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Voodoo Music Festival
New Orleans City Park
October 30 - November 1, 2009

Written by
Joshua Williams

Photographed by Amy Davidson


Opposite Photo: Lenny Kravitz




Voodoo Festival is really the only festival worth going to, offering a spirit and local flavor that you normally don’t find at other festivals. So when I was asked if I wanted to cover the festival, Halloween this year, I didn’t hesitate.

Ian Saint Pe of Black Lips

Joe Bradly of the Black Lips

The first act to see upon our entrance was the Black Lips. This band is not a bad band, but for the most part is completely derivative. They are a garage band. I did like the use of the reverbed out vocals on occasion, evoking a spookiness fit for Halloween. These guys have definitely studied their nuggets catalog, and would fit in there easily among The Sonics and The Monks. I realized later we had covered this band previously at a Jelly Pool Party. This time however, no mini-riot ensued.

Dan Dyer

Next up was K’naan. However, a last minute press release announced a cancellation. To help out and fill in the time was Austin’s Dan Dyer. Dyer plays a nice mix of soul and blues. There is also a 70’s Stevie Wonder-ish thing going on. Dyer was able to win over a crowd that did not come for him, and it was through his graceful presence, and soulful set.

Kori Gardner of Mates of State

After quick lunch washed down with some Soco, we were off to see Mates of State. This husband wife team have been around for a few years now. Employing a Hammond, a Rhodes and other electric organs and synths along with a drum kit, they craft quirky harmonic indie pop songs.

Paul Meany of Mutemath

We crossed the field to check out New Orleans Mutemath. Not bad, but after a while it seemed a bit formulaic. Hard rock buzz guitars, a fit of screaming, then the melodic interlude, then repeat. I found them enjoyable for a song or two, and probably wouldn’t mind it popping up on a shuffle. However, I doubt an entire album would hold my attention.

Andrew Stockdale of Wolfmother

Wolfmother is out supporting their new album. Or I guess Andrew Stockdale is out supporting his new album, as he is the only original member left. Wolfmother brings to mind some good hard rock from the ‘70s. Think Grand Funk, Blue Cheer, Deep Purple. The question to determine is whether or not they add to this, or are they merely derivative. I’m not sure. And I am not necessarily inclined to dislike a band because they adhere to a formula. They just have to master the formula, and play it really freaking well.

Dave Navarro

Dave Navarro and Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction

And finally, for the last set of the evening, Janes Addiction. As this was the original lineup (not sure about drummer Perkins), it was a good thing to catch it, because you never know how long it’ll last before the next implosion. They took the stage and performed a largely flawless set. Perry Farrell is still well…Perry Farrell. And Navarro must be a vampire because he looks exactly the same as he did twenty years ago.

At the conclusion of the night, we made our way into ‘nawlins for some good times, cheap drinks, and a dash of gambling.

Day 2

Alex Gaskarth of All Time Low

We began the second day by seeing All Time Low. Apparently, this band is a current favorite of screaming tween girls. Nothing really struck me as noteworthy. It was the usual generic flavored pop rock that you’ll find on radio stations everywhere yet can’t fathom why anyone ever thought it was good.

Jesse Lacey of Brand New

Brand New was next on our list, and while they might be a brand, it is anything but new. Elements of pop punk, post hardcore and emo. However, it generally tends towards the more middling elements of these genre. Brand New is old hat.

James Fearnley of The Pogues

The Pogues

After enduring the blandness of Brand New, it was refreshing to see The Pogues. A legendary band whose mix of traditional Irish folk and punk attitude has been duplicated to the point of pervasiveness, Shane MacGowan is still able to wail with the best of them. The Pogues prove over and over that you don’t need a distortion pedal and a tuned down guitar to register your disaffection. All you need is attitude.

Afterwards, we attended a press conference of The gulf Restoration Network, and musicians Tab Benoit, Dan Dyer, and others. Instead of reciting the press conference, here is a copy of the press release and a letter to President Obama:

