Hello Everyone! First off, let me say sorry to everyone who may have come here in the last few weeks to find nothing new. Of course. my laptop decided to die on me and it took weeks to get back. Anyway, from here on out expect posts Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Also, if you received a sticker at the festival I'm about to review, thanks for checking this out, and I hope you enjoy. Ok let's get to it.
So because jobs exist, and because money is somewhat important when you want to do fun things, I arrived at Voodoo Fest on Halloween day much later than I would have, had I not had a decently paying job. My goal was to get there to see Rise Against at 6:00 PM, but for reasons beyond my control, that didn't happen. Generally when planning a festival, as Voodoo and it's company have now been doing for 16 years, you assume that you may have it down to a science. You would assume wrong. You can also put blame on the fact that LiveNation bought the festival, but still, poor planning is poor planning. The poor planning I'm referring to is the entrance way. So around 5:00PM on a Friday, naturally thousands of people are getting off of work and heading out to see some great music. Unfortunately for them, the organizers thought it was a good idea to have one single General Admission entrance into the festival. Some people I talked to mentioned it had been an hour since they moved. The line was so dense and packed that multitudes of people were by passing it and jumping ahead. Sadly, I joined these people. But wait, there's more in terms of issues.
Finally after getting in, we arrive at Rise Against, just in time to see the last song. Obviously not much can be discussed about one song, but they sounded great. Thankfully, next up was one of the main attractions I wanted to see at the festival, and it would prove to be a great start to a cool weekend.
Slayer came out amid darkness and heavy tunes that must have been brought back from the very gates of hell. From the first song, all the way down the line, it was everything you would expect from the thrash gods. Super, super loud, utterly satanic imagery, and enough head banging to make any metal head fall in love. It's been quite a few years since I'm seen them live, and quite a few things have changed (Jeff Hanneman's death, Dave Lombardo's abrupt and dirty exit), but the two remaining founding members, Tom Araya and Kerry King, still know how to bring the chaos. There really is nothing like seeing one of the best metal bands of all time on Halloween, and they did not disappoint.
So since it took some time getting into the grounds, and because I hadn't used the bathroom in hours, in between Slayer and Outkast I thought I had time to get back to my spot where my good friend was keeping post. Again, unfortunately for me, this aspect of the planning was way, way off. You would think they would make bathrooms easy to find, but I guess what's the fun in that. I literally walked the whole festival grounds looking for a sign or anything to show me where I could relieve my bladder. Low and behold, I found the one of two bathroom stations. You didn't misread that. They have two bathroom areas on the whole grounds. Both could be found in random areas, behind large blacked out fences, and not a light anywhere to let you know these were in fact the restrooms.
Let's just say the 40 minute bathroom fiasco seriously hindered my Outkast experience, although the sound to come didn't help either. By the time I got back into the crowd, there was no chance of getting up to where I was. Thankfully I was surrounded by a guy whose mission it was that everyone notice him and another severely fucked up teenager who was trying to find Jessica in a crowd of 50,000. Fun right?!
Finally Outkast came out, and jumped right into crowd favorite B.O.B. To say it was awesome to see the band finally perform would be an understatement. Sadly for me at least, the excitement didn't last. By the fifth song, the bass had gotten so damn loud you could barely even recognize what song was playing. Hungry, tired, and frustrated I decided to stay near the main stage, albeit in the back and check out the food area.
Now you can't really go into a festival food area expecting much, but Voodoo is normally full of unique options, and yet again, at least in this respect, they didn't let you down. I ended up getting a spicy chicken tamale, which was pretty expensive but very much worth it. While the food was good and enjoyable, yet again, some big missteps were visible at the food area.
For starters, they only had one area on the whole grounds that sold food, and among the thirty or so options, they quickly got full and the long lines began. Which brings me to my second point. For the first two days, they had two trashcans in the entire area. I'm no mathemetican, but two trash cans seem way way too low for a crowd of this size. Trash quickly piled up among the tables provided, and most people just left the trash there, because seriously, where else was it gonna go?
Basically after this, I went to watch the remainder of the Outkast set, and meandered around the main stage area. They were good, but the overkill of the bass ruined the set for me. That soundboard guy should get a new job, he sucked.
After a long, long Halloween night, my friend and I headed out to the second day of the festival. The much needed start to the day came in the form of an other wordly Shrimp po boy from the always great Parkway Tavern. It didn't dissappoint, and it got our heads right after a long first day. We had a little while to kill before one of the must see's of the entire festival, so we made our way to The March Forth Marching Band. The enthusiam they presented, as well as the gymnastics and high energy avant garde rock of sorts were an awesome mix and the crowd really seemed to enjoy it. I'd heard about them for a few years now, and on day two of the festival, they were a fun, different way to jump in.
Next up however, was one of the main reasons I bought a ticket to begin with. Death From Above 1979 has returned after a long break between albums, and without hesitation they jumped on stage for an hour to unleash their mix of punk, synth, and riotous momentum. They didn't let up for the whole set, and the mix between old and new songs were seamless and perfect. Easily the second best set of the whole weekend. They've been one of my favorite bands for years now, but the ease in which they slaughtered an audience with an abundance of sound was quite impressive. Seriously, how do two guys make more noise than Slayer? Of course the hour went by way too fast, and after it was over we were left with huge smiles on our faces, brought to you by one of the best bands of the last 15 years.
From there, things start to go down. Lauryn Hill, who is known for tardiness and scheduled to play after DFA, of course didn't show up until fifteen minutes before her set was supposed to end, and was abruptly cut off at the time her set was supposed to end. Now, I was expecting this, and was hungry, so we decided to go quickly check out the utterly strange Peelander – Z and make our way back close enough to hear her, should she decide to show up. I won't go into too much about Peelander, but it was very fun, very Japanese, and VERY fucking weird.
Back to “Ms. Hill,” honestly, I feel both angry and upset about this. Many are fans of hers, but she's notorious for being late, so the question is: Why would you think it's good idea to book this person at a festival? The drama she seems to bring with her appears to be thick, and in my opinion it's not worth the trouble should she decide to show up and do her job. Naturally, the extremely smart festival organizers worked with her and right before 30 Seconds to Mars it was announced she would finish her set at a smaller stage at 10:00PM. To briefly touch on this also, in between all of this we managed to make it to the Givers' set, which was again an awesome distraction to the Hill catastrophe, and they brought their unique Indie dream pop to a very willing crowd of freezing concert goers. Seriously, it got hella cold on night two, and I was not prepared.
Thankfully, Thirty Seconds to Mars was far more enjoyable than I thought they'd be, and it really helped to make the festival fun again after a few major breakdowns. I haven't really been into them for awhile, but they're apparently a huge band with drawing power, and not only can Leto act, but he can get a crowd going. The set was fast paced, full of audience participation, sing alongs, epic visuals and a crowd more than willing to play along. Seriously, a really fun time, even for people who aren't giant fans.
This is where the night gets tricky. I told myself I was going to take this seriously and actually review the festival, and to do so, you have to see as many things as possible. Following 30STM I somehow managed to squeeze in 3 acts, although it should have been four. I'll get to that.
First was Skrillex. I'm no fan, but I wanted to see what the fuss was all about, and if you've seen a EDM show you know. It actually wasn't terrible, but it just isn't my thing. The lights and visuals are incredible though, and it helps keep the energy up for sure. I did have one perplexing moment though. Upon arriving, I wasn't sure if Skrillex was actually on stage or not, since no one around me was even remotely interested in what was on stage. Then the typical sounding Skrillex crept in, and I realized he had been on stage the whole time, but he hadn't started dropping the big hooks the fans want, so they didn't really care. I felt kinda bad for him though. Even people who like him don't care if it doesn't involve a “drop” which doesn't bode well for the scene as a whole. The easiest way to become a fading genre is to be one dimensional, and the current EDM craze seems more than willing to follow in the steps of Nu Metal, Pop Punk and every other fad of the last 20 years. Oh well Skrillex is laughing all the way to the bank, so good for him.
Next up was Big Freedia, who was full of energy and ass shaking and kept me properly entertained for the 30 minutes I hung out to enjoy the NOLA Bounce queen. For real, they had a triple high ass shaking tower happening and It was maddening to watch. Thanks girls whose faces I couldn't see behind so much booty, it was real.
