The Voodoo Experience: New Orleans, USA, October 28-30, 2011

The Voodoo Experience: New Orleans, USA, October 28-30, 2011
Mike Perciaccante By

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The Voodoo Experience
City Park
New Orleans, LA
October 28-30, 2011
Halloween in New Orleans can only mean one thing. Voodoo...a three day music festival, highlighted by a blending of high profile national and local musical acts representing many different genres. It also features food, amusement park rides, interactive art installations—including The Kinetic Voodoo Fountain, The Cone, and The Heron—corporate giveaways located within tents sponsored by Toyota and Garnier, retail therapy in the form of official festival merchandise, and band and artist merchandise, as well as local vendors. As always, the festival offers performances by a number of current chart-toppers, musical legends, emerging acts, and local heroes.
As in past years, The Voodoo Stage was home to the festival's headliners. From this stage, music devotees were treated to performances by Soundgarden, My Chemical Romance, Snoop Dogg, Boots Electric, Blink-182, Social Distortion, The Limousines, Band Of Horses, Odd Future, TV On The Radio, Mastodon, Mates of State, and a reunion of Jack White and The Raconteurs.
Band of Horses

In previous years, off to the side of the main festival stages fans could find less visible acts plying their trade on the WWOZ Stage, the Preservation Hall Stage and the Bingo! Parlour Stage. This year, these stages remained off to the side; however, with the elimination of the SONY Make.Believe Stage, they were populated by a mixture of well-known, extremely visible legends and up-and-comers. The incredibly large pool of talent that graced these stages included: Bonerama (featuring Dave Malone of The Radiators), The Static Jacks, The Wombats, Ray Davies (of The Kinks), Peelander Z, Fitz & The Tantrums, Ani DiFranco (with Ivan Neville), Fishbone, Gordon Gano (of the Violent Femmes), The Treme Brass Band, Ozomatli, Cheap Trick, The Soul Rebels Brass Band (with Cyril Neville), Glen David Andrews, The Sheepdogs (winners of Rolling Stone's "Choose The Cover" competition), Givers, Bobby Rush, Dr. John and The Lower 911 (with special guests Irma Thomas, Cyril Neville and Walter Washington) an amazing reunion performance by the original Meters and Portugal, The Man. Each of these bands plied their trade to dancing, screaming, smiling and enthusiastic fans.

A fourth stage, Le Plur, played host to dance/electronic and DJ sets from an eclectic group of artists. Fatboy Slim, Girl Talk, Mike Relm, The Bangerz, Daedelus, DJ Swamp, A-Trak and Jackmaster all got the crowd dancing to the electronic beats..

With the demise of the SONY Make.Believe Stage, festival promoter Stephen Rehage filled the space with amusement park rides: a Ferris Wheel, The Orbiter, The Yo Yo, a Tilt-A-Whirl, Blades of Fire and a few others that would make a carnival jealous. The kiddie playground area known as Vooboo had a sandbox, a Haunted House, a face painting and crafting tent, smaller rides and a massage tent for the overtaxed parents.

In addition to the acts appearing on stage, a marching band—the Noisican Coalition—gave numerous performances while roaming the grounds each day, providing the attendees with a New Orleans-influenced second line played on homemade instruments, modified horns, household objects, self-made percussive instruments and drums. The funky ensemble was a treat that caused festival veterans and newbees alike to stop, take notice and snap pictures. Gawkers were also drawn to the fire-breathing The Bull & The Beat Bot that second lined up and down the festival area's paved roads to a funky techno beat.

Chapter Index
  1. Day 1: Friday, October 28
  2. Day 2: Saturday, October 29
  3. Day 3: Sunday, October 30

Day 1: Friday, October 28th

The first day of the festival got off to a rousing start with Natalie Mae & Her Unturned Tricks. The Michigan-born singer/songwriter woke-up the Preservation Hall Stage crowd with her unique blend of bluegrass-infused folk music. Mae then joined the Mississippi Rail Company on the WWOZ Stage, where the highlight of their bluesy set was a rousing version of Muddy Waters' "Got My Mojo Working."

The Static Jacks, whose debut album, If You're Young (2011) was released on Fearless Records in August, arrived at precisely 12:45 and proceeded to tear the roof of the small Bingo! Parlour Stage. The New Jersey band's sound is very reminiscent of early '80s New Wave, with a garage band aesthetic. The set was highlighted by "a medley of songs from our home state," which included "Born To Run." At the end, lead singer Ian Devaney Exclaimed, "Wish we had rehearsed that. We said we were going to do it and we did—'nuff said."

