Team Spilt Milk's final thoughts on this year's festival, including a funny Halloween video by Lauren Keenan.

twenty-one pilots photo by patrick ainsworth
Twenty-One Pilots at Voodoo, by Patrick Ainsworth

[Updated] Thoughts that we didn’t get around do during Voodoo 2014:

- Here’s a thought for Voodoo 2015. Spike the Le Carnival stage and go for something more cutting edge. It’s hard to imagine more contemporary headliners who could deliver headliner-sized audiences, and headliners are exactly that—the top of the story, but hardly the festival’s full story.

This year’s Voodoo clearly did good business, but its lineup felt very Hot Topic. Those bands clearly are meaningful to the financial health of the festival, but maybe it’s time to replace the musical sideshow acts of Le Carnival with some more cutting edge music. Maybe Ariel Pink or Foxygen? Lana Del Rey? Ty Segall? Jenny Lewis? This year’s Voodoo was many things, but it was rarely cool. Letting the residue of the Bingo! Parlor go in favor of something more current would enact more genuinely the musical conversation that’s taking place in the marketplace and online. (Alex Rawls)

- I heard differing takes on the soundbleed issue, but even those who think it was still problem this year have to admit that it was better than last year. I thought it was about as well-managed as we could expect on that plot of land. The farther you got from a stage, the more you picked up whatever was next to it, but I think it’s fair to say that if you want to hear a band better, get closer. Le Plur’s bass thump didn’t affect my listening enjoyment all weekend, and before Foo Fighters rolled over almost everything in front of them, I only heard problems when the John Butler Band was a part of Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, and they were so quiet that I couldn’t fault Butler or the sound staff at Le Ritual. (Rawls)

voodoo photo by bianca shrestha A Voodoo festgoer, by Bianca Shrestha

 

- Saturday, Congorock was everything I'd expected MAKJ to be Friday. It was an endless succession of builds and drops with a few synth shots and one-line vocal phrases like "Welcome to the jungle bitch" strewn about. The set came fairly early in the afternoon, so the audience should have had plenty of energy, but by the end everyone was disengaged by the mind-numbing repetition. The fundamental problem with the set was the "Big Room" sound Congorock focused on. Big Room house songs are characterized by the drop, which is just a really loud sub-kick, and a few sounds on the higher end to fill up what little space is left in the spectrum. Big Room songs can be really fun to listen to, especially in a festival setting with everyone jumping and screaming around you, but when they're played again and again, every track starts to sound the same. (Justin Picard)

- Unfortunately, Pete Tong, the legendary house DJ who carefully crafts his sets, followed Congorock. The audience seemed unsure of themselves as his minimal sound played out, which encourages a vibey atmosphere rather than sporadic thrashing. However, after soaking in the  sounds for 30 minutes the crowd started to catch on, and by the end of the set everybody was grooving to the luscious rhythms. (Picard)

skrillex photo by patrick ainsworth Skrillex, by Patrick Ainsworth

- Some bands need to think about what comes next. Royal Teeth can only travel so far on the now two-years-old “Wild,” and its ’80s sound needs a little gravity because the untethered sugar rush only goes so far. Covering Pat Benetar’s “Love is a Battlefield” doesn’t address the problem. Similarly, John Michael Rouchell’s TYSSON needs to develop a clearer, distinctive identity. A band name that connotes nothing doesn’t help, and the set is dominated by rearranged MyNameIsJohnMichael songs. The TYSSON material often seems like MNIJM Lite, while other songs are a genuinely different thing—funkier, sparer, and individual to the band. A little urgency would be a good idea if the band doesn’t want to lose the marginal place it has the New Orleans musical conversation. (Rawls)

outkast photo by patrick ainsworth OutKast, by Patrick Ainsworth

- Arctic Monkeys were rock stars Saturday. The British rock band commanded the stage, with a presence that was all rock 'n roll swagger. The band drew heavily on last year's release AM, and lead singer and guitarist Alex Turner did not relent from his image of consumate cool. Slicked-back hair and aviator sunglasses intact, he was absolutely commanding. (Stephanie Chen)

- Flux Pavilion re-acquainted the audience with the euphoric dubstep sound he's known for on Saturday. He didn't do anything especially progressive in his set, but he still delivered with plenty of throwbacks (i.e. "Gold Dust," and "Cracks) and new tracks for a young, hungry audience. (Picard)

- “God I love Coors Lite,” said Death From Above 1979’s Sebastien Grainger, who clearly has a lot to learn about love. (Rawls)

