Maybe the vibe resulted from placement at the end of the major music festival season, or perhaps it was a true reflection of the Big Easy lifestyle – in any case, New Orleans’ Voodoo Experience, held Nov. 1-3 in City Park across only four stages, felt like the most laid-back of this year’s multi-day events.
It was also one of the most diverse – continuing its tradition of mixing popular acts with NOLA locals – for better or for worse, depending on the day’s scheduling. Friday put Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and Pearl Jam back-to-back on the main (Le Ritual) stage, which makes some sense after realizing that the latter acts are Seattle-based homies.
But Saturday had Paramore opening for Nine Inch Nails (loathing loomed large amongst the tirelessly waiting front ranks of NIN super-fans), and Sunday positioned Kid Rock before the Cure, creating a strange goth-versus-good ol’ boys hodgepodge in the evening’s final hours.
Yet, to the organizers’ credit, the eclectic blend above all reflected how the bash has set itself apart from other mainstream festivals while successfully extending the city’s Halloween tradition, year after year. As fest lineups and production elements have become increasingly homogenized over the last few years, Voodoo festival has learned to wear many masks.
And, for its 15th consecutive run – with music, local food, and art that evoked equal parts kickback and outrageous party – the event consistently delivered more treats than tricks.
Most Meaningful Performance
Team Gleason: Former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason, now confined to a wheelchair after battling ALS for several years, introduced the band Friday night. Guitarist Mike McCready donned a “Defend Team Gleason” T-shirt, while Eddie Vedder mentioned that Gleason wrote the setlist and was “a member of the band.” If Gleason really was responsible for those runs of “Jeremy” and the set-closing “Yellow Ledbetter”, the Voodoo crowd has a lot to thank him for.
Seattle love, ya’ll: After a comical Q&A where Vedder polled the crowd on how many people had been arrested in New Orleans (Vedder raised his hand) and how many thought they’d get arrested that night, the frontman suggested that fellow Seattle artist Macklemore (whom I spotted chatting with an exuberantly complimentary Vedder backstage after his show) would foot the bill for bail. Or, at least according to the Pearl Jam vocalist, he’d “give you 10 bucks to buy something at the thrift shop.” Here’s his number, according to Eddie: “206-938-840…” – one digit short, man!
Relevant politics: Vedder took time to bash BP for spilling oil into the nearby Gulf of Mexico and mentioned that “Severed Hand” was about the “rash of overdoses in the last six months … since they legalized marijuana in Seattle,” which, according to bassist Jeff Ament, is “obviously a work of fiction because that never fuckin’ happened before.”
And they covered two Mother Love Bone songs? Yep – another heavy dose of Seattle love that opened the encore, likely thanks again to Gleason, who hails from neighboring Spokane.
Best Energetic Buildup
He’s My Brother She’s My Sister
It began like any other neo-folk outfit… Stand-up bass, a little lap slide guitar, and a quirky drummer backing a male/female vocal duo. But, a few songs into its Saturday afternoon set, the group added a marimba player and, after a couple more songs, an impressive trio of highly harmonic male backup vocalists from tourmates Song Preservation Society. These carefully added layers of collaboration were key to their galvanic buildup.
How about those Edward Sharpe costumes? I’m mostly kidding, but with the boy-girl vocal juxtaposition of actual brother and sister Rob and Rachel Kolar to fill out their hippie-folk sound, there’s a striking sonic semblance to the interchanges of Alex Ebert and Jade Castrinos. That said, these guys actually wear shoes.
Tap shoes, actually. Percussionist Lauren Brown functioned as their “secret weapon,” drawing enormous applause and adding a good bit of swagger with her tap-break (she stands on a drum the whole time) on “Clackin’ Heels”.
“C’mon, conjure it Voodoo.” One of the most creative and relevant sing-along invocations all weekend.
But seriously, Edward Sharpe was there in spirit. The marimba player – also Rachel’s beau and father of her unborn child – was Orpheo McCord from the Magnetic Zeroes.