an epic and catastrophic storm bore down on the Northeast coast of the U.S., a "storm" of another type descended upon New Orleans (a city not unfamiliar with catastrophic storms). New Orleans' 14th Voodoo Experience was a musical celebration featuring world-class food, art and interactive opportunities scattered throughout the city's fabled City Park.

The festival amusement park area included a Ferris wheel, the Ring of Fire and others. Performance artist Marcus Brown's electronic art installation project was set up just inside the gates. When revelers walked across the installation, Brown's walkway produced musical sounds, samples and loops that—depending upon weight, length of time it took the person to jump, slide, or walk across—melded into a musical gumbo that caused jaws to drop. It was not unusual to see people walk across, turn around, walk back and try it over and over.

As in past years, a marching band—the Noisican Coalition—roamed the grounds of the festival, giving numerous performances while providing the attendees with a New Orleans-influenced second line that played on self-made instruments: modified horns, household objects, percussive instruments and drums. The funky ensemble was a treat that caused festival veterans and neophytes alike to stop in their tracks and snap pictures. Additionally a fire-breathing robot rolled up and down the festival area's paved roads to a funky techno beat.

The festival's five stages (Le Ritual, Le Plur, WWOZ, Preservation Hall and SONY) were graced by artists playing almost every genre of music imaginable. The biggest draws were some of the music industry's bestselling artists and/or critical darlings such as: Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Metallica, Jack White, The Avett Brothers, Silversun Pickups, Gary Clark, Jr., Skrillex, Nas, Coheed & Cambria, Kaskade and NERVO. In addition, earlier in the day the side stages, as well as the main stages, featured acts that may not currently be well-known, may not have a national footprint or are just on the cusp of a national breakout.

Day 1: Friday, October 26th

Day 1 of the festival was jam-packed with performances by Gary Clark, Jr., the Avett Brothers and Neil Young & Crazy Horse on the (main) Le Ritual Stage; The TBC (To Be Continued) Brass Band, Little Freddie King, the 101 Runners and Paul Sanchez &The Rolling Road Show on the Preservation Hall Stage; Andy Suzuki & the Method, CC Adcock & the Lafayette Marquis, Delta Rae, George Porter & the Runnin' Pardners and Bootsy Collins on the WWOZ stage; Thomas Dolby, Supagroup and Say Anything on the SONY Stage; and finally Force Feed Radio, NERVO and Kaskade on the Le Plur Stage.

Friday was the warmest day of the festival. As the beautiful sunshine beat down on the park, New Orleans' own TBC Brass Band took the Preservation Hall Stage. The sparse crowd in attendance at the beginning of its set increased as the funkified performance progressed. By the end of the show, the crowd was whooping it up and dancing in front of the stage and on the benches stationed next to, and around, the soundboard. The band's set of favorites included brass band versions of Hank Williams' "Jambalaya (On The Bayou)," the Beatles' "Come Together" and Sly & the Family Stone's "Everyday People."

On the WWOZ Stage Brooklyn, NY's Andy Suzuki & the Method were busy laying down some blue-eyed soul with a bluesy rock edge. Their sound was a little like Ben Fold meets Billy Joel, further enhanced by a fiddle and djembe (an African hand drum). Announcing that it had flown in from New York that morning, the band was warmly greeted as it played "Her Ghost," "Take Care Of Me" (which Suzuki explained "got a huge reception during our tour of Southeast Asia"), and "Over Under."

As Suzuki and his cohorts were finishing up, the Preservation Hall Stage came to life with the electric blues of Little Freddie King. With a performance that was both aural and visual, he did his traditional duckwalk across the stage and was joined by Guitar Lightnin' Lee as they traded off lead guitar riffs. King's set was fueled by a great version of "Bright Lights, Big City," some James Brown riffs from "Sex Machine," "Bony Maronie" and other blues classics.