- GIVERS played a homecoming show in anticipation of its upcoming album, to be released in early 2015. This meant new songs, which was a good and bad thing. Someone near me griped about not hearing "Up, Up, Up," but others were appreciative of the new material. Nearly all the songs performed were unreleased, and they hinted at a new direction for the band. Their sound leaned more towards rock than pop, rounded out by deeper vocals and a darker, more consciously serious tone. There was less of the untethered, sunlit joy that pervaded the band's first album, but the energy here was extremely focused. To conclude the show, the band played a very catchy new song, "Record High," and invited onstage a chorus of friends, as well as members from Sweet Crude on strings. It was a lovely moment cut short by time constraints. After they finished, the band announced it had one more song left in the setlist but only had a minute left and were shut down. (Chen)

- According to Keith Spera at Nola.com, the official explanation for the insane line to get in to Voodoo Friday afternoon is

This year's Voodoo had one of the largest first-day crowds ever, and we experienced an unexpected surge of fans arriving at once. Any issues with entry delays were a result of that surge and have been addressed. Fans coming out the rest of the weekend will be able to quickly move through the box office.

Considering that organizers knew their advance ticket sales, that doesn’t entirely add up. In the past, Fridays have typically been softer, and bad weather has cut down the crowds in the past. My guess is that there’s more to the story, but it’s too banal to believe. Still, Voodoo needs to be better able to respond to weird situations in the future. (Rawls)

benjamin booker photo Benjamin Booker, courtesy of Voodoo

 

- Benjamin Booker got off to a shaky start Saturday, seemingly uncomfortable at the beginning. He dashed through the first three songs without settling in, but there was definitive spark in his set. Live, his music errs more on the side of punk, and under even his slow songs simmers a reckless energy. It's reined in by his raspy voice, a slow burn. He settled in near the end of his set, blowing away "Wicked Waters" and "Violent Shivers." (Chen

- When Arctic Monkeys played their set's final song and walked offstage, no one seemed to be aware it was happening. At the moment when the crowd's noise at a headlining set would typically swell in anticipation of an encore, the crowd was disconcertingly quiet. Turner had mentioned that it was their last song, but without much ceremony, and after the stage had been empty for around a minute, I heard a girl behind me ask her friend, "Wait, where did they go?" The band did return for an encore, but the quietness was deeply uncomfortable. Were they too cold at that point to cheer? Did the crowd miss their cue? (Chen)

slayer at voodoo photo by patrick ainsworth Slayer at Voodoo, by Patrick Ainsworth

 

- Rhyming “cleft palate” and “chef salad” is real, but otherwise Action Bronson seemed like a novelty. He sang along off-key to Phil Collins’ “Sussudio” and rapped over “Jack and Diane,” “Sledgehammer,” and other ‘80s hits with no connection to anything but the beat. “Play the song,” he kept shouting at his DJ, as if his beats were punishment and he was seeing how much he could take. (Rawls)

- Unlike many other DJs who prepare their sets ahead of time and do little more than click play, fade and shift from track to track, Hello Negro played all of his songs live through a drum pad, MIDI keyboard, and a few other controllers designed to trigger specific samples. Despite the smaller crowd, he was definitely engaged in his craft which made the set a lot of fun to watch. (Picard)

veridia photo from voodoo by patrick ainsworth Deena Jakoub of Veridia at Voodoo 2014, by Patrick Ainsworth

- I wasn't expecting too much from MAKJ since he's put out a few songs on the infamously generic Spinnin' Records label, but it was not the mind-numbing Melbourne bounce and progressive house set. Instead, there was literally something in there for everyone. We're talking a bootleg of AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" for the opener, and Dr. Dre, Gary Glitter, Bobby Shmurda, and Nirvana songs for builds and breakdowns that somehow worked seamlessly in a 128BPM framework. Even though there were a few small hiccups with the sound, he had the crowd jumping and twerking from the first track to the last. (Picard)

voodoo goers photo by bianca shrestha By Bianca Shrestha

 

- It was nice to have a Voodoo that rocked this year. Slayer was crushingly heavy, as was Death From Above 1979, who played one of the few sets I saw from start to finish. Foo Fighters, Melvins, even AWOLNATION, which seems like an industry-driven hybrid more than someone’s good idea—all played hard and kicked up a rock ’n’ roll noise. I don’t need to to become the festival’s signature, but it’s nice to have it back as part of the mix. (Rawls)

For more on OutKast, Slayer, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Foo Fighters, and Trombone Shorty, see Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s reviews.

a voodoo ride photo by bianca shrestha By Bianca Shrestha

Updated November 6, 9:56 p.m.

The story was updated to include the Slayer, Skrillex, and Veridia photos that did not appear in the original post.