Voodoo Announces More 2012 Acts

Over the weekend, the organizers of the Voodoo Music Experience followed-up last month’s top-headliner announcement with more lineup news, unveiling additional acts scheduled to appear at the annual Halloween weekend event.  Joining Green Day, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Skrillex and bad MF’er Gary Clark, Jr. is a roster of usual suspects, both among local acts as well as nationally touring bands stalking the 2012 festival circuit: Jack White and Avett Brothers will each have almost a dozen fest sets under their belts when they come to town, and the electronic stage will also host ubiquitous EDM poster boys Kaskade and Borgore.

Past-Voodoo performers returning for another City Park go-round include dreamy L.A. shoegazers Silversun Pickups, French DJ team Justice and South African performance-art troupe Die Antwoord; while newcomers include The Features, Awolnation, Say Anything, Delta Rae, digital pioneer Thomas Dolby, and reggae legend Toots Hibbard and His Maytals.  Big History, Royal Teeth and Supagroup join a dependable/predictable collection of standard local fare including The Revivalists, MyNameIsJohnMichael, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Debauche, Anders Osborne, Soul Rebels Brass Band and of course The New Orleans Bingo! Show.

Such a minimally-curated offering should come as no surprise as the spectrum of once unique and differentiated Weekend Music Festivals continue their topical sprints towards the middle, but with Voodoo offering on-site camping for the first time, a lineup featuring at least one mid- to upper- tier jam band seemed like a complete given.

The 14th Annual Voodoo Music Experience will take place October 26-28 at City Park. Tickets – including VIP and camping packages – are on sale now.

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Rotary Downs + Caddywhompus: 10.29.2011

Camaraderie between a mature rock band and a younger noise duo may seem unlikely in this fast paced and cliquish era of alternative music, but Rotary Downs – local champions of unkillable working man’s indie rock – and Caddywhompus – constantly breaking new experimental ground  – have recently forged such a platonic relationship, one that bridges the gap between the old and new guard in the New Orleans underground.  That both bands are in the midst of writing and recording new material and, as a result, have been performing with an obscene amount of live perfection recently only makes the pairing more exciting (and the fact that both bands are not enjoying massive nationwide acclaim more confounding).

The extreme regularity with which noise-pop extraordinaires Caddywhompus outdo themselves on-stage does little to make each occurrence less dazzling.  This evening – in the cypress-wrapped space at d.b.a., with the crowd of costumed revelers aglow thanks to an intentionally decadent light show – Sean Hart and Chris Rehm once again raised the bar on what fans of this virtuosic band-to-watch can expect in a live setting.  As exciting as their shows marked with busted strings and toppled over kick drums can be, even more stunning was this evening’s nearly flawless set in Frenchman Street’s most sonically-pristine music venue. With Rehm’s nimble guitar-and-pedal-work creating a nuanced wall of sound and Hart’s rapid-fire yet surgical drumming accentuating the mathed-out beatitude lurking beneath every one of the team’s compositions, songs old and new (including a suite of freshly written, unreleased material) bounded into the ether with an urgency and clarity that was both massively astonishing to, and not altogether unexpected by, anyone with even baseline knowledge of Caddywhompus’ skill and talent.

In one of their most impressive appearances to date, Caddywhompus set the perfect stage for greatest band in the universe Rotary Downs, whose headlining shows have become increasingly balls-to-the-wall rock n’ roll staring contests in which the members of the band seem determined to outlast even their most fervent supporters.  Borrowing from the jam band tradition of playing no less than two full sets of music in a night, the 4th annual Halloween ramble lasted until nearly 4AM as the group supplemented the darkly powerful and addictive tracks off 2010’s Cracked Maps & Blue Reports with huge swaths of their 2007 psychedelic-pop breakthrough, Chained to The Chariot (including an elusive live version of the Phish-esque instumental-in-four-movements “Ma Lion Races Ruin”).

But Rotary Downs shows aren’t noteworthy simply because they are lengthy.  Bassist Jason Rhein and drummer Zack Smith were practically knee-deep in groove before the show even started, and in the acoustically warm confines of d.b.a, Chris Columbo’s dexterous slide guitar jumped to the front of the mix, which – along with the addition of fill-in-bassist-cum-multi-instrumentalist Alex Smith – notably added a extra level of stunning depth to Katrina-exile classic “Feast In Squalor” and similarly standout Chariot cut “Body Of An Outlaw”.  Combined with lead singer James Marler’s fascinating vocal range and Michael Giradot’s keyboard alchemy, Rotary Downs were alternately hypnotizing and invigorating all night (when not managing to be both at the same time), unleashing a performance that suggests a band as endlessly adroit as Rotary Downs requires two enormous sets to even begin to show their depth of their musical fluency.

