The Voodoo Music Festival is a compilation of all your favorite music festivals wrapped up together with a strong southern accent and some good old Southern hospitality. The festival has been going on for six years now and shows no sign of slowing down. Attendance at the annual event in New Orleans, Louisiana reached 60,000 this year and the lineup just keeps getting better. In previous years the festival has hosted such noted artists as No Doubt, Iggy and the Stooges, 50 Cent, The White Stripes, The Black Eyed Peas, Missy Elliot, Garbage and many others. This year the lineup was as equally eclectic and talented. The two-day event had enough entertainment for the whole weekend; leaving us curious road-trippers right in the heart of the Big Easy.
New Orleans is home to Mardi Gras in February but infamous Bourbon Street is lively all year round. For the first stop of the trip late on Friday night we headed down to the French Quarter and to the House of Blues for the pre-Voodoo party where Juliette Lewis and the Licks were kicking things off. Lewis, of Natural Born Killers and Cape Fear fame, has started her very own rock band, and her character eccentricities were just as wild and unpredictable on stage. But even with her antics, she couldn’t save The Licks from banal mediocrity.
On Saturday we headed down to the heart of New Orleans to the beautiful, spacious City Park. Kill Radio, the band; not to be confused with the free-form radio station in LA, was one of the first groups to play. The Omaha quartet brought the rock, and their live show was skillfully energetic and backed up with solid music. Playing songs from Raised On Whipped Cream, the band didn’t hesitate to voice their liberal anti-Bush politics. After Kill Radio I stumbled upon Snow Patrol. The four handsome Scots have a unique ambiance and despite being a relatively small band in terms of achievement in the US, put on one of the best performance of the festival.
Next up was Vegas’ own rock sensations The Killers. Geared up in their spiffy blazers and meticulously lazy long hairstyles, they played “Somebody Told Me,” along side the rest of their lighthearted pop tunes. I had to squint through most of Sonic Youth’s performance at sunset. Kim Gordon and the gang are getting old, or so it seemed to the ‘twenty-something’ crowd in attendance, but it didn’t stop them from genuinely doing their thing. I would estimate that about 5-8 minutes of their set was the enigmatic sounds of static and reverb in traditional Sonic Youth style.
I was shocked when The Pixies started their set. They are everything I want in a band, yet one of the few bands I have never paid any attention to. The Pixies were late 80s icons and had disbanded until their reunion earlier this year. They have played some amazing shows so far and all of us clueless children of the 90s were out there soaking it up.
Green Day was next, and I believe that the huge meadow of spectators was the biggest mass of humanity I had ever seen in my life. It was intense. Green Day came out with “American Idiot,” and “Jesus of Suburbia,” two tracks from their acclaimed American Idiot. They followed, to the satisfaction of the crowd, with a set of their greatest hits. In between cooling the crowd with his super-soaker, Billy Joe Armstrong decided to do his own rendition of Making the Band, and having been pleasantly surprised, he gave one kid his guitar and sent another diving into the crowd after the Faux Day performance.
Besides the great music the festival had a unique atmosphere. There were large voodoo dolls hanging around the fields and huge blow up figures around the stages. For an interesting side note: the old Voodoo religion was brought to New Orleans by the Haitian slaves working on plantations in the early 19th century and even today, there are still remnants of the religion lurking around the city. Besides the cool decorations, there was also a great selection of food. There were the normal barbecue type dishes, but there were plenty of traditional Orleans delicacies like crawfish, Jambalaya, and red beans and rice. To my satisfaction, they offered the Vegan crowd plenty to eat as well.
Slunt was the first band that I had the disappointment of seeing on Sunday. The New Yorkers are fronted by Abby Gennet, a just-out-prison-type frontwoman who has been compared to both Brodie Dalle of the Distillers and Courtney Love; but upon my inspection, turns out she is just another terrible imitator. Next up was the famous faces of Phantom Planet. They played the singles but also mixed in some Fugazi, which I was particularly pleased with. Despite the departure of Jason Schwartzman, the band sounded solid.
Then there was Velvet Revolver. Even if Velvet Revolver was the worst band currently making music, they would still get a lot of attention just for the fact that they are Guns N’ Roses + STP. Their performance was as I expected; there were some cool stage effects, a skinny white boy dancing around showing skin, and some really nice guitar work; but the music was boring. Tastes like over-cooked mashed potatoes. If there were anyone ever trying to ride it out on fame’s coattails, Velvet Revolver are it.
I regret that I did not have more time to see the other noted artist at the festival like The Beastie Boys, Cowboy Mouth, De La Soul, the Polyphonic Spree and others, but needless to say, I did get my dose of good music. The wide variety of musicians on hand makes the Voodoo Music Festival an experience for everyone- an unparalleled mixing of talented musicians with the atmosphere of the deep south.
All photos by Mary C. Smith.