Voodoo Experience 2014, Day Two – Arctic Monkeys, Big Freedia + More
I guess someone must have thought booking Lauryn Hill for a midday main stage set at Voodoo Experience's second day (Nov. 1) was a good idea, right?
No offense meant to the former Fugee’s incontestable talent and legacy -- it’s just that she’s notoriously late and seemingly always an uncomfortably erratic performer, more often than not resulting in disgruntled fans and delays for everyone else sharing the stage that day. And sure enough, Ms. Hill didn’t turn up until about 45 minutes after her scheduled 6PM set time.
Granted, once she’d visibly shed a few tears during 'Killing Me Softly,' and finally hit her stride, she sounded masterfully sharp on rap-heavy renditions of classics like 'Everything is Everything' and 'Lost Ones.' But, the resulting 20 minutes weren't nearly enough to offset most fans’ ire after standing out in the 40-something-degree weather for the better part of an hour.
It’s possible that the day’s overall experience was improved for some by her nearly secret return to “finish” her set a few hours later on the tiny Flambeau stage, yet much credit for an overall stronger day two is likewise owed to many of its much stronger other acts.
Recently reunited Ontario-based punk-noise-rock duo Death From Above 1979 sounded much more polished -- yet still delightfully unruly -- than on its initial 2011 return during a mid-afternoon main stage set, adding melody to chaos with new jams from September's sophomore LP, 'The Physical World.'
Nashville-based neo-classic rock breakouts the Wild Feathers -- still touring behind their 2013 self-titled debut -- likewise sounded infinitely tighter than during appearances at SXSW and Bonnaroo earlier this year. With four-part vocal harmonies, alternating lead singing (varying from silky smooth to ruggedly robust), bout after bout of sharp lick-trading and a bit of coy Southern charm to boot -- “How do you do, Voodoo?” -- their show served as an uplifting segue to the evening’s remaining artists.
Two more Lousiana-based acts -- Lafayette’s Givers and New Orleans’ own Benjamin Booker -- proved during subsequent shows that local love can carry a band a long way at a festival.
The former indie rock band, anchored by baby-faced vocalists Tiffany Lamson and Taylor Guarisco, took an extended break after touring behind 2011 debut album 'In Light,' and so used this set as an opportunity to showcase new tunes from a still-untitled full-length follow-up. Those selections indicated musical maturity achieved a thousandfold in their downtime: Lamson echoed almost tribal vocal (not to mention percussive) influences akin to tUnE-yArDs’ Merril Garbus and mightily refined harmonies by Guarisco and company prompted euphoric cheers of adoration from the (obviously) loyal crowd.
Booker, too, basked in the comfort of home. There’s a reason Jack White recently tapped him for a few North American tour dates, and with a confidence boost from the incessant cheers and happily singing voices of his local peeps, he lived up to that revered reputation handily this night. During cookin’ cuts like 'Always Waiting,' 'Chippewa' and 'Have You Seen My Son' -- off his recently released self-titled debut album -- the 25-year-old guitarist could be seen hopping and duck-walking with unmatched excitement between intermittent, baritone-tinged solos.
Arctic Monkeys were officially billed as the evening's top headliners -- a slot they certainly earned with both suave moves (à la frontman Alex Turner) and bone-shakingly heavy (literally, depending on how close you were) runs through new songs like 'Arabella' and the encore-closing 'R U Mine?' -- yet it was another beloved NOLA artist that hosted the most spectacular evening-ending performance.
Enter enigmatic MC-dancer Big Freedia, the self-proclaimed Queen Diva and local leader of bounce music, a movement that involves rag-doll-plus-hip-hop-esque moves plus a whole lot of ass-shaking. The latter aspect was expected (and delivered) bountifully, but for this hometown show, Freedia was packing some extra special junk-in-the-trunk.
Not the type you’re thinking either. After a proclamation from DJ Juan -- “This ain’t no regular s--t!” -- a lone violinist wearing a powdered wig and sparkling-gold, Victorian-style clothing took the stage to play a solemn piece. A minute or two in, Freedia sidled slowly up behind him adorned in an elaborate purple headdress paired with black and gold, almost Egyptian-patterned cape and matching body piece. His dancers proceeded to join, the males dressed like the violinist while the ladies sported plantation-era hoop skirts with matching bonnets and parasols.
Their galvanic dancing only lasted for five minutes before the usual, rump-abundant rumpus broke loose, but the over-the-top display -- which in fact topped any visual production at the fest thus far -- was dazzling enough to certify that Big Freedia is not only the Queen of Bounce, but also bonafide Big Easy royalty.
Enjoy our shots from day two at this year's Voodoo Experience: