The Voodoo Music + Arts Experience 2013
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 shadea 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 anotherthe Le Plur (EDM) stage was the chief culprit, often drowning out the music from the other stages. Confusion reigned supreme regarding the simplest thingsscanning 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 eventthe 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 songschosen 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 everywhereon 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 Americanablues, 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-upwith 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 performedmade 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.
Seattle duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis held the penultimate spot on the Ritual Stage on Friday. They did not disappoint. Fans were thrilled because the band delivered exactly what was expected, a set of tight hip-hop. New Orleanians were also satiated when local hero Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews joined the group on stage for "Can't Hold Us." Saturday, November 2
Saturday's headliner, Nine Inch Nails, and its front man Trent Reznor, are no strangers to either New Orleans or the Voodoo Experience. Reznor lived in New Orleans during the 1990s and early 2000s. He lived in the Garden District and built a recording studio on Magazine Street. After Hurricane Katrina, Reznor and Nine Inch Nails played the scaled down one-day version of Voodoo held near Audubon Zoo. In 2008, Reznor brought Nine Inch Nails to New Orleans to perform at the 10th Ritual. If Reznor's love for New Orleans wasn't obvious prior to this performance, he left nothing to the imagination when, during the band's set he announced, "I've experienced some difficult times in this city. I also found salvation in this city. New Orleans is my favorite city in the world."
Reznor's and Nine Inch Nails' performance at the 2013 festival was nothing short of stunning. A visually striking lightshow featuring depth-producing overheads and strobes in the background made the black-clad musicians stand out almost as much as the band's performance. Touring behind the Hesitation Marks
release (Columbia Records, 2013), Nine Inch Nails delivered a two-and-one-half hour tour de force performance touching on every facet of the group's career (though about one-third of the performance was devoted to new songs).
Interestingly, Reznor and his cohorts played some of the hits in a slightly different manner. Though easily recognizable, these songs were given a slightly electro-funk and/or glam touch in their arrangements. Highlights of the main set included the opening number "Copy of A" (from Hesitation Marks
, which called to mind Depeche Mode), "1,000,000" from The Slip
(The Null Corporation, 2008), "Terrible Lie" and Sanctified" from Pretty Hate Machine
(TVT Records, 1989) "March of The Pigs" and "Piggy" from The Downward Spiral
(TVT/Nothing/Interscope Records, 1994), "Only" and "The Hand That Feeds" from With Teeth
(Interscope Records, 2005), "The Frail" and "The Wretched" from The Fragile
(Nothing Records, 1999) "Wish" from Broken
(TVT/Nothing/Interscope Records, 1992) and the cover of David Bowie's "I'm Afraid Of Americans."
As one would expect, the main set ended with an amazing version of "Head Like A Hole" and the crowd went wild. With the crowd still buzzing from the closing number, Reznor and his band (which featured bassist Pino Robin Finck on guitar, multi-instrumentalist Joshua Eustis, Ilan Rubin on drums and backing vocalists Lisa Fischer and Charlotte Gibson) delivered an encore set of: "Reptile" (from The Downward Spiral
) "Even Deeper," "In This Twilight" from Year Zero
(Interscope Records, 2007), "While I'm Still Here" and "Black Noise" (from Hesitation Marks
) and "Hurt." As always the simple, desperate, deeply intense, plaintive and emotional "Hurt" left the audience stunned until the explosion of noise and distortion signified the end of the evening.
Prior to Nine Inch Nails, Paramore's Hayley Williams used the Voodoo stage to announce once and for all that she is a force to be reckoned with. The woman is an electrifying performersome might even call her a rock goddess. She owned the Ritual Stage. Williams and her band definitely gained fans with the rocking high-energy show. If anyone in the audience wasn't sure what they were seeing, Williams, with her bright orange hair, skin-tight leather pants, belly shirt and black strip of make-up across her eyes, provided constant confirmation by announcing, "We are Paramore!" She also referred to the audience members who were seeing Paramore for the first time as "fresh meat."
Throughout the performance, Williams displayed unbridled energyskipping, bopping, bouncing, strutting and bopping across the Ritual Stage. She also showed that she can work a crowd. Her performance and the band's songs were infectious. Many members of the audience, who had gotten to the stage early in an effort to stake out a good spot to see Nine Inch Nails, were observed bopping and singing along with Williams. Highlights of the Tennessee-based band's set included: "Pressure," "Still Into You," the funky "It Ain't Fun," "Last Hope," "That's What You Get," "Fast In My Car" and the change-of-pace ballad, "The One Exception."
At the end of the performance, an obviously elated Williams smiled and triumphantly stated, "You came to see Nine Inch Nailsbut for the last hour, you've been at a Paramore show!" It may well serve as the calling card that opens the door to superstardom.
North Carolina's Delta Rae played quite early in the day on one of the smaller stages (the WWOZ Bud Light tent) at the 2012 Voodoo Experience. What a difference a year makes. This year, the band graduated to the main Ritual Stage. Signed to Sire Records by the label's co-founder Seymour Stein (whose pedigree includes guiding the careers of the Ramones, Talking Heads, the Pretenders, Madonna
, and the Smiths), Delta Rae is a band to watch during 2014. The six-member band's mix of blues, country, gospel and southern pop-rock is compelling and invigorating. The band's set included excellent versions of "Burning In Carolina," "The Morning Comes," "Bottom of The River," "Unlike Any Other" and the surprising but wonderful cover of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain."
Indie darlings, Cults (comprised of Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion) took the Ritual Stage on Saturday afternoon. No longer a couple, their new CD Static
(Columbia Records, 2013) was written after and inspired by the demise of the duo's relationship. Dressed all in black, as if to appropriately mourn their lost love, Follin was a gothic-clad powerhouse. Not ones to participate in much stage movement or jumping around, the group's use of spliced colorful video gave the performance the right feel and helped Follin and Oblivion command the big stage.
New Orleans-based the Breton Sound play alternative rock the way it was originally intended. Its music is vibrant and has a joy that is almost punky. "Alternative" is the current "name" given to this particular rock genre. That just doesn't do the musical form justice. Alternative rock is good old fashioned rock 'n' roll. It's not '50s rock, it's not '60s rock, it's certainly not the rock of the '70s, it's not '80s rock, but it is an amalgamation of the rock form those eras. Some might call it garage band music. Regardless of the label applied, it's happy, driving and fun. That's the type of music that the Breton Sound plays. Its performance on the Flambeau Stage was nothing short of amazing. Featuring Stephen Turner on lead guitar, Brian Pretus on rhythm guitar, and John Bourgeois on drums, the set's highlights included "Standing On The Edge of The World" from Maps (Independent, 2013), a new song called "Walking Backwards" and the cover of The Rolling Stones "Sympathy For The Devil" which segued into "Iko, Iko."
Just before 6:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, the Gaslight Anthem appeared on the Ritual Stage. The New Jersey rockers delivered a strong set of straightforward, high energy rock 'n' roll. Bruce Springsteen is a fan and has joined the band onstage on more than one occasion. With the kind of talent evidenced by the star-power of its celebrity fan, it's no wonder that the group went from the independent Side One Dummy label (the label that released the band's breakthrough 2008 The '59 Sound
to Mercury Records (the label that released 2012's Handwritten
LP's intimate and acoustic performance at the Toyota Soundwave Tent was highlighted by "Into The Wild" with its "somebody left the gate open" lyric (instantly recognizable due to the national exposure in the Citibank commercial). The Los Angeles-based, Brooklyn-born singer/songwriter has been described as part Joan Jett, part Feist, part Patti Smith. The medium sized tent was filled shoulder to shoulder with dancing fans enjoying her intimate set.