Photoset // Voodoo Music Experience, Day 3: 10.30.2011

MyNameIsJohnMichael + The Preservation Hall Jazz Band w/ The Del McCoury Band + Dr. John and the Lower 911 + Morning 40 Federation + Odd Future + Portugal. The Man + TV On The Radio + The Meters + The Raconteurs + Fatboy Slim performing at City Park on October 30, 2011 for the Voodoo Music Experience

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Voodoo Music Experience, Day 3: 10.30.2011

By now, all music blogs and culture magazines are abuzz about Los Angeles-based rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, whose set at the Le Ritual Voodoo main stage on the final day of Voodoo was at once electrifying and unnerving. After the group showered photographers with water and unloaded a slew of vulgar profanities at them Sunday afternoon, Left Brain – one of the dozen or so members of Odd Future constantly bounding around the stage – got up close and personal with one particular woman snapping shots from the photo pit.  Even those who escaped with only injured feelings told horror stories as if they’d been party to a narrow brush with death while the rest just seemed flat out, but justifiably, offended that they were the objects of homophobic language and violent behavior.

But then again, everyone already knows that Odd Future is a pretty shocking group. They are homophobic, misogynistic and vulgar; most importantly, they are a band of young, manically creative egos composed of pure, unchecked energy who for the first time in their lives have a little bit of “fuck you” money and the swagger that it comes with, all of which they seem comfortable throwing around with abandon. But don’t think for a second that the members of Odd Future don’t comprehend the implications of their onstage actions or the contradictions of their words – that while Tyler, the Creator accuses photographers of being nothing more than freeriding hangers-on who skipped out on paying entrance to the festival, he knows that journalists have garnered Odd Future the sort of attention responsible for the success they currently enjoy and it’s unlikely that he altogether despises their numerous photo shoots for the likes of Vice Magazine and The Fader.

If anything, the members of Odd Future know exactly how to get their young rabid fan base completely fired up, which they did quickly and continuously. Within seconds of being released of the three-song photo pit rule, they were free to lurk around the area in front of the stage, give high fives to the front row of the audience and crowd surf with depraved indifference to their own safety. With circle pits spontaneously springing up throughout a massive sea of heads and the band letting side stage audience members jump from the stage into the crowd, it became apparent that this was less a hip hop concert than it was a hardcore punk show, and plenty of kids have the bruises to prove it. And while I’m sure it was shocking, unsettling, and maybe even offensive being up in the pit during this outrageous performance, everyone left with more amazing photo opportunities than bodily injuries.

Immediately after, things settled back down to Earth at the Bingo! stage – though only momentarily. When talking about Portland band Portugal. The Man, it’s very easy to articulate why they are one of America’s most talented bands on record. With a spacey glam rock vibe that benefits heavily from immaculately nuanced production, textured and complex instrumentation and some of the highest register male vocals on earth, it can’t be surprising that In The Mountain In The Cloud is a no-brain contender for album of the year.

However, it’s much more difficult to convey – even to someone familiar with the band’s catalog – how unbelievably hard this band rocks in a live setting. A Portugal concert is more than just the normal larger-sound-live phenomenon with more aggressive drums and louder-sung vocals, but rather there are megatons more personality emanating from every member of the band. After humbly opening things up with a relatively restrained “So American”, it wasn’t long before drummer Jason Seachrist began laying on the crash and the rest of the band followed suit in letting the more berserk side of Portugal. The Man hang out.

On such intimate quarters as Bingo! it can be hard to picture a five piece band having enough room to head bang, leap around unhindered or strike a rock star pose, but Portugal certainly used every inch of that stage. With keyboardist Ryan Neighbors practically pushing his rig over has he relentlessly pounded the ivory and bassist Zachary Carothers jauntily jumping around as he showed off a patented punk rock technique, lead singer John Gourley tore through ridiculous guitar solos and perfectly found his upper register. It was almost too much at one point to realize that – through spacey distortion, heavy bass, thumping keys and numerous cymbals – they were absolutely nailing a cover of “Helter Skelter” by the Beatles.

With daylight still looming over the Le Plur Red Bulletin stage, arguably the most impressive DJ of the weekend managed be such without the benefit of a light show, a hype man or any other elaborate electronica set dressings. Alain Macklovitch – better known as A-Trak, the youngest ever DMC World Champion, Kanye West’s influential touring DJ, half of disco house duo Duck Sauce and younger brother of Chromeo frontman Dave 1 – certainly had the credentials to topple headliners like Major Lazer and Fatboy Slim, but it was still hugely enthralling to witness such an extraordinary performance.

