Voodoo Experience :: 10.30.09 - 11.01.09 :: City Park :: New Orleans, LA
City Park is an ideal natural setting, giving everything "a very beautiful and mysterious looking aesthetic," as Soul Sister put it. The city of New Orleans has a celebrated tradition of embracing all things macabre and doesn't really need an excuse like Halloween to throw a masquerade, but toss in a music festival with a bunch of freaky bands (and fans) and it's on.
The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach welcomed the early comers to Voodoo, appropriately telling us, "Strange times are here," while pouring through a Thickfreakness heavy set. Day one of Voodoo Experience was an orientation of sorts. With many patrons having spent little if any time in City Park, it took a little while to hit the proverbial stride as incessant rain further incited some improvisational re-planning. The oak-laden grove seemed unbothered by the masses of people invading the lush sanctuary, and day one was far and away the most poorly attended, but you didn't hear anyone complaining.
As the skies turned increasingly violent, it seemed like a good idea to head to the big yellow carnival tent we spotted down at the far corner of the festival grounds to check out whoever was playing, just in order to stay dry. Sure enough, within two minutes of getting inside the Bingo! Parlor, the skies opened. Local Happy Talk Band was playing inside and most people only stuck around for a few minutes until the rains subsided. Rain or shine, it was time for The Black Keys, so we high-tailed it back up to the Playstation/Billboard.com Stage to catch the Akron, Ohio blues rock duo. Once again the rains came with a vengeance. Just like it did at Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza this year, the first day of this festival turned into a mud bowl by night's end. Much of the crowd headed for cover as the duo blazed through the old favorites "Hard Row" and "Set You Free" to the scattered hardcore fans before bangin' out a few tunes from their newest effort Attack and Release. Guitarist Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney have developed a nearly unparalleled tightness over the years and manage to impress more and more on the live stage as the years go by.
The vendor street is the backbone and spinal center of the Voodoo Experience, adding some local color and the "Voodoo Eats" area was an olfactory overload of Cajun goodness beckoning the streaming crowds to come sample. Nearby local bluesman Little Freddie King was preaching about a bad women who done him no good, so we dropped in for a minute. In a 180 you could only pull off at a festival, after a few minutes singing the blues with Little Freddie, it was time to leave the Preservation Hall Tent to check out the Euro club scene ensuing at
Back at Preservation Hall DJ Soul Sister was spinning classic vinyl, heavy on the Jackson 5, as her Booty Patrol raved on. The nearby WWOZ Stage was affected the most by the rain and was operating on over a half-hour delay. Unfortunately, as a result, Ween did not go on well before Eminem as planned, and the sounds of "3 AM" beckoned us over to catch Shady's first full concert performance in over four years at the Voodoo Stage before Ween had a chance to start.
Voodoo 09 by Perrucci
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it. You better never let it go
You only get one shot. Do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime
Luckily, Eminem's set ended about 15 minutes early, affording some time to catch the tail end of Ween's set. The sounds of "Roses Are Free" reverberated through the grove and fans sloshed through the mud hurrying to catch a peek. The band legged this one out towards the end and for a moment Ween connected us with the people in Indio at Festival 8, playing their classic that Phish has helped popularize. A cheeky "Fiesta" sent us packing and you could tell fans and band alike both wanted more, but the local ordinance prohibited anything past 11, so it was time to close the books on day one.
More photos from Friday at Voodoo available here.
Voodoo 09 by Perrucci
I made sure to head down early to catch K'naan, only to find that he had cancelled last-minute and subsequently axed an upcoming tour with Maroon 5 due to fatigue. I took the schedule change as an opportunity to wander around the vendor avenue, where a huge marching band was coursing through, and do some quality Halloween costume watching; I spied lots of banana costumes, green men, an Old Gregg, milkmaids, and male cross-dressing burlesques among other things.
Mates of State provided a great opportunity to lay in the grass for a moment and take in the likeable husband and wife drums-and-keys duo's chill midday set before easing on over to catch a bit of Irvin Mayfield. Mayfield was cruising through a heavily improvisational version of the Miles classic "So What," allowing each member to take center stage for some impressive soloing. Still obviously peeved over last year's cancellation (festival producers dropped the ball and forgot to provide Mayfield with a grand piano as requested in his rider), Mayfield used the chance to take a cheap shot at producers Rehage Entertainment, sarcastically thanking them for providing a piano this time.
