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The Voodoo Music + Arts Experience 2013

The Voodoo Music + Arts Experience 2013
Mike Perciaccante By

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The Voodoo Music + Arts Experience 2013
City Park
New Orleans, LA
November 1-3, 2013

The 15th Voodoo Music + Arts Experience was the first to be held on New Orleans' City Park's new festival grounds. The new space brought some new challenges. There were no benches on the festival grounds and minimal shade—a departure from previous years. The new layout featured fewer stages and as a result, fewer acts. Longtime festival attendees had trouble finding some of their favorite vendors (including the general store which was placed far off the beaten path). The vendors, stages and carnival rides all seemed to be placed closer together than in the past in the "old" festival ground area. Sound bled from one stage to another—the Le Plur (EDM) stage was the chief culprit, often drowning out the music from the other stages. Confusion reigned supreme regarding the simplest things—scanning the electronic wristbands that served as multi-day tickets (new to this year's festival), purchasing of single day tickets, parking, locating the Loa Lounge and press areas, and most importantly, finding the new festival grounds. In short, this "new" Voodoo Fest experienced quite a lot of growing pains.

That being said the festival, as always, featured national headlining acts (Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails and the Cure), as well as well known locals such as Royal Teeth, Glen David Andrews and the inimitable Dr. John. In addition, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Calvin Harris, Paramore, Bassnectar, Matt & Kim, the Gaslight Anthem, Alkaline Trio and Kid Rock were some of the bigger name acts that also received top billing. Many of these acts are household names. Most of the others are recognizable to many or, at the very least, familiar enough that their names are known to even the passing music fan. Each delivered a stellar and epic set that left its fans clamoring for more.

But it is another aspect of the three day event—the unexpected Voodoo that makes the festival a must see. This year artists such as Shovels And Rope, Moon Taxi, the Breton Sound, Billy Squier, ZZ Ward, Big Gigantic, Quintron & Miss Pussycat, Electric Sons, Youngblood Hawke, Beats Antique, John Michael Rouchell, LP, Ruby Amanfu, Sports & Leisure, Robert Delong, CC Adcock and The Lafayette Marquis, Fleur Debris and Revivalists delivered amazing and engaging performances during the three-day extravaganza.

Friday, November 1

The unquestioned highlight of Day 1 was Pearl Jam. Their headlining set was crisp, tight, energetic and fantastic! The songs—chosen by former New Orleans Saint and Pearl Jam friend Steve Gleason (who is battling ALS, aka Lou Gehrig's disease)—were an amazingly thoughtful mix of the band's classics and its best and strongest new material. When Gleason, in his wheelchair and with the help of a voice synthesizer, introduced the band, the crowd cheered enthusiastically. It was evident that the applause, whistles, support and adulation was directed just as much toward the brave Gleason as it was toward the band.

Once the cheering died down Pearl Jam got to work, opening with "Sirens" from the band's 2013 release Lightning Bolt (Monkeywrench/Republic Records). Frontman Eddie Vedder's charisma, showmanship and unparalleled voice filled the area around the Ritual Stage. Vedder's compassion toward his friend Gleason was quite evident. He wore a "Team Gleason" wristband during the performance and dedicated the song "Inside Job" to Gleason.

The performance was special. The inspired set list included an audience sing-a-long version of "Jeremy," "Corduroy," "Daughter," "Save You," "Even Flow," "Given to Fly" and many more. Lightning Bolt was further represented by the title track, "Getaway" and the punky "Mind Your Manners."

Vedder and company pulled out all the stops. The first encore was the Mother Love Bone composition "Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns." It was followed by "Do the Evolution," "Go," "Black," "Alive," and an out-of-this-world version of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World." At the end of the show, guitarist Mike McCready, sporting a "Team Gleason" t-shirt, performed a personal solo during "Yellow Ledbetter" for the fallen player (who was watching the show from the wings). When the solo ended and McCready hugged Gleason, there wasn't a dry eye in the audience.

Unfortunately for Glen David Andrews, he was slated to appear on the Flambeau/WWL Stage situated next to the Ritual Stage at the same time as Pearl Jam. While, the Ritual stage was overflowing with revelers, the Flambeau Stage was home to a much smaller audience. Nonetheless, Andrews, ever the trouper, still delivered a stunning set for the faithful.

Andrews is a riveting performer. Even though Pearl Jam was on at the same time, his five piece band's performance caused many a Voodoo fan to migrate toward the Flambeau stage for his infectious gumbo of gospel, jazz, pop, funk and rock.

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.

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