Over the course of its 15-year history, the Voodoo Music Experience has undergone a number of transformations, morphing from a one-day event into a weekend-long affair, experimenting with the balance of rock, roots, electronic music and Louisiana sounds, and now, moving to a new home on City Park’s permanent festival grounds. This year’s lineup suggests a growing slant toward electronic dance music (EDM), while early synth advocates, Trent Reznor and the Cure, provide a nice ancestral tie-in to some of the darker motifs likely to pulse off stages helmed by the likes of Prodigy DJ Maxim. While the 2013 Voodoo bill features nearly 100 enticing acts, we’ve narrowed things down a handful of our best bets below.
The Real Night Tripper (Dr. John, featuring George Porter, Jr, Ivan Neville, Herlin Riley, Alfred “Uganda” Roberts, Smokey Johnson, Shane Theriot and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux): In the wake of his monumental Locked Down success, Dr. John’s been testing new creative waters by touring with a smaller band in collaboration with his new musical director, trombonist Sarah Morrow, and working on a Mac Rebbenack-ified Louis Armstrong tribute. But for his Halloween-time bayou homecoming, he and Morrow return to a selection of New Orleans-based players that reads like a Mount Rushmore of accompanists from Dr. John’s storied past.
The percussion section alone boasts a major dose of New Orleans star power. In addition to Herlin Riley’s superhero-styled chops, an additional drum chair will be occupied by Smokey Johnson, the rhythmic genius behind “It Ain’t My Fault” and a man who, in addition to backing Fats Domino for 28 years, handled drum duties for Dave Bartholomew, Wardell Quezergue, Eddie Bo and headliners on dozens of Motown sessions. Big Chief Monk Boudreaux brings an element of Mardi Gras Indian percussion (not to mention, his sugar-smooth, Caribbean-inflected voice) to the group. Calypso rhythms courtesy of conga master Alfred “Uganda” Roberts round out the section.
Also joining Mac is his longtime cohort George Porter Jr., whose bass lines have been key components of Dr. John recordings since the early ’70s. Groove-adept guitarist Shane Theriot and Dumpstaphunk’s Ivan Neville complete the bill.
While any Dr. John set these days would be a must-see, we’re confident this lineup will inspire a particularly special version of the hypnotic grooves and deep funk that only Mac can invoke.Dr. John plays Sunday, Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. on the Flambeau Stage; Alfred “Uganda” Roberts, George Porter, Jr. and Shane Theriot also join Leslie Blackshear Smith, Doug Belote, Tim Green, Kiki Phillips, Mehnaz Hoosein and Erica Falls on Saturday, Nov. 2 at 2:45 p.m. on the Flambeau Stage.
Nine Inch Nails: Trent Reznor, the brooding, black-haired kid whose unexpected hits Pretty Hate Machine (1989) and Downward Spiral (1994) gave industrial music a human side and a place on the Billboard charts, recently brought his Nine Inch Nails project off a long hiatus with 2013’s Hesitation Marks. The razor-sharp angst and dark sexuality of NIN’s early material burns in full effect here, as do the addictively unnerving synth spikes that helped innovate one of the first successful meetings of hard rock and electronic music.
Influences from Reznor’s non-NIN creative output sneaks onto Hesitation Marks, too. The creepy soundtrack vibe on tunes like “Various Methods of Escape” recalls his Oscar-winning soundtrack work, while the more up-tempo “Satellite” shares DNA with his experimental How To Destroy Angels project, which canceled its Voodoo slot last month.
The quality of the new album (and our deep-seated need to see Reznor perform any track off “Pretty Hate Machine”) aside, there’s something poetic about this former New Orleans resident returning for Voodoo. While Reznor himself has personal ties to the city, NIN bears an ancestral connection to the EDM that the festival has leaned toward lately. All that gothic darkness is just lagniappe.Nine Inch Nails play Saturday, Nov. 2 at 9:45 p.m. on Le Ritual Stage.
Billy Squier: A paragon of early-’80s, machismo-fueled arena rock, Billy Squier’s most memorable hits (“The Stroke,” “My Kinda Lover,” “In the Dark,” “The Big Beat”) combined the drama of big, chunky power chords with emotion-drenched, classic-rock vocals. The resulting bravado made his early material ripe for hip-hop sampling, with Big Daddy Kane, N.W.A. and Jay Z, among others, dropping cuts from “The Big Beat” into their own tracks long before Eminem’s summer single, “Berzerk” made use of “The Stroke.”
Despite the shelf-life of his initial sound, Squier has mellowed substantially, exploring his capacity to rock through the guitar chops he displayed last spring at dba during a sit-in with Lil Band O’ Gold’s heavy-hitters. Squier’s Voodoo set will be of the paired-down, solo-electric variety, making for an even more fascinating juncture of anthemic rock, pensive guitar work and maybe—if the spirits cast the right spell on C.C. Adcock’s Saturday plans—a little dose of swamp pop.Billy Squier plays Saturday, Nov. 2 at 8:45 p.m. on the Flambeau Stage.
