Thoughts on Voodoo Fest: Wrap Up
Written by Joe Longo
Saturday, 25 October 2008 11:37
Some final thoughts:
I wouldn't doubt that the Philadelphia neighborhood where Man Man plies its trade is edgy, unclean, and "a haven for artists," but after seeing the Morning 40 Federation on Sunday, you realize our "downtown" musicians make a band like Man Man, with their clean white matching outfits and fussy stage setup, look like Vampire Weekend. The snazziness of the Bingo! Parlour shouldn't let us forget that we can out-dirty anyone.
Speaking of our downtown musicians, one of their favored props is the megaphone, and many bands love to employ the siren feature. It's great and all that Li'l Wayne can turn a siren sound into slow jam, as he does on "Mrs. Officer," but for the musicians who still pay cheap rents, the siren will always represent the shooting on the other block.
I missed the Butthole Surfers , but if they generated a fraction of the awe of their musician peers that Andre Wiliams attained simply for fishing in the pond behind the Bingo! Parlour tent, then they will have cemented their legend.
Watching R.E.M ., I am old enough for their songs to remind me of my own unrealized ideals, but I take comfort that many of my contemporaries who were also fans of R.E.M. have likely done vile things with their lives.
I forget who said that the key to leadership is seeing where the crowd is going and getting in front of them, but I was reminded of it when the Obama iconography popped up on the screen behind R.E.M. I don't know for certain whether John Kerry's mug was a key component of the band's multimedia showcase in 2004, but I tend to doubt it. To be fair, R.E.M. did release their 6th album, "Green," on Election Day in 1988, aligning themselves with Michael Dukakis, so you can't blame them for prudence this time around.
And how should you spend your Election Day? Pick up a copy of our new book, "Soul Is Bulletproof" and read it. If you still feel like voting, then you are a true believer.
NOLAFugees music correspondent Dominique Minor checks in with some observations that actually relate to music:
On Friday, One Man Machine playing probably one of the most enthralling performances I've ever seen. He started by playing his trumpet directly onto his amplified electric guitar, then he began throwing his instruments around. In the end, his trumpet was dented, but he kept on playing. I don't think he was upset; he just seemed like he was in the zone. I saw his children there. They were running around having fun while watching their dad play.
Later that day I caught the Dirtbombs playing on the Playstation stage. The Dirtbombs have a very unique make-up. The lead singer is this black guy that's probably in his late-40s; they have two drummers (who play in perfect sync), and a petite Asian woman on rhythm/lead guitar. Their tunes were relentless. Song after song, their 60s garage rock never let up; each song melted into the next. The band drew a pretty sizable crowd, too, including three members from indie-rock sensation and Voodoo Fest headliner TV on the Radio. For the set's finale, one of the drummers grabbed a tom drum from his set, made a mad dash for the other drummer's set and stood atop its kick drum. After tossing the loose tom drum in the air a few times, he finally came crashing down onto the other drummer, dismantling the drumset almost entirely. However, this did not stop the two from playing a synchronized drumbeat with the single drum that was left standing. I have a feeling they would have kept going, but the stage crew literally took the drums from underneath them.
On Saturday night, Mars Volta vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala destroyed two stage lights, threw 3 mic stands into photographers' pit--one of them he bent in half. While I can appreciate the band's psychedelic atmospherics and unpredictable stage antics, I've always found their music a little too “trippy-for-trippy's sake.” When I explained this to a friend, he responded: "No, the Mars Volta can't be 'too trippy.' I like to imagine that they wake up in the morning, drink some coffee, drop some acid, shoot up some heroin perhaps mixed with the ground-up remains of Bolivian beetles, smoke a little crack --actually I read in an interview that they do partake of crack, not to mention that they prefer wearing girls' blue jeans because they're tighter than the male versions!--, perhaps sip the lukewarm blood of a 12-year-old virgin after which they might board a flying saucer and land on Pluto...I just hope I never find out that they're nice to their mothers or donate money to crippled children."
When the band played on Saturday, they came on about 20 minutes late, and played about 20 minutes over, soliciting complaints among attendees. "When the fuck is this band going to be over? The singer sucks!" I kept hearing. None of the band members said a word to the crowd or amongst themselves the entire set; it was very intense. Towards the end of the set, Cedric really started losing it. In addition to flailing himself like a demonic jellybone ragdoll, he took his belt off and started beating the micstand, the drumset, and eventually his following bandmate Omar Rodriguez. As a budding music journalist, I have to say, I never want to interview this band!
