Voodoo Experience :: Day Three: Sunday, October 31
The air is so thick with magic. –Yim Yames
|Janelle Monae @ Voodoo '10|
Sunday was just one of those perfect festival days, where everybody plays with added gusto, the sets don't overlap, the weather couldn't be better, and everyone leaves satisfied and already looking forward to next year. Seeing Pres Hall and MMJ trade guest spots at each other's sets, a performer with the ability to propel her show to stratospheric proportions (Janelle Monae) and the Scooby Doods of MGMT playing dreamy, make believe music on a (Sony) make believe stage on a make believe day was a surreal whirlwind that blew by in the blink of an eye. People will be talking about this day at Voodoo for a long time. I know I will. Halloween transformed City Park into a masquerade freak show and a dreamland for fans of people watching. Cookie Monsters, Frank the Donnie Darko rabbit, and a couple dressed as local Senate candidate David Vitter and his mistress coexisted for the day in the beautiful scenery in City Park, a space accented by oak trees and Spanish moss, setting quite a visual scene on this celebration of all things macabre. Not even going to attempt to rank performances here; on Sunday it was ALL good.
Janelle Monae :: 2:15 p.m. :: Soco/WWOZ Stage
One word review: Wow. Slightly longer review: An artist like Janelle Monae is of a rare quality, and when one of the band members told the crowd to get their texting/Facebooking/Tweeting out of the way before the show starts, he meant it. Monae commanded the crowd's attention in mesmerizing fashion and displayed an unparalleled awareness of her mannerisms, bodily movement and facial expressions, all the while dodging and taking down zombies, painting pictures – yes, actually painting - and singing during the Funkadelic-style guitar monster "Mushrooms and Roses", and even clearing a swath through the audience during the show's final song. However, it wasn't all a dance party, as Monae took a breather from pure dramatic domination to show her amazing range on a cover of the Charlie Chaplin standard "Smile." Like MMJ later, fans left this one wanting a whole lot more.
This was quite possibly my favorite midday festival performance I've ever had the chance to see. While it's too bad her buddies in Outkast haven't toured together in years, after Sunday's dazzling set, she's filling that void in the space-funk world in grand fashion, and an opening slot for Prince in New York at the end of the year should garner even more believers. A quick ascent to superstardom is only a matter of time for Monae. To say she's ahead of her time would be an insult. She's light years ahead and quite possibly not of this Earth.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band :: 3:30 p.m. :: Preservation Hall
What was planned as a brief step back in time after the future sounds of Janelle Monae to check out the authentic jazz of PHJB turned into a good 35-minute stop once Yim Yames appeared for a guest spot on "Louisiana Fairytale" and a couple other traditional tunes, providing a great opportunity to see the MMJ leader up close in front of a small crowd. The rest of MMJ was checking out the show out in the crowd, not something you generally see from a festival headliner.
MGMT :: 5:30 p.m. :: Sony Make.Believe Stage
|MGMT @ Voodoo '10|
The best costume of the day award goes to the five members of MGMT. Singer Andrew VanWyngarden wore a flowing orange wig and tights as Daphne. Keyboard player Ben Goldwasser went as Velma. Guitarist James Richardson wore the full-body Scooby-Doo costume, a tough task I'm sure with guitar in tow. And finally, drummer Will Berman and bassist Matthew Asti were a little more subdued as Shaggy and Fred. As a huge fan of this year's excellent Congratulations record, it was exciting to finally hear "It's Working" and the epic "Siberian Breaks" live. Like the studio take, "Siberian Breaks" drifted on past the ten-minute mark, oscillating between catharsis and disorientation with far-out vocal effects as the only constant. It's kind of like a condensing Atom Heart Mother into one multi-phased song. The big jams like "Electric Feel" and "Time To Pretend" from the more pop-conscious Oracular Spectacular got the massive crowd going way more than any of the new singles, and perhaps these guys have hit their peak as far as mainstream popularity goes. The still-young band put on a solid performance and showed signs of musical progression and the ability to rock a big stage without the smoke and mirrors of a big, flashy light display.
