Written by Sason Bishope Parry and Duncan Walgreen
Photos by: Charles Reagan HacklemanRoger HoKatrina BarberJordan Heffler
The 21st annual Voodoo Music + Arts experience kicked off on October 25 through 27th with storms hovering, but that didn’t keep thousands of Halloween revellers and music lovers from descending upon New Orleans City Park for the massive three-day festival. With a killer lineup that included Guns N Roses, Post Malone, Beck, Bassnectar and over 60 other artists that garnered multiple stellar performances even mother nature couldn’t keep the over 150,000 fans that attended away. A few hours after gates were officially opened tropical storm Olga showered down on the festival turning it into a mud-fest. Despite the weather, artists performed on time and fans, clearly prepared with rain gear as part of their costumes, continued to share good vibes and didn’t seem to mind the mix of rain and music throughout.
In Europe and England, fans are used to going to massive music festivals like Glastonbury and Redding where it practically rains every year and the mud and rain has just become part of the overall experience. “You can either flow with it or let it kill your time, I choose to enjoy it, a little rain never hurt anyone haha,” One festival-goer shouted in passing as black make-up ran down her face from her witch style Halloween get up that included a plastic poncho and black rain boots. Production was top notch as usual and it was clear that organizers had prepared in advance to withstand the poor weather conditions and ensure that fans had a great experience regardless. Pine needles and temporary walkways were in place to make trekking across City Park easier in the mud. The weather cleared up nicely for days 2 and 3 as the blue skies brought the sunny vibes but it was a bit more, chilly.
Beyond the music, there was a huge variety of delicious New Orleans themed food to choose from and even vegan options for those wanting to stay away from the meat and dairy. Most of the food choices were freshly cooked from scratch making lines a bit longer, but fans didn’t seem to mind waiting for healthier fresh on-demand options. Art installations and Halloween décor that featured haunted themed areas with professional actors in costume and scary makeup roaming the grounds has become a big signature attraction at Voodoo each year and this year was no exception. There were tricks and treats and thrills at every turn.
However one of the biggest attractions was the legion of fans that went all out with their Halloween outfits. You could post up just about anywhere, sit back and still gawk and enjoy all the spooky and sexy costumes rolling about which included fuzzy bears, zombies, Woody from Toy Story, steam-punks, witches and there was even a group of diehards that dressed as 60’s flower children. It was truly an amazing and memorable part of the festival weekend and so entertaining to watch. If the weather kept you away, you truly missed out on what has now become an integral part of the New Orleans festive spirit and Halloween tradition each year.
But don’t worry, next year Halloween falls on a Saturday woohoo and Voodoo has already announced 2020 dates which will be held October 30, 31 and November 1. This actually gives fans three traditions to celebrate in 2020. The annual festival and music of course, then there’s Halloween and the festival closes out on November 1 which marks Dia De Los Muertos (Day Of The Dead), so plan ahead, it’s going to be a spooktacular upcoming year!
Our musical highlights for the weekend day by day…
There’s something special about this talented group of guys from Nashville as they rocked the main stage rain and all. New and old fans sang and danced along to their catchy tunes and magnetic energy. Their cover of 4 non-blondes, “What’s Up” was one of the best we’ve heard. It’s definitely not an easy song to sing, but Lead singer Trevor Terndrup nailed it.
Sarah Grace McLaughlin aka British singer-songwriter Bishop Briggs looked and sounded wickedly awesome. Dressed for the occasion and sporting a Sinead O Connor hairstyle the singer and her sick band ripped through tracks from her recent album, “Church Of Scars” that included “River” and “Closer” as well as her newest single, “Champion”. She also showed off her emo skills by busting into a bunch of kickass covers of Twenty One Pilots, My Chemical Romance and Panic At The Disco. “Thanks for letting me live out my emo dream” she shouted – No thank you!
The amazing singer-songwriter went on right before headliners Guns N’ Roses which given the different musical styles seemed like a peculiar choice, but after her riveting performance, it was clear why she was chosen to open for the rockers. She ploughed through an arsenal of great songs that included, “The Story”, crowd-pleaser “The Joke” and a nice rendition of Led Zeppelin’s, “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.” It was a magical and memorable set by a true veteran.
The EDM Duo was one of our favourite acts of the night. As Guns N’ Roses rocked the main-stage on the opposite end of the park, the funky beats they blasted out held their own as a legion of dance lovers smashed in the shoulder to shoulder, creating a massive dance frenzy field. The highlight came as they brought out special guest Nola legends Trombone Shorty and the Soul Rebels. They definitely closed out the festival on a high note!
Guns N’ Roses
There was no denying who owned Friday and arguably the best set of the entire weekend belonged to the legendary rockers. It was a long day of rain but it was clear that no one was going to miss their powerful set. They just killed it! It should be noteworthy that finicky, yet amazing lead singer Axel Rose was on time as a sea of fans roared with approval when they hit the stage. The band was tight and Axel was in great form hitting even the highest notes with ease. Powerhouse guitar God Slash also showed why he’s one of the all-time greatest guitar players and riff makers on the Planet. He was beyond impressive and his energy was infectious as fans eyes were locked every time he busted a solo. They played a 26 song set, almost 3 hours which is insane when you think about how long that is on stage, but they were on point from start to finish, with classic tunes, “Live And Let Die, “Welcome To The Jungle”, “Knockin On Heavens Door”, “Paradise City” and so many others, it was mesmerizing. They also rocked a beautiful tribute to the late Chris Cornell with an awesome cover of “Black Hole Sun”. The highlight came when a grand piano was wheeled out and Axel just crushed it with a stunning version of, “November Rain” with fans singing along. They made the long wet day worth it and closed out the first day in legendary style.
