How The Voodoo Experience went from Green Day to Metallica in days.
Steve Rehage's initial response to Billie Joe Armstrong's onstage, guitar-smashing meltdown in Las Vegas? "A rock star moment," he says. "Fuckin' cool. That's what Green Day is supposed to do." After Armstrong checked into rehab on Sunday, September 24, two days after the iHeartRadio Festival, the promoter of The Voodoo Experience realized that the meltdown was more than just an expression of frustration and sent him a stay strong email through Armstrong's manager. Soon after, he got a response that thanked him for the thoughts and said they'd see him in October.
The official Green Day announcement read in part, "The band regretfully must postpone some of their upcoming promotional appearances" surrounding the planned releases of Uno!, Dos! and Tres! Rehage took that email and statement as confirmation that despite the cancellations, they'd be at Voodoo. He took "promotional appearances to mean radio station appearances, in-stores and the like - not a major concert appearance. On Monday, October 8, management called and said Green Day wasn't coming. "That took me a while to process," Rehage says. Voodoo starts Friday and runs all weekend. When he got the word, he had two-and-a-half weeks to find a headliner. Normally, he has his headliners locked in by February and negotiations can start more than a year in advance.
It seems cavalier, but Rehage didn't explore back-up plans after Armstrong went into rehab. " I didn't realize how severe the situation was," he says. "As soon as I got the email confirmation, 'See you in October,' I took that as, 'Okay, we're cool.' Didn't give it a second thought, mainly because it's not something you want to think about happening. There was no game planning for losing an artist such as Green Day, especially given it was their only festival of the year."
One replacement idea came to him in the middle of the night. " I remember waking up at, like, 4 in the morning: 'What if Jack White covers Green Day's set?' If there's one person in the world who could do it, Jack White could do two and a half hours of Green Day. " Rehage went as far as to call one of White's bandmates to explore the possibility, but it was a very short call. "Obviously there was some sleep deprivation and stress involved."
One option was to see who was on road and might be able to re-route their tour through New Orleans. A number of fans observed on Voodoo's Facebook page that the Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson tour was in the South, and since Manson has played Voodoo before, they speculated that the show would make sense.
From the start, Rehage had his eyes on a handful of bands. Pearl Jam's Mike McCready will play the Rehage-produced Gleason Gras, which takes place a week after Voodoo. He wondered if McCready could get the rest of the band to play Voodoo, but that didn't work. The Foo Fighters had had a long year and were taking some time off. The Red Hot Chili Peppers weren't a great idea because they played the New Orleans Arena on October 4, but thinking about them got Rehage to think seriously about Metallica. They share managers - Tony DiCioccio of Q Prime - and Red Hot Chili Peppers were the first band to confirm for Voodoo 2006.
"It didn't seem likely," Rehage says. "Metallica's one of those bands - I personally put them with Zeppelin, the Stones, one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands in the world. There's not anything you're going to present to them financially or creatively that's going to make them do something they don't believe in. It was unlikely all the band members would be available at a time when they were not in performing mode."
Nonetheless, he asked and was turned down. The band was writing and didn't plan to take on any commitments the remainder of the year. Rehage returned to DiCioccio and asked again, and this time the band got interested. There were a lot of details to work through, one being a Halloween party in San Francisco Metallica planned for family, staff and crew. That party and its guests are now coming to New Orleans. Metallica is bringing its full stage show, and its requirements forced Voodoo to expand the stage by 12 feet and add another 150 feet of runway. But by Wednesday night of October 10, less than 48 hours after Voodoo lost Green Day, it had a deal with Metallica. "There's 10,000 reasons to say no to jumping into something this chaotic and only one reason to say yes: seemingly they love what they do - and their friends in Green Day," Rehage says.
Voodoo held off on the announcement as it finalized details and got in sync and with Metallica's people. Q Prime also manages Silversun Pickups, who were supposed to play before Green Day and will now play before Metallica. Because of that, they already had information on this year's festival. On Friday, October 12, Voodoo announced the addition of Metallica to the lineup with this quote volunteered by Lars Ulrich:
We are excited to be part of our first ever Voodoo Music + Arts Experience. Our good friends and fellow Bay Area residents Green Day had to unfortunately cancel their plans to be there, so we are more than happy to fill in for them in our own unique way. We’re hoping we can fill those very large shoes and do them proud.
Voodoo starts Friday in City Park, and with the addition of Metallica to a bill topped by Neil Young and Crazy Horse (Friday) and Jack White (Sunday), it may be stronger than it was.
"I did wake up Saturday morning and go, 'How the fuck did that just happen?'" Rehage says.