Though I’d be lying if I said the technical aspects of scratching and spinning aren’t generally lost on me, there was no mistaking the fact that literally everything A-Trak did on stage was live and in real time, no matter how simple or difficult the maneuver. And though he opened to an unfortunately sparse audience, he quickly hemmed in the scattered crowd of bros and ravers with a string of cuts familiar to the area (a couple of reggaeton riffs, some cut-up snare drums, the occasional dubstep drop, Adele) before unloading a barrage of highly technical, ultra-futuristic electrofunk (his obvious onstage bread and butter).

It’s probably the case that some people didn’t know what they were seeing or how it differed from anything else they’d seen on the Le Plur stage that weekend. But by the sound of the frenzied crowd at the end of A-Trak’s set, it was apparent that by not cutting any live corners he was the weekend’s torchbearer of the art of scratching in electronica, blowing minds as he jumped between turntables like a human metronome through dissected Jay-Z verses and Grace-era Rapture hooks. Authenticity of this sort makes the pay off that much more satisfying when A-Trak decides to give the crowd a jaw-dropping demonstration of how he crushes the competition in a DJ championship.

additional reporting by Matt Rosenthal, who was right there when the Odd Future shit went down

Photoset // Voodoo Music Experience, Day 2: 10.29.2011

The Revivalists + Happy Talk Band + Soul Rebels + Boots Electric + Ozomatli + Rotary Downs + Mastadon + Gordan Gano and Lost Bayou Ramblers, Mastadon + Vockah Redu + Social Distortion + Katey Red + Bobby Rush + X + Snoop Dogg + Girl Talk + Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk + Blink 182 performing at City Park on Octover 29, 2011 for The Voodoo Music Experience

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Voodoo Music Experience, Day 2: 10.29.2011

To say that Gordon Gano, lead singer of the hugely influential Violent Femmes, has completely eschewed the lazy exclusivist aspect of being an artistic icon of post punk and an originator alternative rock would be a monumental understatement. Though you could have found him collaborating with icons like John Cale, Lou Reed, PJ Harvey and Frank Black about ten years ago, yesterday’s performance on the Le Flambeau Preservation Hall stage with Pilette, LA-based Lost Bayou Ramblers made it clear that 2002’s Hitting the Ground chronicled the restless evolution of a man who has no intention of stopping his musical edification. Coming off less like a front man or celebrity cameo than a bona fide sixth band member, when he wasn’t backing up Louis Michot as he sang entirely in Cajun French Gano was ripping through dueling fiddle solos with him. And somehow they meshed perfectly, even for a modest take on “Blister in the Sun”.

Elswhere on the Le Carnival Bingo! Parlor stage, classic punk band X proved that age can’t kill a consummate live chemistry. Though you could easily get a good glimpse of X in their prime in the seminal 1981 rock doc The Decline of Western Civilization, this now much older band – with a 55-year youngest member and a 63-year oldest – is still drilling through song after song in the great Ramones tradition, and they haven’t lost much of a step if any at all. The towering and aggressive bassist/singer John Doe still plays up the greaser look and hops from one side of the stage to the other while fellow vocalist Exene Cervenka ungracefully flails and nails every purposeful, imperfect note. Genuinely revelatory though was underratedest guitar player of all time Billy Zoom, who effortlessly tore through fast, complex punk and rock n’ roll riffs with a flawlessness rarely heard in either genre – all without moving from his hilariously wide yoga stance or changing the blithe, Gomer Pyle-like expression from his face.

Finally, headliners Blink 182 surprisingly became the first band of the weekend to successfully brave the fritzy sound system of the Le Ritual Voodoo main stage. Though they were an undeniable smash success of the late 1990s and early 2000s, I had always credited Blink 182’s platinum-selling ascendancy to the late Jerry Finn, who – being one of the aural architects of the era along with Stephen Street, John Leckie and Dave Fridmann – managed to take a novelty pop punk act from Dude Ranch and give them the larger-than-life-on-record sound of Enema of the State and Take Off Your Pants and Jacket.

And while it still may be true that Finn’s presence in the studio helped Blink 182 realize their trajectory as a hot-ticket live act, last night at Voodoo this band laid to waste my preconceived notion that a three-man pop punk act doesn’t have what it takes to fill not just a massive festival stage but one that had been less than kind to the likes of Soundgarden and Mastodon. Also surprising was how arena-ready many of these songs were, from quick simplistic punk numbers like “Dumpweed” to more overwrought material like “Stay Together For The Kids”. Along the way, guitarist Tom DeLonge and bassist Mark Hoppus smoothly riffed off of each other, providing for great vocal harmonies and their still relatively endearing dick and fart humor between songs. And with Travis Barker not hurting his case for greatest active punk drummer by basically laying on a lightning-fast drum roll for the duration of the set, it’s difficult to even think of Blink 182 as a pop punk band any more because that was a straight up arena rock concert.