Multiple Nashville acts were on the bill for Voodoo this year and none more anticipated then these hot new rockers. They’re opening set brought the crowds early as they stormed through a great set. The sun even shined down as the blue skies opened up and added to the great early afternoon vibes with not a cloud in sight.
Young The Giant
One of the biggest crowds of the day belonged to these Irvine, Cali rockers. Believe it or not, they almost didn’t make it, as their flight was reportedly cancelled 5 times. Luckily for all of us they played as they crushed it. Singer Sameer Gadhia was on his A-game, maybe because he was so shocked they actually made it or as he put it “Divine Intervention” set in. Whatever the reason, he and the band navigated fans through songs that included, “Firelight”, “Oblivion” and “Nothings Over”.
Bass EDM king Lorin Ashton turned up the heat and the beats for his bang’n set opposite headliner Beck. The visuals and light show were mind-blowing eye-candy as he commanded the decks like an intergalactic being sent down to bless us with incredible mixes that included his signature mash-up style. For 75 minutes he kept fans grooving non-stop to popular songs like, “Speakerbox” and “Bass Head”. Every time he hit that drop in a song, you could feel the bass blast right through your entire body. It was an outer-worldly sensory overload that sent fans home with ears ringing and feeling that natural music high.
There’s nothing better than a great band, with amazing songs that is also comfortable cutting loose and just having fun on stage. That was the scene when these Cincinnati rockers hit the stage. Lead singer Matt Berninger brought not only his great vocals but also his comedic skills as he joked between songs about having a pre-historic handshake grip and later he took star turns on the giant video screens with a giant beetle that was cruising the stage. Their set included songs, “Don’t Swallow the Cap”, “Terrible Love” and “Mr. November” where he toyed around with his new stage mate the incredible beetle.
One of the most anticipated acts of the weekend came from headliner Beck and he didn’t disappoint. He has been at the top of his game since he debuted his classic single, “Loser” back in 1993. So it was befitting for him to open his set with this hip hop alternative gem that kicked him into superstardom. He played an amazing 17-song set that also included, “Devils Haircut”, “Dreams”, “Uneventful Days” and “Go It Alone”. It was a rollercoaster ride through all of his styles of music throughout the years and ended with an extra-long remixed version of “Where Its At” that had fans screaming out the lyrics and dancing to the final minutes and a great closing of day 2.
Not only is she young and beautiful, but she can definitely sing and hold it down on stage. The 21-year old singer put on a fantastic show, showing off her chops with mesmerizing covers of the late Amy Winehouse’s, “You Know I’m No Good” and The Animals, “House Of The Rising Sun.” Definitely a star in the making, as she strutted across stage branding a No Doubt T-Shirt, clearly a fan of Gwen Stefani’s as she later rocked one of their classic songs, “Spiderweb”.
Bring Me The Horizon
Another main stage favourite came from these English hard rockers who clearly had crafted out each part of their performance to a T. With an over the top production that included insane dancers with creepy costumes, kick-ass Nine Inch Nails style visuals (that Trent Reznor would have adored) and an adrenalin driven energy to match. They ripped through songs like, “Wonderful Life” and “House Of The Wolves”. Tattooed from the head down Oliver Syke’s showed off his killer vocals that ranged from screamo style to more melodic rock tunes. It was an impressive set from an awesome band.
One of the biggest highlights came from these British rockers. Lead singer James Bagshaw and his band definitely looked and sounded like they had been transported from the past with their 80’s style hairstyles and classic sound. This was our first time catching them live, they had a good-sized crowd singing along and they played a stellar straight forward rock n roll set that was beyond what we expected – they are definitely an act to keep your eyes on.
If you wanted to get your fill of dreamy like EDM, then watching the Massachusetts native was the place to be on Sunday. Unlike many DJ/producers Jackson Stell aka Big Wild also has a nice voice and brings an entire show to the stage complete with backup singers, amazing visuals and a great laser light show to match. It was a beautiful night and his music was the perfect blend to just close your eyes and get lost in. Looking forward to catching him again.
The festivals final headliner took the stage for the closing set on the main stage and was clearly Voodoo’s biggest draw. Post Malone has become one of the World’s hottest stars and he was clearly on a mission, a mission to destroy the stage and leave his fans with one of his best sets. Ripping through hit after hit, which included, “Rockstar”. “Better Now”, “Sunflower” and “Take What You Want” which displayed a video of rock God and Voodoo alumni Ozzy Osbourne singing his parts, Post was in total command. Although some of his tracks seem a bit street hard, Post is all about the love and making sure that fans are sharing good vibes without any negativity or hate, which he clearly shouted out throughout his set. An ocean of fans that stretched across the park swayed in unison as Post did his thing showing his talents without the need for gimmicks, dancers and hip hop entourages, it was just him, the music and the fans and it was an awesome way to close out the festival.