After a big comeback in 2016, this year’s Voodoo did not disappoint thanks to a solid lineup, perfect weather, and the unmistakable magic of Halloween in New Orleans. Austin-based promoters C3 Presents returned to manage the fest once again and pulled it off with barely a hitch. The stages were spread just far enough to prevent soundbleed, the set times started and ended in a way that moved the crowds perfectly, and the port-a-lets even flushed. The maddeningly long entrance lines were back, though, prompting many fans to angrily wonder aloud why there were not more entrances to get the huge crowds into the fest quicker.
But in the end, Voodoo is always about the music and this year did not disappoint on that front. The festival boasted a diverse lineup of over 70 artists that ran the gamut from hip-hop to hard rock with something for everyone and plenty of opportunities to discover some serious talent flying just under the radar. Here were some of our favorite sets of the weekend.
James Murphy’s group of NYC dance-punks took the stage just after sunset for an electrifying set that ebbed and flowed like a single pulsating groove. The band started things off easy with new single “Call the Police” and the upbeat “I Can Change,” but things really started to take off with a raucous “Get Innocuous!” From there the band refused to stop playing as one song slid into the next and the four-on-the-floor beats just kept on coming. “Someone Great” and “Home” packed some heavy emotional punch under a monstrous disco ball as the band leaned into the home stretch. The subdued opening of “Dance Yrself Clean” provided one last build up as the band exploded into the epic chorus amidst a dazzling wash of technicolor. By the time the closing refrain of “All My Friends” came around, the crowd was shouting along so loudly that the band was almost drowned out by the pure joy echoing across the festival grounds.
There have been a lot of memorable performances on Voodoo’s Altar Stage over the years, but Kendrick Lamar’s show last Friday stands up there as one of the best. After a wild intro video starring “Kung Fu Kenny,” Kendrick materialized out of thin air in the middle of the stage looking hungry for blood. For the next 70 minutes, Kendrick commanded the stage for a gripping, engaging, and highly entertaining tour through the world inside his mind. Leaning heavily on his most recent album, DAMN., and the certified classic good kid, m.A.A.d. city, Lamar paced the stage and spit rhymes with a fearless intensity. The massive crowd was in the palm of his hand, singing along and gasping in shock every time he unleashed another breathless verse. By the end of the set, Kung Fu Kenny proved triumphant over the forces of evil and quietly exited the stage while a fireworks display rained down overhead. Not too shabby for a one-man show.
The Black Angels
Austin psych-rockers The Black Angels are no strangers to the festival circuit – they founded the hugely popular Austin Psych Fest and have built a steady following over the past decade. Thanks to a last-minute cancellation by Crystal Castles, The Black Angels were moved from an early afternoon slot to a nighttime set that proved fitting for their haunting sound. Awash in a swirling tapestry of light, the band ripped through songs from their latest album, Death Song, with an intensity only hinted at on the record . The minor keys and fuzzed-out riffs proved a perfect fit for Halloween weekend, and the modest crowd that turned out for the show was fully invested from start to finish.
One of the biggest surprises of the weekend was Miguel’s electrifying performance to close out the South Course stage on Sunday evening. The R&B crooner was backed by a trio of incredible musicians that were equally comfortable playing hard rock as they were with dirty funk. Miguel proved himself an ace bandleader as he tore through songs from throughout his catalog, including “How Many Drinks” and “Sky Walker.” The crowd was floored and begged for one more song for ten minutes after the band said goodbye. With an unfulfilled encore, it’s only a matter of time before the band makes their return to New Orleans (fingers crossed for a killer post-Fest show this spring).