Voodoo Experience 2014, Day Three – Foo Fighters, Gogol Bordello + More
One of the most impressive features of New Orleans’ 16th annual Voodoo Experience -- which wrapped its three-day, Halloween weekend bash Sunday (Nov. 3) at City Park -- was everyone’s dedication to keeping the All Hallow’s Eve party going by dressing up in amazing costumes throughout. Yet even more extraordinary is the fest’s consistent commitment to musical diversity. It’s a reflection of the Big Easy itself, a city that celebrates nearly every style.
Case in point: the sonic smorgasbord of days one and two alone. There was hip-hop (Outkast, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Action Bronson, Yung Nation), rock and roll (Arctic Monkeys, the Wild Feathers, Rise Against, Slayer, Death From Above 1979), EDM’s heaviest hitters (Skrillex, Zedd, Pete Tong) and plenty of local favorites (Benjamin Booker, Big Freedia, Rebirth Brass Band).
Day three leaned much more heavily on straight-ahead rock artists, yet the adherence to stylistic variance was maintained amidst the markedly different vibes exuded by each act. First on the docket were early afternoon main stage group AWOLNATION -- project of L.A. musician Aaron Bruno -- whose repetitive yet uplifting cuts didn’t seem to excite the mildly attentive audience (the show likewise didn’t do much for his spirits -- Bruno was visibly frustrated that no one would jump or crowd-surf).
In stark contrast, just across the grounds, Fuel hosted an impressively packed ‘90s throwback party, satisfying most fans early on by busting out ‘Bad Day,’ “Something no one here is having,” said bleach-haired frontman Brett Scallions. Yet they surpassed expectations by continually drawing in more fans with heavy-hitters like ‘Puppet Strings,’ ‘Shimmer’ and ‘Jesus or a Gun’ -- no doubt nice primers for the more raucous-minded Foo Fighters fans waiting patiently for the headliners to claim their Voodoo crown.
Still, before Dave Grohl and company took the stage to irrefutably assert their unfaltering popularity, one more true local hero -- brass badass Trombone Shorty, along with his fantastic backup band Orleans Avenue -- got his chance to shine. And shine he did, though it wasn’t just the reflection of his finely polished instruments or the glow of the weekend’s most gorgeous golden sunset yet. Regardless of this being a hometown gig, it ought to be considered one of his recent best. His instrumentals were boisterous and flawless, and he likewise showed off perfect vocal pitch on soulful, R&B-influenced runs through songs like ‘The Craziest Things’ and ‘Fire and Brimstone.’
Afterward, gypsy punks Gogol Bordello’s performance marked a bit of downer -- not usual for them, but sound problems (with the bass in particular) meant that frontman Eugene Hutz was forced to entertain his audience with acoustic solo tunes for a good bit of the show’s beginning. It wasn’t terrible, just not the rousing spectacle of jumps, kicks, wine chugging and shout-alongs one typically expects at a Gogol show.
Let’s be real though: Any shortcomings of earlier acts were more than made up for with the mammoth might of Foo Fighters’ two-and-a-half hour fest-closing set. Similar to last year’s Pearl Jam show, the Foos were introduced by former Saints player Steve Gleason, who is now dedicated to helping others like himself living with ALS. His warning to fans that they were about to get their “faces melted” was no joke: After flashing a wide grin toward the weekend’s most expansive crowd, Grohl let out a rabid scream and launched into 'All My Life,' the adrenaline-shot kickoff to a non-stop run of invigorating hits, which included 'I’ll Stick Around,' 'Rope,' 'Pretender' and 'My Hero.'
After ending the latter cut with an extended jam -- which handily transformed it from overplayed annoyance to something nearly heavy metal in nature -- Grohl finally addressed the crowd to reminisce about his love for the Louisiana capital, where one track on upcoming eighth studio album 'Sonic Highways' (due Nov. 10) was recorded.
“You never take a day off before you play in New Orleans because you go out and have too much fun, and you have to work in the morning … so I’m having fun tonight,” he said. “I was walking through the French Quarter about three hours ago … and I walked into a bar and these three old ladies asked me, ‘Will you do a mind eraser with us?’ I said ‘No’ and the whole bar booed. So I did it, then I walked in here tonight feeling just right,” he finished with a sly grin.
If a potent drink was responsible for this night’s stellar renditions of old favorites like the Taylor Hawkins-sung 'Cold Day In the Sun,' 'Hey, Johnny Park!,' 'Breakout' and an incredible guest spot by Trombone Shorty on 'This Is a Call,' then Grohl needs to make that cocktail a permanent pre-show tradition. Add to that one of Foos’ most raucous tracks ever penned, 'Something From Nothing' -- the guitar maelstrom of a lead single off the new record -- and insanely amped-up covers of Van Halen’s 'Ain’t Talkin’ 'Bout Love,' Tom Petty’s 'Breakdown' and the classic David Bowie/Queen collabo 'Under Pressure,' and you’ve pretty much got a rock show worth the price of one three-day fest pass all by itself. Kudos, Voodoo. Many kudos.
As we wait for next year's Voodoo Experience to come around, enjoy our shots from the third and final day of 2014's festivities: