Voodoo…..And then the rain came.

We have covered our fair share of festivals. By the middle of day two, you wonder what you have (again) gotten yourself into. By early day three you cannot wait to hear that last note of the last song by the last day’s headliner so you can get home and get into your warm bed. Voodoo Experience in New Orleans never seems to feel that way for some reason. Maybe it’s the time of year, a slight chill in the air, and Halloween that make it so special. Especially in a city like New Orleans. The cool crisp air, the architecture of the buildings, the moss hanging from the trees, all add up to a unique experience. Just walking into the festival grounds you wonder what spirits or ghouls lay just around the corner. While there were plenty of ghouls, goblins, monsters, and superheroes in the crowd, the majority of the musical acts got in on the Halloween fun as well. Jason Isbell and band performed their set all dressed as Batman. The Suffers all dressed as Andrew W.K. donning white pants and t-shirts, chins and chests stained blood-red as if they had just dined on human flesh. And Florence and the Machine performed a truly spectacular set to top off the first day, all in Day of the Dead face.

Florence of Florence and the Machine haunts Voodoo on opening night

Florence and the Machine

Jason Isbell "I'm Batman"

Joey Bada$$ and the Soul Rebels

Maybe it is the food. Voodoo Experience almost always has a great selection of food centered on the taste of New Orleans. Missing are the typical county fair food venders. If you want to try Cajon cooking, you will find it en masse at Voodoo. The minute I walked into the festival, I first set out in search of coffee. At Hangout Fest, I can always rely on the coffee vender being right where they were the year before and ready to feed my addiction. It did not take me long to find the coffee at Voodoo. And Ice Coffee too! Oh, so good. I told the nice lady at the coffee stand that we would grow to be friends over the weekend. And we did. I also frequented a taco stand that had the most incredible tacos in which you could order 3 and choose from BBQ (good), Carnitas (Great), Vegan (Don’t know), or Beef & Chorizo (awesome!) mix and match. Dear lord. I miss them….

Peaches

Santigold braves the rain

Santigold

It definitely was NOT the weather. Voodoo Experience usually takes place when there is a slight chill to the air (unless it was the 2013 Nine Inch Nails set which was freezing) with clear skies. Day one was uncharacteristically cloudy, warm, and very humid. Day two started out the same way but by the time Clutch hit the Alter stage in the early afternoon, the rain went from a slight sprinkle to a downpour. Trying to take photos of the sets by Peaches and Santigold all but did my camera in. It still does not work. Unfortunately, some of the best sets of the festival were during the worst of the downpour. The crowds for Peaches and later, Babes in Toyland were sparse and only thinned out even more as the night progressed for the later acts. Day two headliner Ozzy Osbourne repeatedly thanked the crowd for enduring the weather for his show. The major casualty of the rain was Day three. Cancelled. The continuous downpour from Saturday and overnight with the threat of even more rain forced the organizers to cancel. To be honest, this was a good call. I had been looking forward to many of the acts on Day three, but trekking across the festival grounds from Steve Angello’s set on the Le Pleur stage to catch the rest of Ozzy Osbourne on the Alter stage felt like making my way through the jungles of the Congo, with water and mud reaching has high as my shins in some places. 

Florence and the Machine

Hundred Waters

Hundred Waters

Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas

The Joy Formidable

Modest Mouse

It most definitely is the music. This year’s edition of Voodoo Experience once again provided an eclectic mix of different musical tastes and genres. There are always some gems in the Voodoo lineup that are worth taking time to check out. Hank & Cupcakes was such a gem. Hank & Cupcakes have played Pensacola a couple of times and it was great to see them again. Sagit Shir and Ariel Scherbacovsky are a couple of the hardest working performers in the music business and they took full advantage of their time in front of a growing early crowd. I was able to speak with Sagit before their set and they are hoping to confirm a night at Vinyl Music Hall during the 2016 Pensacon. They would be the perfect act for a Pensacon crowd. Can we make this happen? The Joy Formidable provided an early face melting on the main Alter stage in the early afternoon of Day one. Having seem them many times before, I was pumped up for their set and spent a good amount of time in the media tent motivating and building up the anticipation in some of my friends in the press corp who had never seen them before. They did not let us down. Always providing a loud, boisterous, and energized set, The Joy Formidable in my opinion are one of the best live bands out there. In addition to all of the usual favorites, they debuted a new track, “Passerby” which maintains the heaviness of their earlier work. We also caught up with the band at the Toyota Music Den for a short “unplugged set” and a quick conversation. Many things to look forward to in the coming year from Joy including a new record in February and a lengthy tour in support of it. Public Image Limited and leader John Lydon held their own during the downpour Saturday night, providing a loud and energetic set in which the crowd seemed to get larger and more animated as the rain came down. Public Image Limited is touring behind their latest release “What the Worlds Needs Now….” and Voodoo provided a great opportunity to showcase both old and new tracks.

The Struts

Hank & Cupcakes

Babes in Toyland in the Toyota Music Den

The Toyota Music Den provides the opportunity of seeing some of the bands, DJs, and singers, up close and personal. We were able to witness the “unplugged” set by The Joy Formidable, and an intense set by the incredible Babes in Toyland. Amazingly, the tent was never completely full and I often wondered if people really knew what was going on inside.

Babes in Toyland in the Toyota Music Den

The Joy Formidable in the Toyota Music Den

As we were watching this year’s Coachella live stream back in the spring of this year, there was a significant amount of audio bleed from one stage to another. Having never been to Coachella, I have no idea how close the stages are to each other. In a majority of the festivals that we attend throughout the year, there really never seems to be an issue. Even at Voodoo where the stages are relatively close to each other, it had never before been a problem. This year, however, it was a significant problem, and a number of artists took exception to it. It was extremely irritating during Hundred Waters, who create an ethereal soundscape, to have the band on the main stage almost completely drown them out. The volume from the main stage was simply TOO LOUD. This happened on a number of occasions throughout the two days of music.

Overall, Voodoo Experience continues to be one of our favorite music festivals. The lineup does appear to get smaller and smaller every year, however, the organizers are able to continue to bring diversity in musical styles and genres. The presence of many artists exhibiting their work is also an additional attraction and this year seemed to have a bumper crop of different artists displaying and selling their work. We will be back I am sure, I will just remember to bring rubber boots next time.

Words and Pictures by Clifford Judd




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