-There was a booth advertising "Complimentary Voodoo Photos" on Friday. When I walked by on Saturday the word "Free" handwritten on a piece of paper covered the word "Complimentary." By the time Sunday rolled around, the words has been changed to "100% Free"
-Artists that endorsed Obama on stage: Wyclef Jean, Trent Reznor, Lupe Fiasco, and Michael Stipe.
-Ginger kids unite: Bywater electro-funk rocker Michael Patrick Welch dedicated a song in his set to "red-headed people everywhere."
-NERD cancelled at the last minute. Boo.
-The light beams shining above the festival grounds formed a peace sign.
ATM fee: $5
There were so many photographers at L'il Wayne's set that our photo man was denied stage access. When their time was up, the photographers were forcibly removed, spit back into the crowd who had little room to receive them. It probably won't be like that for R.E.M. tonight.
I severely underestimated L'il Wayne's sway with the young white girls, but it was on display at yesterday's set. My photographer reminded me of Wayne's constant radio presence, comparing him to "Thriller"-era Michael Jackson. And maybe he's right. How much trouble would Jackson have avoided had "Baby" Williams been his mentor? "Ben, the two of need look for pussy no more." Brrrrr.
Li'l Wayne (from the stage): I'm registered to vote. Y'all registered to vote?
Young Blonde Girl 1: What did he say?
Young Blonde Girl 2: Are you registered to vote?
Young Blonde Girl 1: I'm not.
Li'l Wayne: (from the stage): When I say "Get Money," y'all say "Fuck Bitches."
The first time I saw Ratty Scurvics live, he looked positively Hitlerian in a short mustache and side-parted mohawk. His appearance then lent an element of danger to his music that made it all the more riveting, as if he were one viral video away from leading the masses into adapting a horrific political philosophy.
Now that he's my neighbor, I realize my concerns were overblown, but last night at the Noomoon stage, he roused some of that old magic. Buy his work. Keep him making art. It's best for all of us.
I've been a refugee from white culture for so long I feel like an anthropologist strolling through the grounds at Voodoo Fest. But I feel there is much to be learned, and here's why.
Voodoo Fest and most music festivals in general are a good place to gauge the collective political mood of the vapid white consumer mind. For instance, the riots, rapes, and arsons that marked the conclusion to Woodstock '99 were a clear indicator of the coming Bush presidency. Frustrated and hostile, filled to the brim of their ball caps with incoherent anger, these kids were ripe for Republican rhetoric, and lord knows how many found themselves spending the next decade fighting wars in the Middle East. Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit spoke for them when he sang, "Give me something to break," and in short order Bush provided.
The wars of this decade provided all the necessary entertainment for the pillaging element of this generation. The rest of them became emo kids, too fragile to allow geopolitical concerns to crowd their headspace. That their own lives were fraught with emotional peril and disappointment was sufficient validation that the rest of the world sucked. 2004 was the year of "American Idiot," where Billy Joe Armstrong, whose band Green Day headlined the Voodoo Fest that year, told the kids how stupid they were, and the '04 election results proved him right.
But the youth are nothing if not malleable, and this year's Voodoo Fest reflects the shifting Zeitgeist. (e.g. On the main stage on Friday afternoon, Wyclef Jean warbles unabashedly for Obama.) This shift should not, however, be cause for celebration, as one should live in constant fear of the capricious swaying of the masses. That it has swung, temporarily, in a direction that agrees with your sensibility is simply a matter of luck, a random alignment of corporate branding and vague progressive sentiment.
And, I should note, a 16oz. can of Beck's is fucking $7.
Other random observations:
neworleans.com tent dishing free Ts in exchange for signing onto their mailing list; folks in black long-sleeve Where Y'at Magazine Ts. A reason to trust NOLAFugees: we are horrible at promotion.
Ray Bong at the Noomoon stage, shrieking "something bad will happen" over White Bitch's high, searing guitar, as if this is news. Maybe to this crowd, white, young, and drugged, it is news.
After hearing a set inside the super swanky Bingo Parlour, the Noomoon stage sounds like a transistor radio. How the local bands who populate both tents can remain friends is something I'd like explained to me.
Inspirational lyric from the Wall Street Traitors: "some things are best left unsaid; we bury them along with the dead." The New Orleans Covention & Visitors Bureau ought to adopt it as their company motto.
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