Bassnectar: Of the multiple, massively popular EDM DJs headed to Voodoo in 2013, the Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Lorin Ashton, aka Bassnectar, is likely to pack the most punch, both musically and experientially. His Voodoo stop is part of his biggest tour to date, and he’s announced that he prepared for it by amping up the pretty-lights and special-effects factors that have always been staples of his shows.
Bassnectar’s knob-tweaking style reverberates with a mix of hip-hop, drum and bass, dubstep and even jazz influences (he covered Nina Simone on the latest edition of the “Verve: Remixed” series), earning him a wide swath of listeners, many of whom are rabidly loyal to his live shows. Finally, unlike his clubbier Voodoo counterparts, Calvin Harris and Afrojack, Bassnectar has a proclivity for adding socio-political commentary to his music, and for backing causes like net neutrality and freedom of the press.Bassnectar plays Sunday, Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. on the Le Plur Stage.
C.C. Adcock & the Lafayette Marquis: New Orleans tends to get its C.C. Adcock fix in the form of Lil Band O’ Gold, but the guitarist’s Lafayette Marquis lineup is also reliably top-notch, featuring a flexible cast that usually includes accordionist Pat Breaux plus upright bass and drums. Adcock’s penchant for peppering his sets with surprise special guests is another factor that could make this set a stand-out. The basic quartet has been known to expand to include anyone from Jon Cleary to Ani DiFranco to members of Lil Band O’ Gold. With Billy Squier in town for the festival, we’ll be keeping an eye on the guitar slot, though Adcock’s hooky swamp rock and virtuosity alone merit attention.C.C. Adcock & the Lafayette Marquis play Sunday, Nov. 3 at 1:30 p.m. on the Flambeau Stage.
ZZ Ward: The gloss factor on ZZ Ward’s debut album Til the Casket Drops doesn’t do justice to what this 26-year-old can produce with little more than an acoustic guitar and her butterfly-blues voice, a rich and elastic boombox of a thing that’s as expressive as her original lyrics. Ward has toured heavily since her March performance at House of Blues, and tells OffBeat that her show has changed quite a bit since then, with Nina Simone’s “Be My Husband” among the new additions to her live, otherwise album-centric, repertoire. Oh, and if ZZ (short for Zsuzsanna) takes the stage looking a bit mesmerized or ready to tell you how she spent her Thursday night, give her some props. “I’m excited to be able to really check out New Orleans for the first time,” she recently told us of her Crescent City trip plans. “I’m actually going to be there on Halloween.” ‘Atta girl.ZZ Ward plays Friday, Nov. 1 at 3:00 p.m. on the Flambeau Stage.
The Revivalists: The power packed inside David Shaw’s softly graveled voice, Zack Feinberg’s hard rock-tinged guitar solos and Ed Williams’ pedal-steel work vaults this local seven-piece way out of the jam-band territory from which their early renown sprang. And during a holiday that’s all about exploring new identities, an open-minded band like the Revivalists could go in any direction with that kind of potential. Last year, they played their Halloween show gussied up like so many versions of Michael Jackson, dedicating a block of music to MJ covers. At Voodoo this year, Shaw says the repertoire and group-costume inspiration comes from a harder, Left Coast variety of funk. We’ll give you one hint: Somebody’s gonna be dressed like Flea.The Revivalists play Sunday, Nov. 3 at 6:00 p.m. on the Flambeau Stage.
Royal Teeth: We last checked in with Royal Teeth at the end of the summer, when they’d just kicked off a tour in support of their sparkling and preternaturally pretty debut album, Glow. Since then, the Lafayette and New Orleans-area natives have hit the road hard, playing three well-received sets at CMJ Music Marathon and earning a shout-out from Billboard for the fast-rising download and YouTube view numbers their single “Wild” has amassed (the tune’s eye-catching video had clocked in at more than a half-million views at last count). Asked what they had planned for their Flambeau Stage-headlining set, singers Nora Patterson and Gary Larson promised a high-energy, dance-friendly, “good, old-fashioned party.” They also issued a heads up that their live show is a work in progress. “We’re always trying to do as much as the venue will allow … if we break a couple rules it’s all for the music.” Flambeau stage security: consider yourselves warned.Royal Teeth play Friday, Nov. 1 at 7:30 p.m. on the Flambeau Stage.
Quintron & Miss Pussycat: It wouldn’t be Halloween weekend without a Drum Buddy and maraca interlude from Quintron, Miss Pussycat and, if we’re lucky, their anthropomorphic puppet friends. We expect the usual space-age organ swells, jittery hooks and oddball vamps will abound, along with the likely accompaniment of a monster-mashing backup dancer or two. But as the king and queen of Ninth Ward spellcasting will have just arrived home after a busy few weeks on the road alongside Amsterdam’s R&B-meets-punk-electro act zZz, an extra element of freakiness may well work its way into the mix.Quintron and Miss Pussycat play Sunday, November 3, at 2:30 p.m. on the Carnival stage.