C.C. Adcock & The Lafayette Marquis, with its mixture of electric instrumentation and a standup bass, delivered a barn-burning set of boogie-and-roll swampy blues. Adcock had the audience in the palm of his hand as he bopped across the stage as he played with a flourish and dedicated his personal performance to Earl King. Highlights included "Maison Creole" (originally heard on HBO's True Blood) and "Fool To Care" (which was dedicated to Art Neville).

The first act to grace the Le Ritual main stage on Friday was Y Luv, appearing with lots of beach balls bearing its logo, placed strategically around the instruments. Lead singer, Freddy Janney, sporting an athletic headband and an "I Dream in Color" shirt, led Sam Nardella, Marcello Dubaz and Luke Hanna in the group's first time playing a music festival. The members of Y Luv, hailing from Los Angeles, met at the University of Southern California. The path to Voodoo began when the band submitted a video to the Red Bull Soundstage contest online, and fan support brought them to the status as one of the final five finalists. The group was selected by AWOLNATION to open the festival. The buzz around Y Luv includes its single "Driftin'" that reached number one on the Hype Machine Chart within a week of its release. The song was a huge hit with the Voodoo crowd that grew at the stage while the band played.

The 101 Runners featuring Big Chief Monk Boudreaux dedicated their set to Bo Dollis. They rocked the Preservation Hall Stage with a Mardi Gras Indian-infused set that included a "we-love-the-chief chant" for Dollis (who was laid-up at his home on Louisiana Avenue and unable to attend) and spot-on versions of "Soul, Soul, Soul," "Handa Wanda," "Shoe Fly (Don't Bother Me)," "Hey Pocky Way" and "My Indian Red."

Delta Rae swept the WWOZ Bud Light Tent like a sparkle of Southern sunshine. Formed in North Carolina, this American folk rock band was an instant hit with the hearty crowd that had gathered. Led by ethereal singer Brittany Holljes and her two brothers Ian (on guitar) and Eric (on keyboards), Elizabeth Hopkins providing vocals, Grant Emerson on bass and Mike McKee on drums, Delta Rae was named for a fictional character from the Holljes' mother's imagination of a Southern girl who could summon the Greek gods to earth. Favorites from their debut album Carry The Fire (Sire, 2012) included "Bottom Of The River," "Dance in the Graveyards" (which Ian Holljes invited the crowd to dance along to), as well as "Cold Day in Heaven" and "Whatcha Thinkin' Bout, Baby?"

Thomas Dolby turned back the clock on the SONY stage while somehow managing to keep things firmly in the present with a set that included some old and some new (from 2011's A Map of the Floating City released on the Lost Toy People label). Dolby delighted hardcore and longtime fans with "One Of Our Submarines Is Missing," "Hyperactive," "She Blinded Me With Science," and "I Love You Goodbye" (which was inspired by getting lost on the back roads of Louisiana). Dolby, who is passionate about both his music and the advances made in technology—many of which he, himself, helped pioneer—left his Time Capsule unit at home due to the logistics of bringing the vintage trailer to the festival. In the media tent, when asked about the project, Dolby said, "the idea was that people could sit in it and leave a 30-second message to the future. I'm flying around on this tour and couldn't bring it this time. When I played Tipitina's, we parked it up the street and it got a lot of traffic and attention."

Paul Sanchez and the Rolling Road Show was up next on the Preservation Hall Stage. Featuring the talents of Arsene DeLay, Mary LeSang, Debbie Davis, Shoeless Pashley, Alex McMurray and many others, the Road Show performed high-energy versions of many of the songs from Sanchez and Coleman deKay's Nine Lives (Mystery Street / Threadhead, 2012) song cycle, based on the Dan Baum novel of the same name, that details the lives of nine New Orleanians between 1965 and 2005). The songwriters, along with actor-producer Michael Cerveris, plan to bring the music from album, A Musical Story of New Orleans (Threadhead Records, 2012) to the Broadway stage. The band and special guests brought down the house with tour de force performances of "Where Are the Bodies," "Fine In The Lower Nine," "Full Time Joanne," "Jump Out Boys" and "To Be Continued."

