You going to Voodoo? During the first decade or so of the Halloween-weekend festival, the answer for most local music fans was almost invariably yes.
In those heady years, Bingo and their fellow sideshow freaks had their own dedicated Bingo tent, trad jazz cats blew the roof off the Preservation Hall tent, and New Orleans icons like Irma Thomas were broadcast live from the WWOZ stage. Locals mingled freely with friends backstage before darting off to catch killer sets by national acts like the White Stripes, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Iggy Pop, the Flaming Lips and Wilco.
Going to Voodoo Fest is no longer the no-brainer it once was. While its star has risen on the national festival circuit, drawing hordes of out-of-towners, New Orleans artists unfortunately haven’t been on the roster since C3 Presents/Live Nation assumed ownership in 2016. Still, depending on your age and musical tastes, there are some standout acts to catch at this year’s 21st annual Voodoo Fest.
Friday, October 25: Old-school rock fans knocked dead by Guns N’ Roses’ 1987 debut Appetite for Destruction are pumped about Friday’s headliners. After years of civil war, frontman Axl Rose, lead guitarist Slash and bassist Ian McKagan declared a truce in 2016, when they reunited for the “Not In This Lifetime Tour” and played the Dome. Three years later, the reborn GNR is firing on all cylinders. Setting the stage for the mayhem: New York rock revivalists Interpol, who pack an extra punch on stage with killer light shows.
Saturday, October 26: Headliner Beck, the quintessential indie alt-rocker who first won big with “Loser,” needs no introduction in New Orleans; he asked Quintron and Miss Pussycat to open when he played the Saenger Theatre in 2016, and always delivers a quirky, high-spirited set. The night’s other big act, The National, paints on a larger canvas. Though rooted in melodic Americana, the Ohio-bred, Brooklyn-based quintet also channels Roxy Music-style art rock, adding ethereal female voices and surreal images to the mix.
Sunday, October 27: Rap and EDM fans get their due on closing night. Since he appeared on a secondary stage at Voodoo 2017, “Rockstar” rapper/singer Post Malone has blown up, bigtime; he now routinely spurs tens of thousands of fans to bounce around like jumping beans while screaming all his words. Rezz also casts a spell over crowds. Her mad DJ skills mesmerized Skrillex as a mentor, and the Ukrainian-born, Canadian-based DJ should be at the top of her game at Voodoo. Her 2018 Halloween show in L.A. opened with a voiceover over the soundtrack of Nightmare on Elm St. while a movie showed Rezz stalking across the screen in Freddy Krueger striped-sweater drag. Be afraid. Be very afraid.