Voodoo 2010-- Day 1
Written by Nick Mainieri
Thursday, 28 October 2010 22:03
Voodoo Music Experience – 2010 – Day 1
The girls tell me that I suck because I don’t want to buy a weekend pass from them. One is dressed as a windup doll, another a skeleton, and another as something in a pink jumpsuit. They sit on the grass lawn in front of the Museum of Art. They laugh.
I get my wristband and go to the gate. I am the only person going into the festival at the moment. I can hear music pumping, but the crowd is a late arriving one. Inside, dudes are peddling waters and beers out of coolers, and companies have their merchandise tents set up. Very few people otherwise. I feel the odd anxiety that goes along with having told people I will “tweet” about something.
@NickMainieri (11:17 a.m.) – Guy at check-in: the world is yours bro. have a good experience. #voodoo
The first tent I pass is an information booth for the Iraq Veterans Against the War. They ask if I’d like to sign a petition against sending soldiers back to war who are physically or mentally traumatized. While I chat with one of the vets, several people stop and sign. Before I move on, they tell me to check out the sign on the back of the tent. I am told it is “an attention-getter.”
The sign is one they borrowed from a sister organization, Veterans for Peace. The piece of black canvas takes up the entire backside of tent. In bright block letters, it reads: Mr. Obama: End these FUCKING WARS! WAR is the obscenity.
My day starts with metal. The Sony stage is set up at one end of the City Park track, opposite the Voodoo stage. This early, the entire grassy expanse between the two is vacant. There are perhaps thirty people clustered on the rubbery track up against the barricade when locals Miracle at St. Anna take the stage. They don’t just play metal; they play metal with keyboard solos.
They band is frenetic, their singer running back and forth and doing the best he can to entertain the small crowd. Their bass player lets go of his guitar’s neck, flexes his bicep, and strikes an open E. The band members stop running, headbang in perfect cadence. The singer announces, “This is a song we just wrote. Feel free to jump around. It’s pretty poppy. It’s called ‘The Poppy Song.’”
@NickMainieri (11:46 a.m.) – Headbanging looks weird if you have a crewcut. #voodoo
I get a gator sausage po-boy and go over to the Le Plur stage to watch local D.J., Beverly Skillz, for a minute. The stage sits on the grass bank of one of City Park’s ponds. Beverly Skillz is killing it with her set, but her crowd, too, suffers from the early timeslot.
I wander, eat my sandwich, and catch some of the bands playing at the Preservation, Soco/WWOZ, and Bingo! stages. The early acts at these stages are mellow.
@NickMainieri (12:15 p.m.) – Tempted to stay in Playstation tent and play vid games all day. #voodoo
The Playstation 3 crew has seven widescreen televisions hooked up to PS3’s. The size of the crowd at least rivals those of the first few musical acts.
The tent is dark and air-conditioned. A guy in a ghostbuster costume holds motion-sensitive remotes and spars with a virtual man. The ghostbuster ducks a punch, uppercuts, and a cut splits his opponent’s chin.
Another dude is locked in at a 3-D TV in the back, He wears 3-D glasses, bears down, shoots a heavy machine gun out the side of a helicopter. To my naked eyes, the 3-D picture is fuzzy, but the game looks awesome (Killzone 3, release date Spring 2011). I wait a little while, but the dude doesn’t budge from his spot.
At the Bingo! stage, Fitz and the Tantrums play their soulful, swing pop. Noelle Scaggs shakes her tambourine, dances, belts it out. She’s lovely. People dance.
The sign telling me I can “earn” a free pair of pants draws me to the Dickies merchandise trailer.
They put me inside a chain link cage along with an assortment of power tools. They tack a pair of khaki Dickies to the chain link and make me put on a catcher’s chest protector for safety. I get 8 seconds with the power tool of my choice to rip a hole in the pants and earn a free pair.
I choose the weed whacker. Why wouldn’t I? The Dickies people start to count but the weed whacker won’t start up. It’s broken; I am the first person of the day to choose this particular instrument. I get stuck with a belt sander. Completely ineffectual. The Dickies crew gives me a free pair of sympathy pants.
Over at the Le Plur stage, there’s a new D.J. playing. The crowd consists mostly of teenagers. A girl hula-hoops to the trance.