Austin, TX's Gary Clark, Jr. rocked the Le Ritual Stage with his special version of blues-drenched rock and rockin' blues. From the buzz that swirled and emanated from the crowd, it was painfully apparent to all that seeing Clark at this juncture of his career was akin to seeing Springsteen at New York's Bottom Line in 1975—he is set to explode across the musical landscape and become a very big thing in what should be a very short time. Clark then proceeded to stage a guitar clinic during his set which included stellar versions of the title tracks Blak And Blu CD (Warner Brothers, 2012), and the Bright Lights EP (Warner Brothers, 2011).

Highlights from the Le Plur stage on the first day include an afternoon set by New Orleans' own Force Feed Radio, aka Bryan Normand and Patrick Bowden, known for blending their love of bass-heavy electronic music through mix tapes and all-night dance parties. Die Antwoord (Afrikaans for "The Answer"), the South African rap-rave group of Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er, thrilled the early evening crowd with "Enter the Ninja." Kaskade, aka Ryan Raddon, the Chicago native who was recently hailed by the New York Times as the "new face of electronic dance music"—despite his having worked in the genre for a decade—delivered a solid final set that showed why he has been a festival favorite and a top re-mixer for artists of Lady Gaga's and Beyonce's caliber.

With the sun having set, and the crowd grown larger as New Orleans' workforce finished its week and trekked out to City Park, Neil Young & Crazy House closed the night on the Le Ritual Stage. Though he is pushing 70 and at times looked his age, Young and Crazy Horse delivered the goods with a set that featured rarities from the '90s including the opener "Love and Only Love" and "Fuckin' Up," tracks from Psychedelic Pill (Warner Brothers, 2012) and the classics: "Needle and the Damage Done," "Cinnamon Girl," "Mr. Soul," "Hey, Hey, My My(Into The Black)" and "Like A Hurricane."

Day 2: Saturday, October 27th

Day 2 of the festival was chilly and windy. Many of the festival's attendees were wearing fleece and light jackets. The day's biggest draws were K'Naan, AWOLNATION, Silversun Pickups and Metallica (subbing for Green Day) on the Le Ritual Stage. The Preservation Hall Stage featured stellar performances by The Treme Brass Band (performing at its first Voodoo Experience without the late Uncle Lionel Batiste), Alvin Youngblood Hart, the New Orleans Nightingales with special guest Irma Thomas and MyNameIsJohnMichael. Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds, the Soul Rebels, the Features, Toots & The Maytals and Anders Osborne with Johnny Sansone & Big Chief Monk Boudreaux were the big draws on the WWOZ Stage. The SONY Stage was home to performances by Debauche, Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics and Super Heavy fame) and The Vettes. Lastly, The Le Plur stage featured The Gaslamp Killer, Etienne De Crecy and Justice.

The WWOZ Stage served as the conduit to introduce the New Orleans crowd to the nine-piece Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds (another band from New York). Featuring the unbelievable stage presence and powerhouse vocals of Arleigh Kincheloe (Sister Sparrow), the band delivered a rockin' set of neo-soul. Their one-hour set was highlighted by the horns-heavy (the band featured a trombone, an alto saxophone, a baritone saxophone, and a trumpet) songs: "Make it Rain," "Boogie Man" and "Road Trip."

On the Preservation Hall Stage, Alvin Youngblood Hart's Muscle Theory laid down a solid set of blues while on the Main Stage K'Naan was dishing out his happy modern mix of rock/pop/rap. The highlight of the set was when K'Naan rhythmically pounded on two pads while rapping "What is Hardcore." Other special moments were the performances of "Waiting Is A Drug" and the politically charged "Ode To Somalia."

The Soul Rebels lit up the WWOZ stage with high energy brass band covers of Stevie Wonder's "I Wish," Metallica's "Enter Sandman" its new song "Amazon" which was introduced with, "We just made this one up last week. We're going to debut it tonight." The band closed its set with the song "504" (they introduced it with, "If you love New Orleans, are from New Orleans...") which segued into their closing number "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)."

