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The Voodoo Music + Arts Experience 2013

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Earlier in the day, the Carnival Stage was home to one of the most interesting up-and-coming groups to hit the national scene in years. For the uninitiated, Los Angeles quintet Youngblood Hawke's uplifting, fun version of indie pop/rock cannot help but make the listener smile. The group's first single, "We Come Running," has gotten airplay everywhere—on satellite and terrestrial radio (on Rock, Top 40 and Alternative formatted stations), on Pandora and on Spotify. As its performance continued, the poppy, happy, trippy swirling rhythms of its music brought more and more fans toward the Carnival Stage. Highlights included "Stars" and, of course, "We Come Running," which was introduced by Sam Martin. Simon Katz announced, "Can you guys help us sing one. Even if you don't know the words, act like you do!" This is a band from which great things are predicted.

The Electric Sons, an Atlanta electronic/alternative band, brought the fans to their feet in the early hours of the opening day of the festival, taking the Le Plur Stage at 1:30 p.m. Thanks to Red Bull Sound Select, the duo of guitarist/vocalist Andrew Miller and keyboardist/vocalist Ben Richard were on a handful of Fall tour dates, including this stop in New Orleans. Formed in 2011 when Miller left his job as an illustrator for FX Network series "Archer" and teamed up with Richards, an advertising graduate of Savannah College of Arts and Design, it has been taking the country by storm and developing a loyal fan base along the way. New material like "Breathing Electricity" and "Keep Young and Carry On" was met with cheers, as was the group's Facebook contest that the duo announced on stage that they would be giving away some swag to a lucky follower. Miller's and Richard's easy rapport with the crowd and innate musical talents will take them on a long path with many future festivals to be played.

The Purrs is a Seattle-based psychedelic indie rock band that hit the Ritual Stage mid-afternoon. The four piece band is no stranger to the festival circuit. In the past decade, it has played CMJ, Bumbershoot and MidPoint festivals as well as had a song featured in HBO's Californication and national tours. It earned its spot on the main stage and was received in spectacular fashion. With Jima on vocals and bass, Liz Herrin on guitar, Craig Keller on drums and Jason Milne on guitar, the crowd grooved to "Tearing Down Paisley Garden" and more hits in the solid 60-minute set.

ZZ Ward is a force to be reckoned with. Her jaw-dropping mix of blues, rock and pop, with a touch of hip-hop, had the crowd at the Flambeau Stage in awe. Touring behind her sophomore release Til The Casket Drops (Hollywood Records, 2012), Ward delivered a fierce set replete with beats, blues and rhythm. Despite a ton of bleed from the competing stages, the festival crowd gravitated toward Ward's performance. Once the music on the Ritual stage ended, Ward became the absolute focal point of the afternoon. The audience was buzzing over her stellar playing and showmanship. She's going to be a star.

John Michael Rouchell played the Flambeau Stage later in the afternoon. During previous Voodoo Experience performances, he was billed as MyNameIsJohnMichael. Regardless of whatever name he and his band are booked under, Rouchell can play. With his erudite lyrics and funky rhythms, Rouchell never ceases to deliver and amaze. The New Orleans-based musician delivered a rocking high-energy set of songs that got the crowd dancing and smiling.

Shovels and Rope are an alt-country husband and wife twosome. The duo's music is a rowdy, raw and rocking version of Americana—blues, country, folk and southern rock, and they are a visual force. Shovels and Rope's set leaned heavily on its O Be Joyful CD (Dualtone, 2012) along with a few (as of this writing) yet-to be-released songs. Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent also have a knack for choosing covers. The versions of Wreckless Eric's "(I'd Go the) Whole Wide World" and Bruce Springsteen's "Johnny 99" made anyone within hearing distance take notice. The energy of its live performance makes Shovels and Rope a must see.

With the demise of the Preservation Hall Stage, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band was upgraded to the main stage for the 2013 Voodoo Experience. The very cool stage set-up—with a huge light-up sign directly behind the band during the show, along with women of Fleur De Tease dancing on stage as the band performed—made this performance one of the festival's most visually impressive. Highlights included: "Short Dress," "Rattling Bones" and "When The Saints Go Marching In." After the band wrapped up its performance at Voodoo, it returned back to Preservation Hall for two special midnight performances, which were called "Deja Voodoo." The first on Friday featured Shovels & Rope. The second, on Sunday, featured Beats Antique and sported a crowd of VIPs that included the members of the Cure.

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