Perhaps the surprise of the weekend, local band MuteMath showed off some serious chops, especially bassist Roy Mitchell-Cardenas, who was dropping some chunky runs on the stand-up during "Armistice" that would've made Colonel Claypool proud. Their brooding synth-heavy sound was well received and the band clearly felt right at home playing in City Park. Lead singer Paul Meany dedicated "Reset" to his recently deceased grandfather, who had joined the band onstage at previous Voodoos, and MuteMath delivered an inspired version in his honor.
After arguably the most fun set of the weekend, it was time to see the new and improved proto-metal revivalists Wolfmother, who were rockin' through the familiar "Woman" when we rolled in. The nocturnal "White Unicorn" got straight Sabbath and gave Andrew Stockdale a chance to showcase his much improved guitar talent. The new songs weren't particularly mind bending, but the band's eponymous debut is a tough act to follow. People were going bananas as the band played "Joker and the Thief."
As the sun set on Halloween, hordes of fans packed into the park by the time Jane's Addiction hit the stage. Dave Navarro's visceral power riffs contrasted in an odd way with Perry Farrell's flamboyant, attention-starved style. Farrell managed to connect with the people of New Orleans, sharing a story about an unfortunate spider bite incident and riling up the crowd talking about the undefeated Saints. Metallic on the edges and danceable at its core, Jane's Addiction put on an aggressive and memorable show that proved somewhat similar to previous festival appearances this summer.
It is a truly surreal experience to watch KISS in concert for the first time. I'd always viewed them as one of those iconic, canonized bands that only existed in the movies (and on reality TV) until this show. Perhaps the most appropriate band to ever close Halloween night, the Detroit rock heroes didn't disappoint, with their stage production highlighted by the word "KISS" blazing behind them in big white lights and a generous pyrotechnics display. The band looked great in their classic face paint and leather, though the music was fairly secondary and hard to focus on amongst everything else transpiring onstage. However, the fist pumping ensued as KISS played the hits and laughably played into just about every possible rock cliche with their stage banter. But, I would expect, and hope for, nothing less from my first KISS concert.
More photos from Halloween at Voodoo available here.
Shortly after The Pogues finished, Widespread Panic picked up where they left off in Austin the previous two nights, playing the kind of to-the-point, no frills rock show fans have come to expect from the Georgia boys. This was not your typical, phone-it-in, jam band festival set, and the guys showed no signs of a post-Halloween letdown at any point. After finishing their marathon Halloween show in Austin a mere sixteen hours earlier and bussing it to NOLA, it would've been understandable if WSP showed weariness, but these guys are consummate professionals and no strangers to the road and festival circuit. Having seen Panic countless times around the country in various arenas, festivals, and theaters, it was extra special to see them playing a midday outdoor set on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. From the first notes of "Thought Sausage" it was clear that Panic was in their mid-tour stride. Songs like the lustrous "Blue Indian" were extra powerful in this setting as the sun beamed down on the band and Voodoo faithful.
With Panic in the books and The Flaming Lips circus about to unfold across the lawn, we took the short walk across the field to the nearby Billboard Stage to see what Mr. Wayne Coyne had in store for us this time. As usual, Coyne floated around the crowd in his hamster ball underneath a full moon, and you could tell that for a large portion of the crowd this was their first Lips experience as evidenced by the sheer number of dropped jaws and "WTFs?!" being uttered around the grounds.
Dog-tired, we walked out of the gates as Lenny Kravitz played a beautiful version of "It Ain't Over 'til It's Over." It would've been nice to stick around for Kravitz as his lights display was amazing and the band sounded great, but it was simply time to hit the dusty trail. Voodoo Experience was a like a three-day vacation in one of our nation's finest cities, and I'm already looking forward to seeing what's in store for 2010. The Big Easy was the place to be for Halloween, and the Voodoo organizers did an admirable job of assembling a wildly diverse, bizarre lineup that'll stick out in the ole memory bank for years to come as one of the zanier, most rockin' Halloweens ever.
More photos from Sunday at Voodoo available here.