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Voodoo Experience 2013 Day 1 Recap: Macklemore Turns British, Pearl Jam Proves They’re Still ‘Alive’ + More

April Siese

This year’s Voodoo Experience is seeing some monumental shifts thanks to powerhouse Live Nation taking over. Add to that a new location, the elimination of key tent stages and an ever-widening VIP section, and you’ve got the makings of a pretty contentious festival — the 14th in the event’s history. And yet on day one (Nov. 1), there were some major highs, like Pearl Jam‘s headlining set, with tracks chosen by NOLA hero Steve Gleason. There were also some some stark lows, such as poorly calibrated LED walls and major audio bleed-through from every stage.

Female-fronted Southern rock dominated the day, with standout performances coming from Nashville-based Those Darlins and husband-wife duo Shovels & Rope. Mixing in some throwback doo-wop, Those Darlins headed in uncharted sonic territory, adding a welcome dimension to their music. Shovels & Rope brought a full sound with just two guitars and a minimalist drum kit, tearing through a twanged-out cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Johnny 99′ and sprinkling in a fine mix of tunes from their two studio releases.

Festival workhorses Macklemore and Ryan Lewis delighted fans with mega-hits and something extra: the very strange, very hilarious Sir Raven Bowie, Macklemore’s British alter-ego, who led the crowd in a spirited ‘We Danced.’ That head-scratching spirit was one of the main attractions on display the first day of the Voodoo Experience. Below, we list the good, the bad, and the downright curious from City Park in New Orleans.

Local Spectacle: If there’s one thing the Voodoo Experience consistently does well, it’s showcase New Orleans talent outside of suspect residencies on Bourbon St. or the trad. jazz yammering of Frenchmen. Early standouts included indie group Sun Hotel, who harken back to the Weakerthans, and electro indie outfit Royal Teeth. Both groups deliver ultra-catchy melodies with a twist of percussion and seriously tight instrumentals atop saccharine vocals that are just sweet enough to propel a song. Be on the lookout for Sports & Leisure, the Breton, Sound, and the Scorceses for a fresh taste of NOLA music.

Great Divide: The new, more freakishly robust VIP section dominating the right-hand side of the main stage has been compared to Texas and the Mississippi River and humorously referred to as the “jacuzzi section” by Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder. Costlier restrictions make a festival that recently down-scaled look downright money-hungry. It’s hard to worship the music when the divide is so vast that it’s catching the attention of performers, fans and security folk.

Pearl Jam: Riding high off the release of their latest and greatest LP, ‘Lighting Bolt,’ Seattle rockers Pearl Jam delivered a pitch-perfect set and pulled out all the stops for superfan Steve Gleason and the masses surrounding Le Ritual Stage. Mega-hit ‘Alive’ took on a whole new meaning when paired with Gleason’s indefatigable spirit. Vedder provided just enough stage banter and strange — bringing fans dressed as a bunny and unicorn onstage for the final moments of their encore — to make Pearl Jam’s set feel incredibly unique and personal. A serious highlight for the casual fan and those who’ve been with them since the dawn of grunge.

Check Out More Photos from Day 1 of Voodoo Experience 2013:

April Siese
April Siese
April Siese
April Siese
April Siese
April Siese
April Siese
April Siese

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