Although Voodoo Fest had already been in existence in New Orleans for 14 years, the music and arts festival celebrated many firsts during its 2013 ritual.
These changes, a product of owner Steve Rehage selling a large portion of festival’s rights to Live Nation Entertainment, were apparent as crowds poured into City Park for opening day (Nov. 1). Still Voodoo Fest came back with a lineup bigger and better than ever making it clear that one unwavering factor is the music.
Kicking off the festival were alt rockers A Silent Film, The Virginmarys, Shovel and Rope, and Youngblood Hawke. Even though these bands were not well known, they proved their place in the festival with very impressive sets. The setting sun ushered in familiar faces including New Orleans royalty, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and rap newcomer Macklemore. This lineup, diverse in genre, truly demonstrated why the festival has gained notoriety worldwide for mixing high profile acts with the local flair of the city’s native bands.
Closing the main stage that night was grunge pioneer Pearl Jam. The band, which recently released its 10th album, Lightning Bolt, was introduced to the crowd by local hero Steve Gleason. Gleason, who appeared in the band’s short film that shares the name of Pearl Jam’s recent album, is a former safety for the New Orleans Saints. In 2011 the athlete revealed that he is battling ALS, sometimes called Lou Gherig’s disease, and refuses to let it stop him. It is this resilience that brought him to the stage to introduce the band that he described as “one of the great American rock bands.” Members of Pearl Jam then entered the stage a played a brilliantly mastered set chosen by Gleason himself.
As festival attendees left the park that night there was chatter about the impossible task the next day’s lineup was faced with in trying equal what they had just seen, but to much of the audience’s surprise, Saturday’s lineup did just that. The event was jam packed with rising artists that were new to the Voodoo stage including The Black Cadillacs, LP, and Delta Rae. As each band played, its members invariably seemed to find time in between songs to share some of their favorite New Orleans stories. This was apparent as Cults lead singer Madeline Follin even joked with the crowd about her desire to move to New Orleans in the future.
As Saturday evening slowly turned into Saturday night, the festival stages began hosting popular acts like New Found Glory, Alkaline Trio, The Gaslight Anthem, and Paramore. All of these groups perfectly warmed the crowd for the night’s final group Nine Inch Nails.
Nine Inch Nails, another influential rock band headlining the festival, were no strangers to the sights, sounds, and people of New Orleans. Residing in New Orleans for most of the 90’s, lead singer Trent Reznor laid the foundation for his previous record label, Nothing Records, in the vibrant city. Approaching the microphone with the confidence and ease of playing in a city that one knows well, Reznor started the set with Nine Inch Nails’ searing track “Copy Of A.” Reznor then kept the microphone blazing, singing 27 songs in the group’s allotted two hours. Among them were “Terrible Lie,” “Sanctified,” and the rarely played David Bowie cover, “I’m Afraid of Americans.”
As the allotted time dwindled down, Reznor spoke to the many familiar faces in the large crowd: “ I’ve experienced some difficult times in this city. I also found salvation in this city. New Orleans is my favorite city in the world.” These acknowledging words to his city would inspire and exhilarate the crowd through the end of the set and days after.
The final day of Voodoo brought a slight chill to the New Orleans air. Though the weather was cooler, the Sunday evening acts brought warm energy to the crowd. Robert Delong, Matt and Kim, Moon Taxi, The Revivalists, and Kid Rock added a variety of music genres to the Voodoo stages, one that made sure that audience members of any genre preference would have a memorable final day at the festival.
Playing the festival’s final main stage slot were leaders of the new wave movement, The Cure. Led by Robert Smith, members of the Cure settled into their spots on stage and began to play the steady beats of their song “Shake Dog Shake” as Smith stepped up the microphone and laid out his signature vocals, immediately receiving gratitude from the crowd with screams and shouts.
The group played a set list infused with greatest hits including the melancholic ballads “Pictures of You,” “Lullaby” and “Lovesong,” as well some more optimistic pieces like “Love Cats” and “Friday I’m In Love.” All of these were set to the catchy jangling guitars of the new wave time.
The Cure finished the set with the band’s most recognizable song “Boys Don’t Cry,” leaving the song’s fi- nal verse echoing through the city’s park as the band members took their bows.
Despite the many changes to the festival the one major point of permanence was the music — something the city itself revolves around. This simple fact makes it clear why so many artists that greeted the crowds of Voodoo Fest felt a deep connection with New Orleans and its people.
Sisters Kennedy and Cassidy Breeding are students at Letcher Central High School.