My experience since moving to New Orleans has been that Sundays are an exceptionally treasured day in the city, and this perhaps never rings truer than during the all-too-common special weekends and particularly during local music festivals. Sunday before Mardi Gras this year was a picture of perfection and one of the most well-attended in history after a soggy Saturday washed out the monster Endymion parade.
Jazz Fest’s final day was a glorious bookend to the seven-day fest and the communal joy you could feel in the air at the Radiators’ final farewell set was palpable. Last year’s Sunday at Voodoo was one of the better festival days imaginable, with Janelle Monae, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, MGMT and My Morning Jacket all making the festival’s final day a memorable one.
It’s likely that, because these great, big, blowout weekends are so much fun, you don’t want them to end. Certainly,most out there at Voodoo looked to be embracing the closing day to the last drop. Suffice it to say, there’s something about these Sundays in New Orleans that always seem to be just a touch more spectacular than the days that precede them. Continue on for a recap of the literal roller coaster ride that was Sunday at Voodoo 2011.
The GIVERS‘ exuberant sunny day pop was a good way to start the blue bird Sunday in City Park and the rising indie stars were playing their danceable Afropop to a swelling crowd at the WWOZ/Bud Light Stage as we arrived in the Mid-City grove. Songs like “Up Up Up” and “In My Eyes” are so driving and catchy that even a casual walker-by could surmise that the band playing over on that stage has massive pop appeal. It’s no wonder that they’ve already toured Europe twice, signed a record deal with starmaking label Glassnote Records, played Bonnaroo and have found themselves in some pretty big opening slots in 2011. These guys have crazy energy on-stage, loads of talent, and chase a global variety of worldly sounds, making for a cool live set. Expect 2012 to be an even bigger year for Lafayette’s GIVERS.
Next, it was a very short and disappointing trip over to Mannie Fresh, a show I was pretty excited about, being a big fan of Hot Boys. I honestly thought it was set break when I arrived, because nothing really seemed to be going on and I was too far away to see who was on stage. It was not set break; this was the show. I moved on to the next thing, but did hear from multiple sources that it got better. But on the shortened Sunday (ending at 9 instead of 11 p.m.), there is little time to waste.
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band & Del McCoury Band American Legacies collaboration was both inspiring and tranquil to watch. Watching these two firmly established American institutions of bluegrass and jazz pushing their own personal boundaries and enjoying each other’s company had an infectious appeal. Always nice to see the people onstage truly enjoying their day at the office. After watching this at ACL and again at Voodoo, it’s a wonder that bluegrass and New Orleans jazz haven’t always been close bedfellows.
Next, Dr. John’s special guest-laden set was exquisite, peaking once the “Soul Queen of New Orleans” herself, Irma Thomas, took to the stage for her classic “It’s Raining” (an ironic choice given the weather, but somehow just the song I wanted to hear her sing). As always the Lower 911 absolutely roasted through the complex and swirling “I Walk On Guilded Splinters,” a tune perfectly befitting of both the vibe and very namesake of the Voodoo Experience. The voodoo-inspired tune burns, grooves and melds like a vengeful seance and the always-decorated setup on Mac’s piano always sets a mysterious vibe that songs like “Guilded Splinters” help accent.
A quick ride (slightly dangerous?) on the Ring of Fire coaster made us oblivious to the fact that some stuff was going down over at ODD FUTURE.
It took me several tries, but I finally got TV On The Radio after watching them rock the main stage on Sunday. Their music still escapes apt description or categorization, but they definitely made a new fan. An early exit to ride up near the rail was in order for the big return of The Meters to New Orleans – READ ABOUT THE METERS’ SET HERE – HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEKEND.
Finally, Fatboy Slim blew it out so hard at Le Plur that I never made it over in time for The Raconteurs, but having already seen Jack and Co. a few times, it was worth it to stick it out at Norman Cook’s video-walled laser show final bow, with all the glowing dancing folks, a colorful scene by the pond and a great way to cap Voodoo 2011 (w/ “Rockafeller Skank” no less). Plus, The Raconteurs weren’t playing when we headed to the main stage to catch what was supposed to be the tail end around 8:40 p.m.
Oh well, that’s why most say perfection is unattainable. This day was pretty close.
Top 5 Sunday Sets @ Voodoo 2011
1. The Meters
2. Fatboy Slim (a close second)
3. TV On The Radio
4. Dr. John and the Lower 911 with Special Guests
5. Morning 40 Federation
Wesley Hodges writes about music for Live Music Blog: NOLA and NolaVie.