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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, 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.


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