On its third and final day, the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience left Halloween revelers basking in musical diversity on a massive scale. In addition to a mortuary-themed haunted house and a small-scale (but no less thrilling) amusement park, the Festival’s 2016 installment brought with it performances that made it one of the more cutting-edge music festivals on the circuit.
Anderson .Paak’s performance on the Altar Stage was fitting, as the Los Angeles wunderkind brought throngs of fans to church with what many could be heard describing as the best live set of the weekend. Singing, rapping, and drumming alongside his band the Free Nationals, .Paak deftly weaved in and out of the amalgam of genres that make albums like Venice and Malibu stand out. Party anthems like “Drugs” and “Milk n Honey” were served up alongside modern-day soul offerings “The Season/Carry Me” and “I Think I Love You,” the latter he employed as an uproariously received encore.
After a resounding early afternoon set at the Altar Stage, hometown heroes Preservation Hall Jazz Band reunited on a the Toyota Music Den stage, this time to perform a song with Tank and the Bangas, who were the winners of a local contest organized by Toyota. Based right here in the Crescent City, the band is a mélange of live poetry driven by soul, folk music punctuated by unrelenting funk, and the memorable stage presence of lead vocalist Tarriona Ball. After being described as “hovering above all of us” by Pres Hall’s Ben Jaffe, Tank et al performed “Boxes (Reloaded),” imbuing the song with an Alice in Wonderland-esque element which made it the perfect Halloween accoutrement.
Once Gramatik took to the Le Plur Stage (PLUR is the rave world’s motto, standing for peace, love, unity, and respect), the weekend’s most devoted partiers were injected with the kind of energy that makes the final of a three-day fest possible. Following the unrelenting dubstep styles of Snails, Gramatik was a clear standout in the day’s electronic-based offerings, thanks to the DJ/producer’s affinity for mixing bona fide rock records with equally vigorous dubstep. With Nas samples, piano-bar riffs, and guitar breaks, Gramatik’s set provided some of the Festival’s younger attendees with a genre-bending assortment platter.
For any first-time listeners and longtime fans, Beats Antique’s Pepsi Stage performance will no doubt remain embossed on their memories. With a proclivity for the eccentric and the avant-garde, the world fusion rockers didn’t shy away from Halloween, providing concert-goers with a stage show that included (amongst other things) a massive dragon, brilliant shadow puppetry, Hindu-inspired dancing, and an overall element of performance art. In a particularly special treat, the band performed one of its newest songs, “Three Sisters,” from this year’s Shadowbox. Maybe it was the music. Maybe it was the costumes. But if one squinted in just the proper fashion, the landscape was enchanted into a world of snakecharmers, bellydancers, and mystics.
Closing out Le Plur were the Chainsmokers, a DJ duo whose meteoric rise in the world of EDM made them a no-brainer in choice of headliner. Despite a less-than-inspiring stage name, the two gave fans exactly what they dreamed of, with a massive explosion of streamers, exceptional fireworks, and eye-capturing visual components which together created the kind of phantasmagoria befitting of the night before All Hallows’ Eve. Blending superbly (though perhaps not ingeniously) the Rap elements of Bone Crusher’s “Never Scared,” Kanye West’s “Love Lockdown,” and T.I.’s “What You Know” with refreshingly surprising wild cards including Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life,” the Chainsmokers also delivered their own hits like “Closer,” a song which managed to get the drained and dreary fans loafing in the festival grounds’ makeshift cemetery onto the dancefloor.
All photos by Kim Welsh and Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee