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Voodoo Music Experience
October 26, 27 & 28, 2007
New Orleans City Park

Written and Photographed
by Amy Davidson

(Opposite Photo: Chris Robinson
of Black Crowes)

A billboard in downtown New Orleans greeted me with "The bounce is back" and indeed it was. The voluptuous Voodoo Music Experience commenced on Friday October 26th and ran through Sunday October 28th featuring over one hundred and twenty bands from around the world. The Fest was held in New Orleans' City Park, the home of the city’s museum of art, sculpture gardens, stadium and a golf course. The mix of sounds and styles was as diverse as the culture for which the city is famous. There was a place for everything from a scantily clad marching band to up-and-comers Earl Greyhound to hardcore-favs like Friday night headliner Rage Against the Machine.

Voodoo Experience Marching Band

A record one hundred and fifty thousand people attended Voodoo’s ninth year. The crowd seemed younger and perhaps a bit less music savvy than that of California's Coachella Festival, but this was a group that was not only there for the music but also for the city.

Kamara and Matt of Earl Greyhound

The first night out, I was delayed on my way in from the airport and missed one of my “new” favorite bands, Earl Greyhound (I recently saw them at CMJ). But walking toward the main stage, I looked over and saw Kamara and Matt sitting on the sidewalk having a post CD- signing beer. This was most likely one of their last calm moments as they are set to tour with Chris Cornell this Month.
I was thrilled to run into them because after seeing them play the week before in New York, there was something I had been dying to ask them. In recent articles they are constantly being compared to Zeppelin. I wondered how they felt about that. I, for one, think that comparison is too limiting. This band is hard to categorize. On the one hand, I can hear the young Robert Plant/Jimmy Page similarity, but this band has a sound all its own. It’s a sound that is comprised of rock, funk, and more soul than you thought could exist in a band this young. The music from beginning to end is tight and lacks the flaws often heard in bands that have played together far longer. It seems that they anticipate each other's next move with ease and grace and yet never sacrifice the intricacies for power or volume.

Matt and Kamara humbly expressed gratitude and excitement for the comparison to such a timeless band [Zeppelin]. This is another reason Earl Greyhound is so appealing. They have an edgy, powerful presence but are never self indulgent or dismissive. They are going to be huge. And I assure you these New Yorkers have the right attitude!!


Porcupine Tree

Porcupine Tree

Next on my list of must-sees was Porcupine Tree. They are self- described as progressive/ experimental. Although I heard a lot of guitar driven rock, Porcupine Tree's live sound didn't seem particularly progressive or experimental. To look at these guys and to hear them play are two completely different experiences. The intensity of their sound was weakened by front man, Steven Wilson's nervous banter. Less talk would have created a more cohesive set. It ended up sounding more like the same song repeated over and over separated by idle chat. That being said, this band has a solid history and the following to prove it. So, there is obviously more to them than was displayed at Voodoo.

Kings of Leon played as the sun set. Their sound is as exhilarating and lyrics as vivid as the first time I heard them. It's impossible not to shake your hips and toss your hair a little as these three brothers plus a cousin make you feel fifteen again.

De la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine

Friday came to a close with Rage Against the Machine. The crowd grew impatient and chaotic as security corralled numerous fans that had breached the barricade even before the band took the stage. As the chanting grew louder and crowd's restlessness seemed insatiable, Rage took the stage. De la Rocha's politically charged lyrics seemed particularly relevant. He urged the audience to fight back against the government. Their hard hitting set included "Testify", "Klling in the Name" and "Down Rodeo" – in which Lyrics were changed to "Rollin' down Canal with my shotgun."

Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins

The Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan addressed the crowd halfway through their Saturday night performance noting, "I came here expecting a living funeral but found a beautiful city." The stage was bathed in deep blues and greens as Corgan sang old favorites like "1979" as intimately as if we were watching him in a small pub.

Sunday was full of surprises. The weather was stunning and the smell of Cajun cuisine permeated the air. I tossed back a few Soco Hurricanes and made my way from stage to stage.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah remain a mystery to me. They crawled onto the stage with less energy than kids suffering from mono. They were either sick or exhausted or just didn't care. Maybe all three? I was extremely disappointed. Enough said.

Deacon John

The Presentation Hall tent seemed a buzz so I decided to check it out. The tent was packed to the seams and over-flowing into the grass. Deacon John, playing for over forty years, gave voodoo a taste of good old New Orleans Jump Blues. The sound reminded me of visiting Bourbon Street as a child. It seems that this is where the festival came full circle. This is part of Rock and Roll's beginning, its history.

Joe Trohman of Fall Out Boy

Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy

The crowd awaiting Fall Out Boy's performance was primarily comprised of teenage girls - screaming teenage girls. For the first time in three days, I felt old. I realized that they were there for the same band I was about to hear. But I, unlike my fifteen year old friends, was not there for Pete Wentz, the eye candy of the band. And while I understand how teenage girls' hearts go a-flutter when a hot, bass- playing, indie band boy looks out into the audience and smirks, it was really lead guitarist, Joe Trohman, who stole the show. He was as engaged as front man Patrick Stump, but much less introverted. Trohman moved about the stage like a bat out of hell and looked great doing it. While the set became a tad bit shaky during Fall Out Boys rendition of the Killers' "Mr. Brightside," I thoroughly enjoyed the set.


Paolo Nutini

Paolo Nutini

Perhaps the most exciting part of my last day at Voodoo was Scottish Singer, Paolo Nutini. His sultry soulful voice exemplified musical styles both past and present. The mingling of both classic rock and melodic blues mixed with beautiful story telling makes Paolo Nutini a complete musical package. Although his demeanor seems a bit shy it is never the less endearing and makes way for the music to stand on its own without being clouded by antics or forced stage bravado.

Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes

The Black Crowes

I finished my Voodoo Experience with The Black Crowes. And no Black Crowe's experience would be complete without glasses filled with incense burning on each side of the stage. A heavily bearded and delightfully kooky Chris Robinson did his thing. They played hard and strong. The crowd boasted parents with their kids, the old and young proving this band continues to have mass appeal.

Voodoo 2007 was a success! The city of New Orleans, while still recovering from the flood, was able to put its best foot forward. The diversity of the music, food and culture made Voodoo 2007 a wonderfully enriching excursion. I cannot wait to see what Voodoo 2008 will bring both for the City of New Orleans and for the global artistic community.


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