Voodoo Fest will return to City Park for its 18th incarnation this weekend. Slated for Friday, October 28 to Sunday, October 30, the popular music festival will once again offer an eclectic array of alternative rock, electronic and hip-hop acts across a Halloween-themed landscape. As with any festival, some artists on the bill are more worthy of your time than others. For instance, The Chainsmokers should be avoided at all costs if you have any respect for your own musical tastes or psychological well-being (consider yourself warned). But this piece isn’t about the acts you shouldn’t see, it’s about the acts you absolutely must see. So here’s a list of six bands that should be on your radar if you make it out to the 18th annual Voodoo Music + Arts Experience.
Led by New Orleans’ own Paul Meany, alternative rockers MUTEMATH have developed a sizable following since the 2006 release of their self-titled debut album. Better yet, they’ve done it all without ever relying on the “New Orleans band” label. The last year has been particularly kind to the band, with their ambitious 2015 LP Vitals reaching #2 on the Billboard Alternative charts. As noted in our new cover story on MUTEMATH, the group also spent the past few months honing their live show as the opening act on Twenty One Pilots’ massive summer tour. Their upcoming performance at Voodoo Fest will provide the perfect opportunity to see an interesting local act that doesn’t adhere to the New Orleans mold.
MUTEMATH will play the Altar Stage from 3:30-4:30pm on Friday, October 28.
Few acts fit the traditional Voodoo Fest vibe more perfectly than Tool. The progressive rock powerhouse’s mind-melting fusion of metal and psychedelia has made them one of the most unique, and enduring, bands on the planet. It’s a perfect combination of darkness and dankness that makes for an awe-inspiring concert experience, especially when the whole thing is delivered by a trio of virtuoso musicians. It doesn’t hurt that Tool have a penchant for dabbling in downright spooky themes, from nihilism and the occult to death and ancient mythology. The band’s 2001 set at the third annual Voodoo Fest was a show for the ages, but their most recent New Orleans stop–a January 2016 performance at the Smoothie King Center–is probably a better indicator of what’s to come this weekend. If that happens to be the case, then fans and newcomers can expect a career-spanning trip down Tool’s terrifyingly surreal rabbit hole. We wouldn’t want it any other way.
Tool will headline the Altar Stage from 9:30-11pm on Saturday, October 29.
Now that we’re on the subject of bands that fit the Voodoo Fest vibe, let’s move on to Swedish outfit Ghost. The six-piece metal group has gained a fair amount of notoriety over the past year, including a 2016 Grammy for Best Metal Performance for their single “Cirice.” But while their sound is certainly up the Voodoo alley, it’s their live theatrics that really put them in a league of their own. Fronted by an anonymous vocalist who calls himself Papa Emeritus, the group’s six members don explicitly sacrilegious costumes that add a Satanic flair to the ritual garments traditionally worn by Catholic clergy. The instrumentalists choose to remain anonymous as well, referring to themselves as “Nameless Ghouls” and even autographing fan merchandise with alchemical symbols in lieu of signatures. Ghost’s lyrics may be rooted in evil, but their show is a decidedly good time.
Ghost will play the Pepsi Stage from 8:30-9:30 on Saturday, October 29.
The Claypool Lennon Delirium
The Claypool Lennon Delirium is a band that makes things easy by being exactly what their name suggests. Led by bassist Les Claypool and guitarist/vocalist Sean Lennon, the group bolsters its sometimes-insightful, sometimes-goofy lyrics with a truly delirious onslaught of musical madness. Louisiana’s influence on their sound is minimal, but it’s a musical gumbo nonetheless, a hodgepodge of disparate influences that bounces between between the silly and the beautiful at a moment’s notice. All of this should come as now surprise to fans of Claypool’s work with endlessly unserious trio Primus or Lennon’s time with avant-garde folk duo The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (though you may be more familiar with his father, another musician by the name of Lennon). Despite these seemingly incongruous parts, the Delirium is somehow more accessible than its member’s other projects. Voodoo attendees with adventurous tastes would be foolish to pass these guys up.
The Claypool Lennon Delirium will play the Altar Stage from 5:30-6:30pm on Saturday, October 29.
Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals
In a world where the R&B label has become so diluted by uninspired pop acts (Sam Smith, anyone?) that it hardly means anything, Anderson .Paak is breath of fresh air. Following several profile-raising appearances on Dr. Dre’s long-awaited 2015 album Compton, the singer, songwriter and producer unveiled a new album of his own, and to far more critical acclaim than Dre’s effort could muster. 2016’s Malibu draws from some of the best aspects of late ‘90s neo-soul and modern introspective hip-hop to create music that is as laid-back as it is perceptive. .Paak’s effortlessly soulful voice is just lagniappe. This guy should be more famous, and something tells me he will be soon.
Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals will play the Altar Stage from 3:30-4:30 on Sunday, October 30.
The baroque-rock style pioneered by Arcade Fire’s 2004 album Funeral has inspired a lot of imitators over the years, and Arcade Fire is not one of them. Since their inception in the early 2000s, the American/Canadian outfit has refused to get too comfortable in their own shoes by constantly tweaking their sound in new and interesting ways. The band’s 2013 behemoth Reflektor marked their biggest stylistic departure to date, combining dark themes with a sophisticated dance rock that tastefully incorporated Caribbean rhythmic influences.
Arcade Fire’s upcoming Voodoo set will be quite the treat for New Orleans, a place that many of the band’s members now call home. With no new releases to tour on, the group has only played a handful of shows in 2016, and the Crescent City is lucky enough to be one of them. If their headlining sets at premier European festivals like NOS Alive and Primavera Sound are any indication, anything from the Arcade Fire’s catalog is on the table. On top of all that, the band’s recent collaborations with local icons, and fellow Voodoo Fest performers, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band mean that some fantastic surprises may be in store.
Arcade Fire will headline the Altar Stage from 7:30-9pm on Sunday, October 30.