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Voodoo Music Experience, New Orleans, LA – 10/26-28

Photo by Jeffrey Dupuis

A perfectly timed cold front swept into New Orleans as the 14th annual Voodoo Fest took over City Park, making it a fitting backdrop for the art, costumes, and revelry one has come to expect from the festival. Voodoo Fest offers a colorful mixed bag of treats to satisfy a range of musical tastes and this year was no exception; hordes of youngsters in stylishly dirty denim shorts and grungy tees eagerly awaited Skrillex, while two generations sharing a common love of earnest songwriting gathered to adore Neil Young and Crazy Horse and The Avett Brothers. A happy, unexpected addition to the crowd came with former metal heads (and their kids!) jubilantly banging their heads once again to the masterfully loud thunder of Metallica, a last minute but welcome replacement for no-shows Green Day. Headliner Jack White was arguably one of the major highlights, whipping the ecstatic and heavily costumed crowd into his trademark frenzy of guitar licks and addictive hooks. Notable main stage openers were The Revivalists and Vintage Trouble.

Due to the relatively small size of the park, Voodoo is easy to get around with good views of all stages. This year the festival was separated into 4 areas with intriguing art installations placed throughout – giant voodoo dolls, crooked Victorian doors, fantastically dark paintings and sculptures one could peruse while deciding who to see next over a steaming cup of gumbo. The main stage is “Le Ritual,” where the more mainstream artists and bigger crowds gather. At the smaller “Le Plur” stage, DJ’s and electronica reign. “Le Carnival” is the artsy area where indie bands, circus acts, and burlesque dancers entertain, reminding us that Voodoo is more about creative art in general than just bands.

It wouldn’t be a New Orleans party without jazz, and after a short trek over to the Preservation Hall Stage, festival goers got their fix of the local scene that makes the Crescent City famous. Acts like Ingrid Lucia and the New Orleans Nightingales with Irma Thomas, George Porter, Jr., Johnny Vidacovich, Alvin Youngblood Hart’s Muscle Theory, and the Treme Brass Band gave the festival that smack of authenticity and heart. Local radio station WWOZ’s stage offered a great mix of reggae, blues, and even a bit of punk. Revered artists like Toots and the Maytals, Casa Samba and Anders Osborne brought big crowds while rising stars like Sister Sparrow gained new followers.

As in years past, Voodoo has just the right size, location, artistic charm, and range of musical variation to entice young and old festivalgoers to do what its mantra commands – “worship the music.” Being well organized, aesthetically pleasing, and musically diverse is what has made the fest a success for over a decade.

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