Other highlights from the first day included The Wombats on The Bingo Stage. According to the band, and members of the Static Jacks (with whom they were touring), after spending the past few nights on Bourbon Street and at One Eyed Jacks just off Bourbon Street they were drunker than they had been in years. The British boys played an electric set, their banter engaging, though rambling. "I Like Girls" was introduced as being "off of our new long playing record. It's available in most better record stores and a lot of shittier ones. It's also available on most illegal download sites."

The Preservation Hall Stage was alive with energy when Honey Island Swamp gave the crowd a taste of local flavor. The group's short set of funky blues, southern rock, jazz, and swamp pop was one of the most exciting shows at the festival. As the Swamp Band rocked the festival, its eclectic gumbo, blending many genres, caught the attention of passersby as well as hardcore fans.

Punk group Peelander Z was up next on The Bingo Stage, with an Intense set that began with a bang as bassist Peelander Red crowd surfed as he played. The band is known for its crazy personas and even zanier stage antics and hard almost-punk rock. The set was so raw, so rocking and so reminiscent of early punk and new wave that the audience members would not have been surprised had the Japanese group covered The Sex Pistols' "Anarchy In the U.K."; it would have fit in nicely.

Toward the end of Peelander Z's set, Mates of State took the main stage. Husband and wife duo Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel performed a great set of harmonious pop songs from their extensive canon, as well "Palomino" from Mountaintops (Barsuk, 2011).

As afternoon gave way to early evening, Band of Horses on the Voodoo Stage and Fitz & The Tantrums also delivered excellent sets. Band of Horses' tight set was fueled by "Cigarettes," "Wedding Bands," "No One's Gonna Love You," "The Funeral," "The General" and "Is There A Ghost." Fitz & The Tantrums were absolutely amazing. This young, Los Angeles-based pop/soul band is on the verge of superstardom. Its hour long set relied heavily on songs from Pickin' Up The Pieces (Dangerbird, 2010), delivering the goods on "L.O.V.," the new "Wake Up," covers of The Eurythmics and Raconteurs hits ("Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of These)" and "Steady As She Goes"), and "Moneygrabber." The smoking hot, high energy set did a lot to warm up the cold crowd—as the evening set in, City Park got progressively chilly with the occasional spritz of rain.

The evening ended with two of the festival's biggest acts gracing the Voodoo Stage. My Chemical Romance appeared onstage dressed for Halloween, decked out in a Medieval/fantasy theme with costumes as knights, wizards and elves. The Voodoo Experience was the last stop of the group's tour and it went out on a high note, with front man Gerald Way (who had died his shocking red locks black) toying with the audience by licking his fingers and blowing kisses into the crowd. The high octane set included dazzling versions of "Give 'Em Hell, Kid," "Teenagers," "Mama," "Famous Last Words," "Destroya," "S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W" and "Welcome to the Black Parade."

My Chemical Romance

My Chemical Romance was followed by Soundgarden. By the time Soundgarden went on many in the crowd were chilled to the bone. City Park is located right off Bayou St. John and has other bodies of water nearby. With the winds gusting and the temperature dropping, the air was not only crisp but damp. As the crowd huddled together the band overcame the initial speed bump created by muddled sound for the first few minutes of its set by following it with two hours of heavy, psych-infused rock 'n' roll . The Seattle grunge outfit reached back into its catalogue for "Spoonman," "Black Hole Sun," "Fell on Black Days," "Loud Love," "The Day I Tried To Live" and "Outshined," closing with the double-fisted encores of "Beyond the Wheel" and "Slaves and Bulldozers," leaving audience, hoarse from cheering, completely drained but satiated.

Day 2: Saturday, October 29

A warmer and sunnier second day was highlighted by The Soul Rebels Brass Band, with Cyril Neville's and Ozomatli's appearances on the WWOZ Stage, X playing its classic Los Angeles (Slash Records, 1980) on the Bingo! Parlour Stage. The Treme Brass Band and Gordon Gano (of The Violent Femmes & The Lost Bayou Ramblers) graced the Preservation Hall Stage with amazing shows. Attended by a huge crowd, Girls Talk's performance on the Le Plur stage included an amazing mix of songs, with snippets of "The Monster Mash" and "Pumped Up Kicks," while on the big stage, Boots Electric, Mastodon, Social Distortion, Snoop Dogg and Blink-182 set the festival on fire.