@NickMainieri (1:26 p.m.) – How many times can one dj fit the phrase “i’m in the beat” into one song? #voodoo
The MarchFourth Marching Band from Portland, OR performs at the Bingo! stage. Raggedy costumes, spikes, helmets—they look like a band that might play to a full house in Bartertown. Two men enter; one man leaves. There are 17 of them on stage, but the real attraction is the three on stilts, towering through the crowd. They dance on their stilts, jump, spin. Photographers cluster around them. One kicks the air with an eight-foot-long leg.
@NickMainieri (2:12 p.m.) – Abita amber for $7?! #voodoo
Back at the Le Plur stage Leeds-based D.J. , Rusko, has generated a party. He flails behind his table, slaps the air with his palms. He jumps up and down when he’s not sliding switches or adjusting levels. Every now and again he lifts a microphone and shouts to the crowd of dancing young people.
One guy wears only a kilt, dances. The hipster in front of me wears a sport jacket and winter hat. It is 75 degrees out. He smokes a Black & Mild, bobs his head. A guy dressed as Jesus dances by and a group of drunken teens freak. One of them takes a swig from a bottle of liquor and shouts, “We just danced with Jesus!”
@NickMainieri (2:26 p.m.) – Alligator sausage indigestion. #voodoo
Rusko picks up the mic, shouts. “Whoever’s smoking that blunt’s making me jealous. It fucking stinks. I love it.”
The beat reverberates in my sternum. A pelican swoops overhead and lands in the pond. Suddenly, the music cuts out and in the brief lull between music and angry reaction from the crowd, one of the drunken teens screams, “I’m sweatin’ tequila!”
@NickMainieri (2:36 p.m.) – Rusko’s dj table just fell over. #voodoo
Roaming. Anders Osborne has a great voice and a crazy beard. More mellow music at the other stages. I am drawn back to the party of Rusko’s set.
The music is up and running. A Cobra attack helicopter passes overhead, likely streaking toward the marine base, and the drone of its rotors briefly swallows the music. The video screen behind Rusko flashes, relays the message: WAKE THE FUCK UP.
I cut behind the merchandise tents to get back to the Sony stage. Kids are getting high back there.
The keyboardist for the True Loves promises that Eli “Paperboy” Reed is going to make me shake. The bandleader appears, begins to croon. I see one person shake.
I return to the Le Plur stage. Hula girl is still at it, and the dude in the kilt has donned a leather vest.
Innerpartysystem delivers their electronic stuff. A robotic voice threaded throughout their first song tells me to relax, take a breath. Again, the music cuts out. An angry eruption from the crowd. “This is embarrassing,” one of the keyboardist/D.J.’s of the three-piece says. Their computer has broken.
While two of the band members tend to the computer, the drummer attempts a steady beat and then stops. Kids shout at him to keep playing. He finally shouts into the mic, “I don’t know how to drum solo, I’m sorry!”
When they get the music going again, one D.J. brandishes his middle finger and screams, “Fuck computers!” Fingers answer from the crowd. The chorus of the song: “We’re all here but we’ve lost control!”
Zydeco sensation Rosie Ledet begins at the Preservation Hall stage. Her smoky voice and accordion make an unusual and very nice pair.
I eat a couple duck empanadas and watch the live karaoke stage. Smashing Pumpkins followed by Journey.
Dead Confederate goes on at the Voodoo stage. Their lead singer looks like a dude from an emo band but their keyboard player looks like that guy with the huge mustache from American Chopper. The music is poorly mixed, bass way too loud.
@NickMainieri (4:41 p.m.) – Tempted to get more food and watch the live karaoke. #voodoo
People begin to camp out on the grass between the stages. A homeless guy wanders around, screaming indecipherable things at the people sitting on their blankets. I wonder if he went to sleep somewhere in the park and woke up in the middle of all of this.
The Happy Talk Band plays at the Bingo! stage. There are several cool things about their Orange Mothers-like performance, but the coolest is the guitarist’s Ernest Hemingway T-shirt.
The Dickies challenge folks are conducting tug o’ war matches, using pairs of pants knotted together.