Ruby Amanfu has a big voice. She's another up-an-coming artist who is sure to make a bigger splash in the next year or so. Amanfu, a Nashville-based singer/songwriter, caused quite a few revelers to stop and take notice as she performed on the Flambeau stage in the early evening. Her set of rootsy tales of love, heartbreak and woe simmered and burned. Her set was highlighted by: "When My Man Comes Home," "Love Out Loud," "Bluff" and "Unbreakable." The amazing cover of the Rodriguez (of Searching For Sugarman
fame) song "I Wonder" was a welcome surprise.
Billy Squier closed out the night on the Flambeau stage solo with only his electric guitar. Casually stating "we have a lot of competition over there (from the EDM stage), so let's make some noise," Squire delivered a fantastic set of his hits. His sense of humor shined through when he mentioned that he missed "the day of the LP and the artwork on the album; you don't get shit like that from an iTunes download," and again when he told the sound man to "turn it up" as he performed "Lonely Is The Night," She's A Runner," "Learn How to Live," "Everybody Wants You" and "Too Daze Gone." When he introduced "The Pursuit of Happiness" from 1998's Happy Blue
(J-Bird Records), he said, "Back in the late '90s, I was pretty disenchanted by how the music business was going." He could have easily been talking about the sound bleed from the competing stages. And what would a Billy Squier performance be without his biggest hit? Of course, Squier played "The Stroke." On this evening the performance of the song featured The Stooges Brass Band. "The Stroke" was sampled by Eminem, on "Berzerk" and Squire joked that "My buddy Eminem couldn't be here tonight, he's actually up in my town, doing another show (Eminem was in New York appearing on NBC's "Saturday Night Live") so we thought we'd do something more geographically appropriate."
Royal Teeth was another band whose performance in the intimate Toyota Soundwave tent was filled to the brim with dancing fans enjoying the semi-acoustic set. When he introduced songs from Wild
(Dangerbird, 2013), Gary Larsen announced to the appreciative crowd that the band was planning on doing something a bit different. He said, "We're gonna strip it down a little bit, so it's a bit smoother. This is a song called 'Stick.'" Later in the set when he introduced the song that has gained the band the most notoriety (it's been featured in two TV commercials), he stated, "I think you may have heard this one here and there. It's called 'Wild'" Larson, Nora Patterson and the rest of the New Orleans-based indie-pop band's brand of buoyant, danceable rock had the crowd transfixed and singing along throughout its short set. Sunday, November 2
Sunday's headliner and festival closer, the Cure, has been making happy music with sad lyrics since the '80s. Robert Smith and his band sounded amazing.
As the calendar has continued turning pages since the Cure burst on the scene in 1979, Robert Smith's dark spikey black hair that appeared to have been styled by General Electric has receded a bit and lost some of its dark sheen. On this Halloween weekend, Smith, dressed all in black, eyes smudged with dark eyeliner and his red lipstick, was the perfect specter of and quite possibly the last vestige of '80s alternative Goth rock. Not only did he sound the part, he looked it.
The Cure's two-hour set featured many of the classic hits that fans clamor for, such as "Just Like Heaven," "Fascination Street," "Shake Dog Shake," "Friday I'm In Love," "Lovesong," "Pictures of You," "Hot Hot Hot!!!" and "In Between Days" as well as deeper tracks like "Burn" from The Crow: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
(Atlantic Records, 1994)the crowd shrieked with joy and utter elation when, after Smith announced, "we've never done this one before," the opening notes drifted across the field near the Ritual Stage.
As the night wore on, Smith (an underrated guitarist) and Reeves Gabrels (the Cure's touring guitarist) traded tasty, psychedelic-tinged licks back and forth while the bassist Simon Gallup, keyboardist Roger O'Donnell and drummer Jason Cooper supplied the backbeat. The band's blend of moody, atmospheric, well-crafted and infectious rock sounds as fresh in 2013 as it did in the '80s, '90s and '00s. The audience obviously agreed, greeting each song with thunderous applause, while offering whistles and the occasional cat-call of, "We love you, Robert!" when a song ended.