Friday, Nov. 6, 2009 Aaron Viles, 225-615-0346
Rueben Williams, 985-798-5665


Dr. John, Meters, REM, and nearly 200 others ask President Obama to
Commit to Gulf Wetlands in Letter and Voodoo Experience Press Conference
Internationally known musicians have united with Louisiana artists to call on President Obama to follow through on his initial steps towards a federal commitment to Louisiana coastal wetlands restoration. With the passage of the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, musicians have urged the President to take action for the Gulf Coast through a letter and a press conference at last weekend’s Voodoo Experience music festival in New Orleans City Park. The Gulf Restoration Network partnered with Grammy-nominated musician Tab Benoit and his Voice of the Wetlands organization to enlist nearly 200 musicians and music industry leaders on a letter to the President urging immediate action to save Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. Said Tab at a press conference Sunday at the Voodoo Experience, “We’re saying this is a Presidential decision: Make one. We need to fix this, or we need to move. This isn’t just a Louisiana problem, this is a national problem.” Louisiana loses a football field worth of wetlands every 45 minutes due to the impacts of levees and jetties built on the Mississippi River and exacerbated by the tens of thousands of miles of oil and gas canals dredged through the coastal zone. The Gulf Restoration Network was the official non-profit partner of the festival, and used that platform to send the message that without the coastal wetlands, New Orleans future cannot be assured. Said SIG with Rehage Entertainment, the company which produces the festival, “We need the wetlands for our survival. Without the wetlands, Voodoo isn’t possible.” Four years ago, after Hurricane Katrina, City Park was under four feet of water, and the festival had to be moved to Memphis, with a smaller, free festival organized in Audubon Park. The letter (see below) was signed by a wide range of musicians and music industry voices; from New Orleans own Neville Brothers, Dr. John, Galactic, and Funky Meters to internationally known acts like REM, Trent Reznor, Ok Go, Los Lobos and Bonnie Raitt. The musicians have joined the call for Louisiana’s coastal wetlands in part because of the role New Orleans has played in helping create the sound of our nation. Said Galactic’s drummer Stanton Moore, “Everything we listen to has a backbeat – whether it’s country, hip-hop, funk, or rock and roll, it all has a backbeat. The backbeat wasn’t created in LA or New York, it was created here in New Orleans. If we want to protect our culture, we need to protect the wetlands.” Coastal experts have estimated that every mile of coastal wetlands that a storm travels over diminishes its surge by as much as a foot and point to the ongoing loss of Louisiana’s coastal
wetlands as a primary reason that New Orleans’ federal levees failed during Katrina.

For more information about Louisiana’s coastal wetlands crisis, and to add your name to the call for the coast, please visit:

Voice Of the Wetlands (VOW) is an organization that is made up of volunteers who dedicate their talent, time and resources to bring global attention to south Louisiana and the world's coastal erosion problem. On the web at

Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) is a network of groups and individuals committed to uniting and empowering people to protect and restore the natural resources of the Gulf of Mexico. On the web at


President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

As you are aware, Louisiana’s coast is in danger. Louisiana is losing a football field worth of wetlands every 45 minutes, making Louisiana’s coast the fastest disappearing landmass on Earth. Approximately 25 square miles of this valuable natural storm protection are turned to open water every year. This loss of land is due to a levee and jetty system on the Mississippi River to provide flood protection and dependable shipping for the nation, as well as tens of thousands of miles of canals dredged by oil and gas companies to provide energy for the nation.
It has been four years since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita demonstrated that levees alone are not enough to protect New Orleans and South Louisiana’s coastal communities; however, plans to restore Louisiana’s wetlands still haven’t been sufficiently funded by Congress, and the Army Corps has missed every deadline regarding the development of plans and projects to reverse the loss.
The vulnerability of these areas not only affects Louisiana, it also threatens the nation. New Orleans and Louisiana’s coastal communities are the originators and guardians of some of our nation’s most unique cultures. From jazz, to second-line, rock and roll to funk, New Orleans has been at the forefront of developing the sound of our country. As musicians, entertainers and members of the music industry, we are all in debt to the city of New Orleans and the culture of
the region.

From an economic perspective, the Gulf Coast and the ports of the lower Mississippi River are critical. They supply three trillion dollars annually to the U.S. economy, and are a gateway for products like coffee, grain, seafood, and oil & gas. We must implement large-scale plans to rebuild these wetlands so that these industries and associated jobs they provide will have the coastal lines of defense necessary to protect their infrastructure and our nation’s investment in the region’s hurricane recovery.

Plans to rebuild these areas include: sediment and fresh water reintroductions from the Mississippi river, constructive use of dredged materials (via the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund), strategic closure of destructive navigation and oil and gas canals, and the rehabilitation of native vegetation. These projects must be implemented with a deliberate pace and diligent follow through.

Coastal experts estimate that we have less than ten years to begin major efforts to rebuild these areas before it will be too late. The scale and urgency of the issue demands a national commitment to prioritize the protection and restoration of coastal Louisiana’s natural lines of defense. Please lend your full support and leadership to this coastal crisis.


So folks, please remember that the troubles of New Orleans is not over. Please show your support, and visit the sites listed above.

Wayne Coyne of Flaming Lips

Wayne Coyne of Flaming Lips

The mood picked up with the Flaming Lips. With a stage set awash in orange, and the band entering the stage through, well, a vagina, the set was born and the party began. Wayne Coyne did his man in the bubble thing, and fun was had by all. It was pretty much a carnival. Musically the Lips are hard to pinpoint, at one point psychedelic, at another point gay disco. Near the end of the set, they played a very poignant version of taps, and an utterly heartbreaking version of “do you realize?”

Lenny Kravitz

Lenny Kravitz was the last act of the evening. Not much in the way of complaints here. He did his thing, all the hits were played, and the crowd got what they paid for. I don’t know if a new album is in the works, or if he decided to go out on tour for the hell of it. The problem with Kravitz is the same its always been: the tension between an extremely talented musician and the influences that threaten to overshadow his work.

Ands once again, hats off to the city of New Orleans. See you at the next ritual.



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