Thoughts on Voodoo And The Current And Future State Of Music

That the 2011 Voodoo Music Experience dispatched the second Le Ritual Stage to expand the electro-focused Le Plur area and add an additional DJ venue should come as no surprise to anyone who made it out to City Park last Halloween or attended literally any other weekend music festival in the last 12-18 months.  Last year’s return of the electronic tent was greeted by the most remarkably determined and enthusiastic fans I’d ever observed at a multi-day event, as the thousands-deep crowd of dub-step, techno and house fans consistently on hand each afternoon as the gates opened swelled ten-fold by sundown. At this summer’s Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama, the mass of humanity that repeatedly piled into the Boom Boom Tent was so suffocating that fire marshals were brought in when patrons made one final push for position as Girl Talk began his set.  In recent years, Bonnaroo has liberated DJs from their once exclusive role as late night/early morning entertainers, and every event from Lollapalooza to Wakarusa is making more and more room for electronic music. It is not “the music of the future” as I had naively posited on a number of occasions since Voodoo 2010; it is overwhelmingly and unequivocally the music of today.

Swapping out a featured main stage for more DJ real estate was a justifiable, if not inevitable, decision on the part of Voodoo organizers.  But the absence of  a second huge home for nationally renown instrument-playing acts has had both a trickle-down and a trickle-up effect on the festival as a whole: not only is this year’s assortment of rising indie-rockers less robust than in years past, but the change has also forced more of those who did make the cut onto the smaller stages that normally host homegrown standouts for the majority of each day.  The WWOZ stage supplements Rebirth Brass Band and Bonerama with Ozomatli, the reunited original Meters, and GIVERS; Preservation Hall has not only Lynn Drury, MyNameIsJohnMichael and Glen David Andrews, but Members of Morphine and Jeremy Lyons; and the Bingo! Parlor gets Portugal. The Man, X, Fitz and the Tantrums, Fishbone and Cheap Trick in addition to Le Carnival institutions Happy Talk and greatest band in the universe Rotary Downs.

At first blush this may seem like a purely negative development  (and the loss of any number of exciting rock acts iced out due to the remixed format is certainly worthy of lament)  but of the many memories from last year’s event I’ve been able to hang onto, two particular performances stand out in my mind – and both suggest the prospect of larger bands on smaller stages is not necessarily a bad thing.  On Saturday, I took in The Whigs‘ wild-fire but confoundingly unsatisfying set from the enormous (and now-departed) Le Ritual Sony Stage a few hours before seeing The Eagles Of Death Metal nearly burn the Bingo! Tent to the ground.  Where the Whigs’ rollicking three-man garage punk seemed to get lost among towering scaffolds and an expansive lawn, The Eagles of Death Metal – at nearly eye level with the nicely packed audience – exploded through what was most certainly a festival highlight for those who witnessed it.

When a band doesn’t require the amenities a main stage provides – room for elaborate light rigs and stage setups, anchor points for zip-lines or wire systems – I’d prefer to see them in as intimate a setting as possible, one in which their sound and presence is more likely to overwhelm the surroundings than the other way around.  So many big names on such small stages may be a cause from concern for some potential concert-goes, but I’m primed and hopeful for some intense and magical moments.

MP3: Portugal. The Man: “Head Is A Flame (Cool With It)”

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Live Picks: 06.02.2011 – 06.08.2011

06.02: The Lollies + Samurai Deli + Mad Conductor – The Big Top

06.03: Shpongle + Random Rab – House of Blues

06.04: Lady Lazarus + The Beams – Allways Lounge

06.05: Those Darlins + R. Scully’s Rough 7 – One Eyed Jacks

06.06: The Beets + Eternal Summers + Lonesome Ghost – The Saint

06.07: Eagles of Death Metal + Gnarltones + Star & Dagger + Gary Wertz – One Eyed Jacks

At any moment I could easily put together a stacked list of nationally-recognized musicians and bands currently enjoying a love affair with the city of New Orleans. Near the top of that list would have to be Jesse Hughes and his lightning-fueled band of desert rock n’ roll musicians, Eagles of Death Metal, who seem thoroughly unable to get enough of our town.

During a tireless stay at last year’s Voodoo Fest, the band supplemented their scheduled, festival-stealing performance on the Bingo! Tent with a free concert at One Eyed Jacks that packed the venue to its literal breaking point, complete with a line of 500+ rabid fans waiting outside the door.  If that wasn’t enough, each EODM member made a stop at Mimi’s in the Marigny for a solo, acoustic set.

The Eagles of Death Metal have apparently not had enough, as they are coming back for an extended victory lap, and this time they’re hell-bent on mixing it up with the locals. Guitarist Dave Catching’s project earthlings? take the stage at One Eyed Jacks on Saturday, with the rest of the band coming to town for Tuesday’s official Eagles of Death Metal show.  Opening acts include the Gnarltones – a moniker for Catching’s work with local singer and multi-instrumentalist Molly McGuire (who has recorded or played with nearly every Palm Desert musician under the California sun) and Star & Dagger, the new outfit for former White Zombie bassist and local metal queen Sean Yseult. And just for good measure, accomplished singer/songwriter Gary Wertz has been thrown into the mix.

Long story short, Hughes and friends are coming back to party. And as they always do when making a stop in New Orleans, they plan to make it worth everyone’s while.

MP3: Eagles of Death Metal: “Speaking In Tongues”

06.08: Galactic – Lafayette Square

Check out our New Orleans Music Calendar for a full slate of constantly updated live picks