By Emily Siegel
It’s Tuesday, yet some of us are still recovering from a weekend that only a New Orleanian knows: the Halloween/Voodoo Fest combo, a bender of epic proportions. For those of us who are well acquainted with The Voodoo Music and Arts Experience, aside from the lovely October weather, most of the weekend remains unpredictable.
Unlike Jazzfest, which is a full-grown and mature adult, Voodoo Fest is a teenager, still unsure and trying to get its footing. Annual changes are constantly executed in order to better the weekend for the festival goer. Each year, experiencing the weekend is like a journey, and this year was no exception. As I got to know this changing friend, aka Voodoo Experience 2013, I found things I liked and things I didn’t.
The most notable change to this year’s festival was its new location — City Park’s permanent festival grounds. Unlike some past sites, which have varied over the years, this one was highly navigable. The entrance led into rows of vendors and then into an open space that led to the stages. Even exiting at the end of the night — which, in previous years, has been a dark and confusing affair filled with phantom hands grasping for friends and sudden falls over tree stumps — proceeded surprisingly smoothly. Still, once out of the festival grounds, crowds were forced to navigate dark, winding roads back to their cars. Next year a few more street lights would be helpful.
Another strong point of the new location is the site’s abundance of space. I arrived late to Calvin Harris and, due to the spacious accommodations, within moments managed to find my friends among a crowd of thousands.
In spite of the plentitude of space, however, at certain locations throughout the site, sounds from separate music sets (and genres) bled into one another, producing something cacophonous results. However, once I situated myself close to a specific stage, I could hear only the music playing in front of me.
Will-call was not without its glitches. My group first experienced a mishap regarding one of our bracelet’s location — the system indicated it had been shipped to us; it had not. However, the customer service employees were friendly and willing to resolve the error, so the problem was barely a blip on our radar. Once we got through the markedly snaking line, my boyfriend’s weekend pass scanned “unassigned”; he had to exit, return to will-call, get “assigned,” and wait in the entrance line all over again (which was obviously so much fun). I suppose that these inconveniences are bound to happen at large events, and because the staff handled the errors courteously, they hardly put a damper on our day.
Because the first day of the festival was the day after Halloween, I expected to see a wide variety of wild and creative costumes. Such, in fact, was not the case. The crowd’s attire was fairly tame. Most of the attendees were clad in edgy festival gear and hippie apparel (think bright tees, ethnic prints, and glittered spandex pants) with a few costumey touches. There was the occasional animal outfit, but overall, the costume collection had been much more impressive on Frenchmen Street the night before.
Due to the rising popularity of electronic music and, subsequently, the addition of the Plur stage (the electronic stage) in 2010, many people have argued that Voodoo’s demographic has gotten younger. While electronic shows were primarily populated by teenagers and college students, families with young children were not entirely absent from them. I applaud the wide variety of people who are attracted to the festival, but the discrepancy became a little too apparent when I saw a teenage couple who seemed to think they were in the back row of the movie theater a few feet from a toddler in a stroller. Again, Voodoo Fest is unpredictable.
There were also some minor changes that could have been executed more consistently day to day. The port-o-pottie situation was pleasantly bearable the first two days of the festival; neither the toilet paper supply nor the hand sanitizer arsenal ran out, and lines weren’t long. Unfortunately, on the last day, toilet paper was nowhere to be found, you were lucky if you got a few drops of sanitizer, and, as for the lines — there were either fewer restrooms or everyone’s bladders had shrunk to the size of peas.
My favorite addition to the festival, and I’m sure fellow lazy people will agree, was the swarm of vendors walking around with coolers of water and beer to sell in the crowd. Convenience is always a great addition. Instead of having to wander away mid-show to find a beverage stand and potentially lose that excellent spot you’d staked for hours, the magical beer man appeared and solved the dilemma. Not to mention, the ease of getting water is always an important safety concern. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing these guys next year.
Overall, the festival saw a lot of improvement this year. It was more efficient and the small perks added to the experience. Now all we need is a taxi line that doesn’t give us vertigo and maybe Arcade Fire as a headliner (the last part is more of a personal fantasy, though).
This article was written by Emily Siegel. Please send comments to editor@NolaVie.com.