Voodoo Music Experience 10/29/11:
City Park – New Orleans, LA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito
There is something to be said for having an adventure thousands of miles from home. My latest just happened to be a Saturday spent at City Park in New Orleans, LA. For years I have heard of the Voodoo Music Experience yet living 2000 miles away it’s not the easiest festival to attend. While my original plans for all three days fell through, I was able to at least take in one day of the long running music festival.
The adventure began with me hopping a street car from the Central Business District down to City Park. Public transportation in unknown cities can always be a bit nerve wracking but thankfully the $1.25 ride across town went as smooth as could be. Our street car operator pointed out places to get everything from Turtle Soup to Bacon Wrapped Donuts. He even allowed some local youth to pay for a ride on the car in candy. End of the line was City Park and I followed my fellow concert goers through the front of the park to the gates of the festival.
Upon entering, the first stage I stumbled upon was the Red Bulletin stage. Located next to some body of water, about 12 dozen kids were sitting on the lawn as Carmine P. Filthy did his DJ thing. This was the last kind of music I was looking for at just past 1pm so I headed deeper into the park to experience some sounds of New Orleans.
Over the next hour, I caught portions of sets by Treme Brass Band and Soul Rebels Brass Band w/ Cyril Neville. I’ll admit, I don’t check out many bands of this style, but when in Rome how can you not? I personally enjoyed Soul Rebels set more, mainly because as younger men they had much more energy and a more modern feel.
After walking around checking out the various foods and vendors for a while I took up residence at the main stage for a long haul. I was shocked to see next to no one at the main stage when I arrived but that probably had a lot to do with the fact that not only was it early, but that The Revivalists were butchering an Eminem song. The one good thing about such a terrible band performing on stage was the fact I was able to secure a spot three rows back. Pretty sweet spot for a stage that had at least 50,000 fans rocking out at it later in the day if I do say so myself.
Boots Electric (also known as Jesse Hughes from Eagles of Death Metal) came to New Orleans to share songs from his recently released solo record Honkey Kong. As a long time fan of Boots, the first few songs of the set were rough. I chalked it up to the fact that the new group would have been better placed on a smaller stage but as it turns out the city of New Orleans was to blame. In between songs like “I Love You All The Thyme” and “Boots Electric Theme” it was shared that the swaggering front man had been awake enjoying New Orleans for about 96 hours. Clearly on his twelfth wind, where the music lacked one couldn’t help but root Boots on in hopes he could make it through the sun drenched set. Not even Eagles of Death Metal songs like “Whorehoppin (Shit, Goddamn)” and “Speaking in Tongues” managed to draw interest from a sparse crowd mainly looking to pop their Blink 182 cherry later in the night. It’s always fun to rock with Boots, but next time I hope it’s in a small club well after the sun has set.
Following Boots Electric was the mighty men from Atlanta known as Mastodon. The bands late afternoon slot on the main stage was the set I was looking forward to most at Voodoo and they did not disappoint. The four piece did a fine job of mixing songs from the recently released album The Hunter as well as plenty of classics from yesteryear. Still planted three rows back, I had assumed the Mastodon fans would make their way up front for some larger than life mosh pits. While a few drunk knuckleheads did try (and fail) to crowd surf, the Blink fans managed to hold their ground forcing the circle pit to be located about 40-50 feet back from the guard rail. I get the feeling this took an effect on the band as they tried yet were unsuccessful in getting a majority of the crowd energized as they bashed out songs like “Spectrelite”, “Crack The Skye” and “Bedazzled Fingernails.” Where Boots and crew were lost upon the big stage, Mastodon and their monstrous sounds made the place feel small. While there are still a few kinks to work out within the new songs, Mastodon came and conquered Voodoo Experience and confirmed my assumption that they would be the highlight of my day.
As the sun began to set on City Park, the festival began to feel a lot like home. With quick set changes, all the older punks with faded tattoos and slicked back hair found their way to the front of the stage for the hard working tales of Mr. Mike Ness. With their hour long dinner time set, Social Distortion did an outstanding job of performing material spanning their lengthy career. When not joking about puking up your booze upon the Festivals small selection of carnival rides, Ness and company gave it their all on songs such as “Story of My Life”, “Bakersfield” and a reworked version of “Prison Bound.” One thing I never thought I would see as part of a Social Distortion show 15 years ago was an acoustic guitar, but it actually worked (as did the ragtime honkytonk piano). Having seen Social Distortion numerous times in the past the band never disappoints and Voodoo was just another example of this. As the band wrapped their set with a cover of Johnny Cash’s classic “Ring of Fire” I decided to leave my cozy spot at the main stage in search of more California sounds within City Park.
X was one of those funky festival sets where you are there, but not really there. I had a quick snack. I watched the legends blast out song after song from their debut album Los Angeles as I stood in line for porta-potties (and here I thought Outside Lands had it bad). Then I found a spot, taped the title track while braving two young men smoking something from tin foil. Moved, found another spot only to have someone almost puke on me so I end up saying enough is enough it’s time to go check out Snoop Dogg.
By the time I worked my way back to the main stage, the area was packed. I headed back to my stage left side however I couldn’t get to a good angle especially with the video camera passing back and forth right in front of my face. So I found another spot much further back and the pride of Long Beach paced back and forth upon the stage in a Marcus Colston New Orleans Saints jersey. When various members of Snoops entourage were not encouraging the crowd to light up on Cannabis, the collective were cranking out Snoop’s biggest hits. “Beautiful” “Gin and Juice” and even some Dr. Dre joints pleased the predominantly white rock crowd. Having never witnessed Snoop live before, it was fun but about ½ through the set I found myself bored. So I decided it was time to head over to the first stage I found at Voodoo and get a prime spot for Girl Talk.
Before we can discuss Girl Talk, let’s discuss Kreayshawn. For as bad as I thought the two songs by The Revivalists were, this may be the most God awful shit I have ever witnessed.
As you may recall, I ragged my nads off with Girl Talk at Outside Lands in San Francisco earlier this year as I had already seen major headliner Muse twice within the year. I made the same call at Voodoo, this time skipping Blink 182 for Mr. Gillis. I caught no less than seven Blink 182 shows before the bands hiatus and with their new album being one of the worst I have heard this year I knew exactly how I wanted to wrap my Voodoo experience. Hitting the stage in a Freddy Krueger costume, Girl Talk was the right call as I had a blast dancing my ass off during his hour long set. As a human being blessed with the gift of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, his unique blend of all genres of music makes my soul happy. It didn’t matter how tired I was or how bad my feet already hurt, the man made my fat white ass groove.
I ended up leaving Girl Talk’s set a few minutes early as I had heard many fans share horror tails of how hard it was to take public transportation back towards the French Quarter the night before. Walking towards the 91 bus almost an hour before the festival came to a close I couldn’t help but have a grin larger than Snoop Dogg’s cross my face. Sure, things didn’t go as I planned for Voodoo and I this year, but the fact is I got to spend a day in City Park with some great acts. I met some amazing folks, including one Tulane Student who graduated from the same Junior High as I did. I visited the Third Man Records truck and almost had my beard died green. While Voodoo didn’t work out for three days as I expected, it was the unexpected that had the biggest impact on me. For a city that was destroyed six years ago, New Orleans is on the upswing once again and just by being there spending my hard earned money I was able to not only help rebuild a place with a rich history, but help every single person who never gave up on their hometown. A truly magical experience, I hope one day I can return to City Park and Voodoo all over again.