My Morning Jacket :: 7:00 p.m. :: Voodoo Stage
I have been a huge fan of MMJ ever since the release of 2005's Z album, and as a result I've attended some of the best concerts I've ever seen in the years since. Seeing the band closing out and headlining a major music festival in town like New Orleans on Halloween night was a surreal experience after some of the smaller venues I've been able to catch them in over the years.
The band floated out on stage dressed as some kind of moon wizard gods and opened the show in interpretive dance - a bizarre and comical introduction for what I am sure was a large contingent of young fans attending their first MMJ show. The boys stayed in costume for the first couple songs, opening with "Wordless Chorus" and "Anytime" before reverting to plainclothes for a pulverization of "Off the Record," a tune showcasing the Kentucky-bred band's pop awareness and serious musical abilities. As the band emitted retina-scorching white strobes, Two-Tone Tommy's swirling bass locked in with Jim James and Carl Broemel's two-headed guitar onslaught before tapering seamlessly into the achingly slow burning outro suite. The only low point of the show was the 15 minutes or so run through "Golden," "I'm Amazed" and new tune "Circuital," which hasn't won me over as a song befitting a festival appearance yet. Once the band hit "Touch Me Part One," the last 75 minutes or so blew by as James and Broemel more or less put on a guitar clinic, highlighted by the "Dondante > Smokin From Shootin' > Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Part 2 > Lay Low Jam" accented by a host of glow sticks and a huge crowd-surfing stuffed rabbit.
As he did at JazzFest, James again remarked on the spiritual connection he feels with the city of New Orleans, saying, "I feel like there's no other place on Earth to be. Every song, my molecules get more pulled out into the ethos," after pointing out that the band has always dreamed of doing a show in the Big Easy on Halloween. Towards the end, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band joined the band for four songs, which included a visceral take on Black Sabbath's theme song and a celebratory spin on the Al Johnson Mardi Gras standard "Carnival Time." Unfortunately, a couple songs were cut from the set due to time restraints ("Dancefloors" and "Move On Up") and James remarked that this was the band's final performance for some time (so MMJ can return to the studio to wrap their sixth album). It's safe to say they left their mark, ending with "One Big Holiday" to send people on their way to the downtown Halloween madness or home to catch some badly needed rest.
|MMJ @ Voodoo '10|
This is where MMJ belongs, at the top of the heap at a major music festival, putting on their highly personalized and borderline peerless performances for the masses. On Sunday night, My Morning Jacket only grew their legacy and lived up to the lofty reputation bestowed upon them by critics and fans alike. It's just a shame they can't come here and do this every Halloween.
My Morning Jacket Setlist
Wordless Chorus, Anytime, Off the Record, Mahgeetah, Gideon, Circuital, I'm Amazed, Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. 1, Dondante, Smokin From Shootin > Touch Me I'm Going to Scream > Touch Me I'm Going To Scream Pt. 2 > Lay Low Jam, Phone Went West, Black Sabbath* (Black Sabbath), Evil Urges, Highly Suspicious*, Carnival Time*, One Big Holiday
* w/ Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Best Cover on Sunday: A tie between Janelle Monae doing Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" and Jacket's take on "Black Sabbath" with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
Best Sit-In on Sunday: Yim Yames with Preservation Hall Jazz Band singing "Louisiana Fairytale".
LATE NIGHT: One last round at Tipitina's for British funk band The New Mastersounds, who were joined by the very special guest keyboardist Art Neville in the second set. One could have just gone to the late night offerings at Tipitina's all three nights and had themselves one hell of a weekend at New Orleans' hottest music venue.
Top 5 Shows of the Weekend
1. Janelle Monae
2. My Morning Jacket (a toss up with Monae)
5. Buckwheat Zydeco
Halloween weekend in New Orleans, more fun than Mardi Gras? Who's to say…
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