After plowing through twenty-three songs, the main set ended with "Give Me It" and the band left the stagebut not for long. The night ended with a high-energy five-song encore mini-set could have been marketed as a live "greatest hits" EP. The encore featured: "Why Can't I Be You?," "Close To Me," "Let's Go to Bed," "The Lovecats" and "Boys Don't Cry."
Facebook was awash with gushing posts about the Cure both before and after the show. For many of those in attendance, it was their dream concert. For those who didn't get to see it, it should be noted that the Cure is still a top-notch must-see rock 'n' roll band.
Opposite the Cure on the Flambeau Stage, Dr. John
was on fire. His band (a virtual Who's Who of New Orleans musicians) featured Ivan Neville on keys, George Porter Jr. on bass, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux (in full Mardi Gras Indian regalia), Trumpeter Nicholas Payton
, guitarist Derwin "Big D" Perkins, Herlin Riley on drums and percussionist Alfred "Uganda" Roberts and a virtual "who's who" of local musicians. A surprise appearance was made by Smokey Johnson, who can be heard pounding the skins on numerous New Orleans R&B recordings. Johnson supplied additional backbeat while shaking a tambourine from his wheelchair on the show's closing number "It Ain't My Fault," (a song he co-wrote in 1964).
As the 2013 festival's final Flambeau Stage performer, Dr. John brought his Night Tripper persona out and it was on full display for all to see. It was like the return of an old friend ... a growling, drawling old friend who was everything that the tourists and locals love about New Orleans. He began the evening on guitar as he and the band rolled through "Gris Gris Gumbo Ya-Ya" and "Loop Garou." Moving over to his piano the good doctor played "Familiar Reality" and "Black Widow Spider."
The evening's musical atmosphere was filled with freaky, spooky, funky rhythms, hypnotic harmonies and jazz interludes. The set was highlighted by "What Goes Around (Comes Around)," the call and response interplay between Payton and Riley on a few different numbers, an amazing performance on an instrumental track and "I Walk on Gilded Splinters."
The Cure may have brought out the Goth vibe for Halloween weekend, but it was Dr. John who put the hoodoo and the voodoo in the 2013 Voodoo Experience.
Earlier in the evening, immediately prior to the Cure, Kid Rock burned through a hits-filled set on the Ritual stage. The southern-fried, countrified, Detroit-bred rap 'n' roll superstar put on quite a show. Cocky, sure of himself and with both personality and charisma to spare, the Kid's performance was one of the festival's brightest spots.
The performance included the expected blockbuster ("Bawitdaba" which closed his set), the hits ("Cowboy" and "All Summer Long") and the unexpected ("Midnight Rider," a tease of Rush's "Tom Sawyer" segueing into "Forever," a superb and heartfelt cover of Marshall Tucker's "Can't You See" as well as the sidesplitting John Eddie-penned "I'm Fuckin' 40!"a song that tells about the "pleasures" of Viagra and prostate exams and the perils of aging).
Though his music blends many genres and has been influenced by a diverse group of artists (Bob Seger, Warren Zevon, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bad Company, Jim Croce, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, David Allan Coe, Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys), it has always been filled with passion, wit and fun. On Sunday evening the crowd was treated not only to a performance of this musical gumbo of sound by Kid Rock the singer, but a performance by Kid Rock, the DJ, on which he scratched and blended tracks while smoking a huge cigar and sporting a shit-eating grin. The stellar performance was the perfect warm-up to the Cure, who followed.
While Kid Rock was setting the Ritual Stage on fire, the Carnival Stage was experiencing some technical issues. The initial sound problems couldn't break the spirits of Moon Taxi, the indie prog rock band based in Nashville, TN. Founded in 2006 while attending Belmont University, Moon Taxi is Trevor Terndrup (vocals, guitar), Tommy Putnam (bass), Spencer Thomson (guitar, programming), Tyler Ritter (drums) and Wes Bailey (keyboards). With stage lights that weren't totally conducive to actually seeing the members of the band on the Carnival Stage, as it was early evening, Moon Taxi gave an enthusiastic and solid set, including a memorable cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" as well as its own hits "Hypnus," "All the Rage," and "Mercury." If its set is any indication, these guys will be around for a good long time.
During the mid-afternoon, Robert DeLong of Seattle lit up the Le Plur Stage for over an hour. DeLong was a frenetic ball of energy who touched every instrument on the stage and commanded them all. Whether it was the drums, the first instrument he played professionally, keyboard or the microphone, DeLong owned it. Raised in Bothell, Washington, just outside of Seattle, DeLong has been successful in creating a sound using rock 'n' roll melodies in conjunction with electronic dance beats using Wii-motes and Sega Genesis controllers, laptops, keyboards and drum pads. Perspiring in the New Orleans midday sun, DeLong proclaimed that he would make the crowd "fucking dance" and he did just that.
German born, New Orleans resident Quintron took the Carnival Stage mid-afternoon with his wife, musician and puppeteer Panacea Pussycat (owner of the now defunct Pussycat Caverns in New Orleans) played maracas and sang backup. Quintron owns his own club, the Spellcaster Lodge in the 9th Ward, which sustained heavy damage in Hurricane Katrina, but reopened in 2006. Clearly one of the most eccentric acts (and mind you this was in New Orleans on Halloween weekend), Quintron and Miss Pussycat stood out with a bright backdrop with Quintron stationed behind a custom-made Hammond organ/Fender Rhodes synthesizer combo he had custom outfitted to resemble the body of a carcomplete with working headlights and a Louisiana license plate bearing his name. Colorful doesn't even begin to cover their energetic set, with the crowd whipped into a frenzy from the very start.
On Sunday afternoon, Beats Antique appeared on the le Plur Stage. Tommy Cappel's and David Satori's multi-media performance featured belly dancer Zoe Jakes and a fusion of electronic beats, jazz, funk, blues, pop, hip-hop, brass band, strings and a touch of rock 'n' roll. The show was a high-tech rocking performance art spectacle in a music festival setting. Wow!
As the afternoon turned to early evening the Flambeau Stage was home to three very diverse acts. Good things are predicted for these up-and-coming local heroes. C.C. Adcock and the Lafayette Marquis commanded the stage with its patented brand of swamp-infused, southern-fried, boogie-woogie guitar-based blues. Highlights of its set included "Meson Creole" and "Bleed 2 Feed" from the True Blood: Music From The HBO Original Series
soundtrack (Elektra Records, 2009). Fleur Debris, featuring David Torkanowsky, Nichols Payton and Will Bernard played some of the trippiest fusion jazz heard at the festival. These guys, however, are not to be thought of as one-trick ponies.
The music quickly and smoothly morphed from jazz to cool, swampy, dirty funk when George Porter, Jr. joined them on stage. Another New Orleans-based band, the Revivalists proved that the rumors that it was getting ready to sign a contract with a major label were well-deserved (a few days after the festival ended, it was announced that they had signed with Wind-up Records, home of Evanescence, Civil Twilight, Filter, The Virginmarys and O.A.R.). The band's nine-song set consisting of "Bullet Proof Vest," "Stand Up," "When I'm Able," "Keep Going, "Sunny Days," "Soulfight," "Catching Fireflies," "All In The Family" and "Criminal" brought down the house.
There were many other amazing performances at this year's festival. Allen Stone delivered a high-powered soul, gospel, pop and R&B flavored set on the Flambeau Stage on Friday evening. The son of a preacher, Stone obviously paid attention to his dad, and learned how to work a crowd. He whipped the crowd into a dancing, arm-waving frenzy of musical abandon. Stone's show also featured a magical cover of Bob Marley
's "Is This Love?" George Porter Jr.
seemed to be everywhere. In addition to his performances with Dr. John and Fleur Debris, Porter also guested Saturday, along with Alfred "Uganda" Roberts, with Leslie Blackshear Smith & Double Black. Rudimental and Big Gigantic brought actual instruments to the Le Plur Stage on Saturday. Each delivered a full musical performance rather than just a light show over EDM flavored beats. Fans still danced, but it was the musicianship that made these truly amazing performances memorable. On Sunday afternoon, Sports & Leisure, a six-piece alternative pop band from New Orleans delivered a tight and energetic set. On Sunday afternoon on the Ritual Stage, Brooklyn based duo Matt & Kimself-proclaimed "partners in music and partners in sex" put on a fantastic show. Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino's set was what a rock show should bea whole lot of fun!
In addition to bringing Pearl Jam and the Cure into its family of headlining acts, the fifteenth installment of the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience will always be known as the festival of transition. Now moved along Wisner Boulevard, on the south side of Interstate 610, the festival space has changed drastically. The paths are gonereplaced by open fields. As a result the Noisican coalition was no longer roaming the festival grounds playing and forming their own special New Orleans Second Line. In addition to the loss of the Noisicans, the fire-breathing robot and some other festival staples will forever be relegated to memories of the original space along the Roosevelt Mall.
Due to growing pains, there were some issues. In addition to the sound bleed (Nicholas Payton took to Twitter, writing that he and other members of Dr. John's band couldn't hear each other onstage because of the noise coming from the other stages. The VIP area was over-expanded and took a large portion of the viewing area away from the masses (the true fans) essentially taking up the entire right side of the audience area. This led to Eddie Vedder (who notoriously thumbs his nose at the entitled elite) calling it the "jacuzzi section or whatever the fuck that is over there." There were numerous glitches with the scanning system for the multi-day electronic wristband tickets. This was partially due to the fact that the staff at the gates appeared to be under-trained. In essence, this was a new festival with new management and a new staff. Some were downright rude. The "Merch Church" was run by a new vendor. Running out of t-shirts in a popular size less than four hours into Day 1 is not a good way to start. This was especially upsetting because during the daytime hours on the first day of the festival, the crowd was sparse.
Because of the reduction in the number of stage, it appeared that there were fewer local New Orleans and Louisiana acts on the bill this year. Many acts that in the past graced the now-deleted stages appeared to have been deleted as well. Where were John Boutte
, the Soul Rebels, Galactic
, the Treme Brass Band, Kermit Ruffins
, Paul Sanchez & the Rolling Road Show, Bonerama
, John Gros, the 101 Runners, Shamarr Allen
, Cowboy Mouth, the Pfister Sisters, the New Orleans Nightingales, Anders Osborne, any member of the Neville Brothers
, Debauche, the Lost Bayou Ramblers and so many others?
While some of the things that made Voodoo special year-in and year-out have, it appears, been lost in sand of time, some of the festival's charm remained. Though less in numbers than in past years (in part due to this year's festival immediately following Halloween), many revelers arrived at City Park dressed in Halloween costumes. Some were clever. Some were provocative. Some were elaborate. Some fit into all three categories. Some were downright confusing. There were fun and interesting art installations (though outside of the big Voodoo Head, they were harder to find). The Ferris Wheel and other carnival rides were, as always, fun. The Toyota Soundwave Tent is a brilliant way to see some of the festival's most intriguing acts in an intimate setting. And the food...it was wonderful. The main food court area (featuring local cuisine and all sorts of barbecue fare) was more than just a food court. It was created to be the center of townforming a square in the middle of the festival site. In addition, there were a few other food and drink vendors located throughout the festival grounds.
Obviously, with new management, new grounds, new configuration, fewer stages, the first festival of the new era was going to be the test drive. Now that Steven Rehage and Live Nation know what worked, what didn't and what disappointed the faithful, the opportunity is there to make changes. They're needed.
The music, however, is how a festival should be judged (mostly). And on a musical note the 15th Voodoo Music + Arts Experience was a rousing success, blending high profile national and local musical acts (current chart-toppers, musical legends, emerging acts, and local heroes) representing many different genres into a three-day festival where the fans can and did "worship the music." Photo Credit
All photos: Christine Connallon
[Additional article contributions by Christine Connallon