@NickMainieri (5:02 p.m.) – There are only 3 holes in that pair of Dickies. #voodoo
At the Le Plur stage, nothing has changed other than the person on stage. The youngest crowd all day, the most pot smoke.
The frontman from Icelandic epic rock band Sigur Ros, Jonsi, begins his set at the Sony stage. Jonsi and his bandmates wear scarecrow-like garments with long, fabric ribbons hanging off their sleeves. Jonsi has feathers tied into his hair.
His eyes roll back into his head while he sings. His signature voice, high and eerie. The band members cycle through instruments: guitar, piano, drums, vibes, xylophone. The sun goes down, orange through the oaks, and a last flock of egrets passes overhead. Four of the five band members cluster around the xylophone and play it together. The result is something close to the sweet jams Ludwig von Beethoven plays in the San Dimas Mall in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
The music gains in intensity. The tempo picks up. Jonsi distorts his voice by running his fingers over some sort of touch pad. The crowd—the biggest yet—stands transfixed. Jonsi disappears and returns wearing an elaborate headdress of feathers. He stumbles around the stage, singing in a mixture of Icelandic and English. The set reaches a crescendo. Jonsi screams into the mic, steps on effects pedals. Abruptly, the musicians cease to play, leave the stage. Jonsi drops the mic and disappears. His screams linger on loop. Then they end, too.
It is the only set I’ve watched in its entirety. A girl taps me on the shoulder. She is very cute. “Hey,” she says, “do you have a bowl?” I do not.
Metric starts their set across the way. They are okay, but their brand of alt rock feels a little thin following Jonsi’s set. A little too familiar.
@NickMainieri (6:46 p.m.) – Crawfish pie. #voodoo
I eat on a bench in the weird limbo space where I can hear multiple bands playing at once. Metric vs. Soul Rebels. I get up and go catch some of the Soul Rebels. The local brass band feels familiar, too, but in a much different way.
@NickMainieri (6:56 p.m.) – Soul Rebels tell ya to party on the left, party on the right, and do whatcha wanna. #voodoo
A man pushes a shopping cart down one of the pathways. It is disguised to look like a robot. It pumps music from a speaker somewhere inside of it. People trail the robot, heft beers, dance.
I return to the voodoo stage for the end of Metric’s set. A green laser show begins, igniting the smoke hanging above what is now a massive crowd between the stages. Metric covers the Beastie Boys. Next to me, a middle-aged couple makes out.
The air takes on a chill. Perhaps the hipsters with the winter caps know what they are doing. Can I make sleeves out of my new Dickies? No. They are indestructible.
@NickMainieri (7:11 p.m.) – Torn between Weezer and Quintron. #voodoo
When Weezer takes the stage, there is no Rivers Cuomo. Finally, a cameraman finds him, and we watch on the video screen as Cuomo kicks a soccer ball around backstage.
He comes out onto the stage to an enormous ovation. People are packed together. They open with the classics. People chant along.
Midway through the set, they play a new song. They screw it up once; one guitarist is in the wrong key. Cuomo takes a piece of paper out of his pocket and explains that it is his lyrics cheat sheet. They start the song over. Cuomo says to the guitarist, “You got it, bro!”
As they run through the set, Cuomo stomps around the stage like an angry child, dances spasmodically, runs back and forth. He leaps off the stage and slaps high fives with those hanging over the barricades. He runs down the barricaded alleyway to the sound tent in the center of the crowd, climbs on top of it. He works his way around its platforms, at one point lounging atop the portable toilets behind it. He commandeers one of the cameras and aims it at the crowd. He sings all the while. The people see their own faces on the enormous video screen.
He returns to the stage and the band plays a newer, electronic number. Halfway through, Cuomo disappears and returns wearing a blonde wig, and they launch into a cover of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.” They close with “Buddy Holly.”
After the set, the crowd lurches in the other direction, and Muse goes on. Frontman Matthew Bellamy wears a silver suit and light-up glasses that look like something one might purchase on Bourbon St. The light show takes on a different hue for each song. I only make it through a few songs before deciding to catch the end of Galactic’s set.
@NickMainieri (10:07 p.m.) – Home. Feet hurt good. Bringing a sweatshirt and my own booze tomorrow. #voodoo
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