The Soul Rebels' set included a musical gumbo melding a myriad of genres, delivering brassed-up versions of many different hits from a variety of artists and genres. Thr set was punctuated by a stand-out performances of "Turn It Up," The Eurythmics "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of These)," and Stevie Wonder's "Living For The City."

The crowd at the Preservation Hall Stage slowly gathered as The Treme Brass Band with Uncle Lionel Batiste gave a top-notch performance, as always. As with past Voodoo performances, the band remained stationary. Also, as in past years, there were some uninitiated spectators (most likely viewers of HBO's Treme television series) who expected the band to march. A small piece of New Orleans history and tradition, The Treme Brass Band never disappoints; its set was astonishing—loud, bombastic, contemporary, classic jazzy, funky and, above all else, superb.

Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom, John Doe and DJ Bonebreak turned back the clock as X, rocking hard, as the audience at Bingo! Parlour Stage was treated to a show that had many wondering if there would be a full-fledged reunion tour and album.

Eagles of Death Metal front man Jesse Hughes led his side project, Boots Electric onto the main stage in the mind afternoon and proceeded to treat the audience to a wonderfully out there and eccentric performance. Featuring new songs from the band's debut, Honkey Kong (Dangerbird, 2011), as well as some choice covers of songs originally done by his original band, Hughes appeared, at different times, to adopt the personas of revivalist preacher, southern rocker and garage rocker. Regardless of which persona was in charge, the performance was riveting.

Gordon Gano and The Lost Bayou Ramblers was much more a Lost Bayou Ramblers set. The band played many of its songs, with Gano on fiddle. Toward the end of the performance the musicians played classic songs from the Violent Femmes catalogue, the unabashed highlight of the performance an amazing set-closing version of the Violent Femmes' biggest hit, the modern rock anthem "Blister In the Sun."

Voodoo is famous for featuring acts from all musical genres. Mastodon's set on the main stage will undoubtedly gain the group new fans. While its riff-heavy set was, by Mastodon standards, a bit subdued, it provided the crowd an opportunity to hear the band's lyrics and see its musicianship. The Atlanta-based alternative metal outfit played songs from its The Hunter (Reprise, 2011), as well as a nice smattering of both old and new songs. While some of the bombast may have been lost, the energy was there and the crowd responded by getting as close to the stage as possible.

In early 2011, Social Distortion released Hard Times and Nursery Crimes (Epitath), a wonderful return to form, and the band began to tour. By the time it reached Voodoo, the band was a well-oiled machine and was riding high. Beginning its swagger-filled set by roaring through a rocking and rolling version of "Bad Luck," with guitars blaring and a slamming backbeat, Mike Ness and his band played hits and new songs, including "So Far Away," "Story Of My Life," "Bakersfield," "Machine Guns Blues," "Six More Miles," its trademark hard-rocking, breakneck, cow-punk version of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," and the song rumored to be Ness' favorite, "Gimme The Sweet And Lowdown."

Hip Hop/rap superstar Snoop Dog's love for New Orleans was evident by his appearing onstage wearing a Saints football jersey (wide receiver Marques Colston's number 12 to be exact). Clearly in a good mood, Snoop told the crowd of his love for New Orleans, gave a shout-out to the guys in the crowd dressed as Krusty The Clown and Spongebob. He and his posse of rappers, dancers and musicians performed a mix of old and new material that had the audience dancing, bopping and joining in as he functioned as both star attraction and cruise director. The highlight of Snoop's set was the closing medley of "Jump Around," "Drop It Like It's Hot" and "Who Am I (What's My Name)."

A newly reformed Blink-182 closed out the second day with a bang. Blink's Mark Hoppus, Travis Barker and Tom DeLonge opened a dynamic set with an electrifying version of "Up All Night," and continued to gain momentum as "Feeling This," "Down," I Miss You," "Stay Together For The Kids," the anthem "What's My Age Again?," "The Rock Show," "Man Overboard," "Ghost On The Dancefloor" made their appearances. The crowd was whipped into a frenzy when the song that the casual fans came for and stayed around to hear—"All The Small Things"—was played. Blink-182 also debuted a new song, "Wishing Well," announcing that, "We've never played this next song before; why don't we do it in front of thousands of people."



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