I mentioned earlier I tried to see four bands in the last two hours, but only got to see three. This is because, like a dumb ass I wanted to try to at least see Lauryn Hill's rescheduled set. I told myself I'd wait 30 minutes and head over to the Arctic Monkeys. Of course, she didn't show up. I'd later find out she showed up at 11:00 PM, AFTER THE FESTIVAL had officially ended. Seriously, she's a fucking joke, and I wish people would stop giving her the time of day. After the second attempt, I made my way over to the rock and roll of Arctic Monkeys, which was to say the least, was bad ass. I had never been a huge fan, but they really were tight and well managed, and they didn't let anyone down. My only regret was that I hadn't skipped Hill entirely and saw most of the Monkey's set. Oh well, next time I shall be there. They converted me. By the end though, it was very cold, and the bike ride home was not super fun, but it was worth it.
Finally, the last day of the festival is upon us, and after some late night hot chocolate and much needed sleep, we're on our way to the show. The day starts with a helping from Punk Gypsy's with lots of horns and sassy outfits in the form of the World Inferno/ Friendship Society . While very lively and interesting, I found myself not completely drawn to them, and after a little while, we made our way to various other parts of the festival grounds.
After running into some friends and hanging at the increasingly slummy food area, we found ourselves at AWOLNATION. A few years ago I remember checking them out, and while I wasn't in love, it was nowhere near as bad as it was on this lovely Sunday. Throughout the set, I found myself thinking they were too bouncy and growly for my liking, and for reasons mostly unknown, I couldn't figure out why I disliked it so much. There was simply too much going on for me to stay focused on the stage. The only reprieve was during song breaks I could hear the awesome Revivalists tearing it up on the Flambeau stage. Oh well, such is life.
Next up, we decided to check out the early aught's nostalgia moment with the band Fuel. Now I had a few of their albums,and for the most part they were a solid modern rock band. Nothing really had changed in that respect. What has changed is their drawing power. Relegated to the smallest stage, they still managed to bring a good-sized crowd and energy. They went through the hits, rocked out, and everyone had a jolly good time. Singer Brett Scallions even made mention of the imminent arrival of festival headliner and mighty rock band the Foo Fighters. After the nostaligia attack, we made our way over to settle in for the last two acts, Trombone Shorty and the Foo Fighters.
If you've ever seen Trombone before, as many from New Orleans likely have, you're aware it comes with a prepackaged booty shaking kit. This show was no exception. Not the traditional support you think a band of the Foo's style might get, but that's what is so cool about Voodoo. They don't rely on typical things. And yet again for reasons unknown, it works. The band of Nola natives sounded awesome, and properly got the crowd energized for the final act of the weekend.
Now let's get to the epic nature of the Foo Fighters. Every time I see them I'm reminded about how much fun they have and you can tell instantly they love playing music. This night was no exception. Over the course of two and half hours and 25 songs, including covers from Van Halen, David Bowie and Queen, the Foo's dominated the crowd with powerful songs, amazing stage banter courtesy of the ridiculous pants Taylor Hawkins purchased at Rite Aid earlier in the day, and sing alongs worthy of a proper festival closer. Sticking mostly to the better known songs, they debuted two new songs, one of which was made even more awesome by Trombone Shorty.
Even more awesome was they played one of my favorite not super well known songs. Hearing “Hey Johnny Park!” for the first time live was incredible and something I'm not likely to forget. It never occurred to me that there was even a remote chance it would be played, which made it so much more cool and special. Simply put, the Foo Fighters are a prime example of a group of talented musicians doing what they are meant to do on Earth.
As the band played on, the realization that tomorrow was Monday and I'd be going back to work with all these new memories set in, and as the band closed with the massively awesome “Everlong,” we were sure that this set would stay with us for a long, long time.
In conclusion, while I felt the festival had many highs and amazing performances, it still falls short in terms of planning. That seems interesting for a well known event in it's sixteenth year. The sad thing that I take away from Voodoo every time I go is this: New Orleans is the most interesting city in America, perhaps the world, and the festival should be on par with the Coachella's and Bonnaroo's, yet they recycle multiple acts every year and consistently booked unchallenging bands. It's been time for a change for awhile, but with thousands of people coming to see bands every year and buying up twelve buck beer, where's the incentive to change?
Personally, I have no idea what their incentive to change is. Perhaps there isn't one. They seem to think they're doing well with the value of lineups and the amount of people who attend, but every year I meet and talk to people who are completely over everything from long lines, deplorable arrangements in festival layouts, and feeling ripped off at paying five hundred dollars for a V.I.P. Section that offers next to nothing. Maybe it's time Voodoo starts becoming uncomfortable with being a good festival, and starts considering the steps it needs to take to make it a great festival.
Landon Murray is a published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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