As early afternoon made its way to late afternoon, the Features, an indie rock outfit from Nashville, Tennessee whose sound borrows heavily from a number of influences including psychedelia, classic rock, southern rock, pop and a slight touch of Eno, graced the WWOZ Stage. The band played tracks from its independently released CDs as well as Some Kind Of Salvation (429 Records, 2009) and Wilderness, released on The Kings of Leon's Serpents & Snakes label in 2011. The band had the crowd buzzing and dancing to the swirling and rhythmic "It Won't Be Long," "The Temporary Blues," "Another One" and the set closer "Big Mamma Gonna Whip Us Good."

While the Features rocked out on the WWOZ Stage, the Preservation Hall Stage played home to the New Orleans Nightingales, a review featuring (among others) Ingrid Lucia, Kristin Diable, Holly Benson, Debbie Davis, Alexandra Scot, Banu Gibson, Jayna Morgan, Meschiya Lake, Lina Prima and Holly Bendtsen). Backed by a stellar band (led by Alex McMurray on guitar and trombonist Craig Klein of Bonerama), this showcase for female vocalists of blues, jazz and traditional songs featured amazing performances of "Ballin' The Jack" (as sung by Morgan), "Easy Rider" (with lead vocals by Gibson) and Debbie Davis' stunning "Mama Goes Where Papa Goes." Special guest Irma Thomas, resplendent in gold lame, got a chuckle out of the crowd by stating, "Until I get warm, I'm keeping on my cape...okay!" She then thrilled the crowd with superb versions of "Until Tomorrow," "Take A Look At The Girl" and "Please Don't Take My Man." As its set closer the entire group came together to sing a rousing version of "You Gotta See Mama."

One of the standouts of the day was AWOLNATION on the Le Ritual stage. The group, fronted by Aaron Bruno (formerly of Under the Influence of Giants, Hometown Hero and Insurgence), is signed to Red Bull Records in a partnership that formed after he was approached by the label in 2009 and offered use of the studio in Los Angeles. Introduced by New Orleans Hornet Anthony Davis, AWOLNATION was clearly a highly anticipated act. With the talents of Drew Stewart, who donned a Metallica shirt in honor of another of the headliners, Kenny Carkeet, David Amezcua and Hayden Scott, the band took the crowd by storm with a raucous rendition of "Megalithic Symphony" followed by hits "Guilty Filthy Soul," "Not Your Fault," "Sail" (played with a slightly slower tempo than the studio version), "Wake Up" and "Burn It Down" in its nearly 60 minute set. Bruno engaged the crowd, saying, "Party people in the back, I see you!" and then took off his gray hoodie sweatshirt to get down to business. He threw down the challenge early on, asking "Who's gonna be the first to crowd surf today?" and noting, "You VIP people, you're not really into that kind of thing, right? I dare you!" The crowd went nuts when Bruno himself decided to surf out into the crowd.

Another huge crowd favorite was the alternative rock band Silversun Pickups. Brian Aubert, Sara Negahdari, Christopher Guarlao and Joe Lester took the Le Ritual Stage to ridiculous cheers and catcalls. Hits played included "Panic Switch," "Skin Graph," "Lazy Eye," "The Royal We" and "Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)." The band's set was pleasing but overall seemed to be missing something. That something may very well have been Nikki Monninger, who was on maternity leave. Replacement bassist Negahdari was spot-on and technically strong, but the band and its alternating hard and soft instrumentation appeared to lack some chemistry and spontaneity.

Dave Stewart, formerly half of the extremely popular and talented Eurythmics with Annie Lennox, took over the SONY Stage, marking a fascinating frame in an ornately decorated suit including quotes sewn on the appendages and even a blackbird on his leg, under a red, velvet curtain billowing in the early evening breeze. In support of his The Ringmaster General CD (Surfdog, 2012), Stewart wowed the crowd with bluesy tunes while grinning through his beard and cutting a dashing figure in his dark sunglasses and black top hat. He didn't disappoint fans, harkening back to his roots and playing "Here Comes the Rain Again" as well as inviting the Soul Rebels on stage with him for a version of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)."

