Voodoo Fest New Orleans, Saturday
Location: City Park, New Orleans
Event Type: Music Festival
Performer: Ozomatli, Kreayshawn, Snoop Dogg, Social Distortion, Girl Talk, Soul Rebels, Treme Brass Band and more.
Date: Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011
Cabs: Expect typical New Orleans cab prices (the meter starting at $3.50 and $2 per mile, plus $1 per passenger) but be willing to negotiate for a better deal! There are many taxis waiting outside the park.
Covers: Tickets were $60 in advance for a one day pass and $70 at the door.
Cocktails: Drinks of all kinds were a rip off (typical for music festivals). A bottle of water: $3. A 16-ounce Bud Light: $7. Hurricanes and daiquiris ranged in price from $7 to $15 and more, depending on strength and size. The rules of the festival state you cannot bring in any outside food and drink. Your bag will be searched on the way in. That said, I regret not stashing some breakfast burritos and water underneath my blanket.
With perfect fall weather and a natural high, my first experience at Voodoo festival was sublime. We arrived about 2 p.m. and wandered the lovely grounds of City Park – there was lots of shade from big oaks draped in Spanish Moss. The typical music festival fare was for sale in craft booths: flowing hippie clothing, glass pipes, Bob Marley tee shirts and wide-brimmed hats.
There were six stages at Voodoo fest this year; while this facilitated more music by more musicians, the multiple stages had disadvantages as well. Sometimes the clarity of the sound was compromised by having other performers so close to one another. It also seemed that the volume at the Ritual stage (the largest venue in the park) was kept low as to not interfere with other performances. During Snoop Dogg’s act at there, his microphone was disappointingly low.
The day began with a sunny dance party at the Bud Light tent with Ozomatli. Ozomatli is a Latin/hip hop/party band with lots of brass and percussion. Hailing from Los Angeles, lyrics are in English and Spanish. There are traditional Latin songs like “Cumbia” as well as more modern tracks with rapping and rhyming from MC Justin ‘El Niño’ Porée. It was a great performance. I first saw Ozomatli perform in 2004 in California; their music embodies the melting pot of people and cultures existing in Los Angeles.
After relaxing on the lawn to a few tunes from Social Distortion (including a bad-ass rendition of ‘Ring of Fire’ by Johnny Cash), we wandered across the park to La Plur stage for Kreayshawn. I first heard her song ‘Gucci Gucci’ on 94.1 FM here in Baton Rouge. I loved the track – the chorus sounds shallow with references to designer brands, but as you listen more carefully, not is all as it seems: “And we stunting like / Gucci Gucci Louis Louis Fendi Fendi Prada / Basic bitches wear that shit so I don’t even bother”.
Kreayshawn is a 5′ 1″ female from Oakland. She is an exercise in seeming contradictions: tattoos of cartoon characters all over her arms; a white girl rapping some real nasty gangsta talk; a light, girly voice describing violent vengeance on a cheating lover or selling prescription pills to college preps. While she has gotten some flack from other Black rappers about being a “wigger,” I don’t think that hip hop or rap is exclusively a “Black” art form anymore. Secondly, since she grew up in the midst of the gangsta rap scene in Oakland, it only makes sense she was influenced by this genre. I enjoy her unique flash and uninhibited mouth. I stayed for her first four songs before walking back to the Ritual stage for Snoop Dogg’s set.
I have loved Snoop Dogg’s Doggystlye album since I was in high school, playing it late at night after sneaking out with my friends. So seeing Snoop was kind of a homecoming – I know many of the songs, lyric by lyric, by heart. To be fair, this is the only really good album Snoop Dogg has put out, in my opinion. But the persona he built for himself seems indestructible. A weed smokin’, hoe pimpin’ smooth-voiced brother from Long Beach, Snoop Dogg has subsided on this image, successfully, for almost 20 years now.
It was great to hear ‘Gin and Juice,’ ‘What’s My Name?’ and of course ‘Lodi Dodi,’ my personal favorite. His accessories were over-the-top: his sunglasses had his name written across them, his mic had his name on it, emblazoned with diamonds. However, the volume on his mic was a low – I was hoping for blasting bass and crisp vocals. Unfortunately, it was easy to have a conversation over his show. He also made the crowd do some cheesy singing at the end. I didn’t walk away from his set feeling he was a dynamic and multi-talented rapper (like I do after a MosDef show). However, I respect Snoop Dogg as a pop culture icon and one of the founders of the West Coast rap scene.
Finally, at the end of the night, we approach the Plur stage to watch Girl Talk, aka Gregg Gillis. I am big fan: I fell in love with the album Night Ripper back in 2008. Girl Talk is so high energy it is my go-to jogging music. I saw Gillis for the first time in Seattle at the Showbox and it was as if I walked into the biggest, craziest house party ever. While it wasn’t so intimate at Voodoo, Girl Talk still managed to rile the crowd into a frothing mess by the end of his set. I think the magic in his music is his ability to mesh two very different musics in a coherent way. Like he said in his interview with Marissa Moss from Fader magazine, “I don’t expect everyone to ultimately like the source material that I use, but I try to make something transformative out of it, so even if you don’t like that particular song, hopefully you like the way I rework it.”
Gillis repeatedly stood on the DJ table, screaming at the audience until his voice cracked: “New Orleans, are we ready to do this RIGHT NOW???” until finally the beat drops and a remix of Outkast or Jay Z over Radiohead leaped out into the air. His set ended in a frantic remix of “Shout” from the Isley Brothers. It was great; thousands of glow-stick adorned fans leaping in sync; balloons and confetti everywhere. Girl Talk brings it again and satisfies.
Voodoo Fest was a great experience for me. The weather, the crowd and the music were stellar. I only wish the volume at the main stage was a little more amped up, or that there were less stages and therefore less overlapping sound. But the festival was clean, enjoyable and free spirited. Worship the music!