Metallica closed day two on the Le Ritual Stage with a flourish. Signed at the last minute as substitutes for Green Day (as Billie Joe had signed himself into rehab after his meltdown at the IHEARTRADIO Festival in Las Vegas), wowed the crowd with an extremely entertaining and electrified two-hour set. Guitarist James Hetfield had some fun with the audience as the band played the opening riff to "American Idiot" and he announced, "We're Green Day, just a little taller." The band's performance touched on all phases of its long and storied career: "Hit the Lights," "Master of Puppets," "Fade To Black," "Blackened," "All Nightmare Long" "Holier Than Thou," and "Orion," after which Hetfield said, "God bless Mr. Clifford Lee Burton" (in a nod to the late bassist Cliff Burton who wrote much of the song), "One," "Enter Sandman," "Creeping Death" and the show closers "Battery" (which Hetfield dedicated to Green Day's front man by telling the crowd, "This one's for Billie," and "Seek And Destroy."

Day 3: Sunday, October 28th

The festival closed with performances by Jack White on the Le Ritual Stage, Kid Koala on the Preservation Hall Stage, JD & the Straight Shot (whose leader James Dolan owns the Newsday daily newspaper in Long Island, the NBA's New York Knicks, the NHL's New York Rangers, the WNBA's New York Liberty, Cablevision Systems, AMC Network, IFC, Sundance Channel, WEtv, MSG Network, Madison Square Garden and controls New York's Radio City Music Hall and Beacon Theatre) on the WWOZ Stage, the New Orleans Bingo Show on The SONY Stage and Skrillex on the Le Plur Stage. The day's highlights also included: Vintage Trouble, Coheed & Cambria and Nas on the Le Ritual Stage; the Lost Bayou Ramblers with members of the GIVERS and the Preservation Hall Brass Band and the Preservation Hall Brass Band on the Preservation Hall Stage; Dash Rip Rock, Sex Dog, the Models, Marcia Ball and Lil Band o' Gold on the WWOZ Stage; Royal Teeth, Black Box Revolution and Tomahawk on the SONY Stage and DallasK, Modestep and Borgore on the Le Plur Stage.

Sexdog, a local New Orleans punk band fired up the WWOZ Stage as though it was 1980. Sexdog played all of the local clubs back in the heyday of punk and later new wave (Jimmy's Music Club, Jed's and many others). Known at the time for its stirring and balls-to-the-wall performances, original members Dave Landry (drums), Oley Sassone (guitar/vocals), Rick Wigginton (vocals), and guitarist Cranston Clements along with Hunter Burgamy, a music student at NOCCA, who joined the pack as bassist, has picked up 30 years later where they left off. Its incendiary 45-minute set included "I'm In Love With The Girl Who's In Love With My Wife," and "Goodbye Nagasaki" from its self-titled disc (Tycrannaus Records, 2012) as well as many others including "You Can't Buy Me" which Wigginton dedicated to Mitt Romney.

Los Angeles band Vintage Trouble has been making quite a name for itself. The band has previously toured with Lenny Kravitz, Brain May of Queen and The Cranberries, and was recently handpicked by the Who to be their main support on their 2012-13 Tour. The quartet gathered near the drum kit decked out in retro cool suits and greeted each other with formal handshakes—harkening back to an earlier time when gentlemen were gentlemen. When the neo-soul group hit the Le Ritual Stage there were but a few fans in the audience. That quickly changed as the band dove right in and wasted no time in making a statement that it was there to rock the crowd. Lead singer Ty Taylor oozed charisma and his vocal style, swagger and stage presence brought to mind James Brown, Otis Redding, Roger Daltrey and a cooler version of Michael Jackson, while he and the band performed songs from The Bomb Shelter Sessions (Vintage Trouble Records, 2011). Taylor spun like a top and danced throughout the entire set, which was punctuated by "Nobody Told Me" and "Nancy Lee." In a slate grey suit with burgundy accents, showing off his distinguished sideburns, Taylor twirled his microphone (ala Roger Daltrey) as Nalle Colt rocked out on guitar, Rick Barrio Dill thumped the bass and Richard Danielson—a throwback to an earlier time—pounded the drums. Sure to have converted new fans to "Troublemakers" (as their followers are called), the set served as a call to jump on the bandwagon.

In a nod to old-time juke joint band introductions, the Models were introduced on The WWOZ Stage with an instrumental, in this case "The Peter Gunn Theme." Though not an old time blues band as some might have guessed by their chosen overture, the Models were a modern rock band who are enjoying a renaissance of sorts. The local band had made quite a ruckus on the New Orleans musical scene back in the late '70s and early '80s. A mainstay at Jimmy's Music Club (which began when the legendary Jimmy Anselmo purchased a pool hall on Willow Street in the Uptown/Riverbend area of the Crescent City, booted out the regular clientele—which mostly consisted of patients from a methadone clinic up the street—and opened a rock club), the Models moved to Hollywood in 1982 and as they announced from the stage at this performance, "promptly imploded." After a successful reunion gig in December 2011, the band was asked to appear at Voodoo. The years melted away as the band performed. In its stage banter the members of the group noted that it was "doin' it again for Voodoo...this one's for Jimmy" and "it's amazing how much better these songs sound after 30 years." Highlights included: "Trigger Boy," "Boy From New York City," "She's Got The Beat" (which was dedicated to Terri, a superfan "from back in the day") and the covers of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" and The Clash's "Brand New Cadillac."

Marcia Ball's short 30 minute set on the WWOZ Stage was long on quality. The boogie woogie keyboardist killed on "I'm Still Your Girl," "Stop, Look and Listen," "Look Before You Leap," "That's Enough of That Stuff" and "Mama's Cookin'" while the audience members danced and bopped back and forth between the stage and the open field.

Melding traditional Cajun music with rock 'n' roll, the Lost Bayou Ramblers with Tao Rodriguez-Seeger (Pete Seeger's grandson, who played a gold Les Paul) and members of GIVERS lit up the Preservation Hall Stage with an unbelievable version of the Who's "My Generation."

Prog-metal superstars, Coheed & Cambria brought its epic mythology to the Le Ritual Stage. Touring behind the Afterman: Ascension album (Everything Evil/Hundred Handed Inc., 2012), the band proceeded to provide the crowd with exactly what they expected—a show that detailed the continuing saga of The Armory Wars the science fiction narrative (authored by singer/guitarist Claudio Sanchez) that encompasses each of the group's albums, numerous comic books, and a novel co-written by Peter David. The music was big, loud and superb.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band played its namesake stage with Big Al Carson on vocals. The highlight of the bouncy and jumping set was "Goodnight Irene."

Jack White closed out the final night of the festival with a show mixing songs from all phases of his career. Backed on Le Ritual Stage by the Buzzards, his all-male band dressed in dark natty suits (he also has an all-female backing group—the Peacocks who were not called on to perform on this evening), White showed off his musical IQ with a cover of the Dick Dale Surf classic "Miserlou." He also performed the White Stripes tracks "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground," "Fell In Love With A Girl" and "Seven Nation Army" (which featured the crowd singing the song's classic riff); the Dead Weather's "I Cut Like A Buffalo," The Raconteurs' "Top Yourself" and "Steady As She Goes," as well as "Missing Pieces," "Sixteen Saltines," "Freedom At 21," "Love Interruption" (on which he was joined by Ruby Amanfu, who also sang on the studio recording) and the title track from his solo album Blunderbuss (Columbia/Third Man Records, 2012).



Photo Credit

All Photos: Christine Connallon

[Additional article contributions by Christine Connallon].


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