Florence and the Machine make the most of their headlining spot Friday night.

florence and the machine photo by patrick ainsworth for my spilt milk
Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine at Voodoo, by Patrick Ainsworth

Friday night at Voodoo, I found myself thinking about why England makes such good rock stars. Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine was certainly one headlining the festival. Everything about her performance was big—the voice, certainly, but also the passions and the energy. She stayed in motion for the entire set without seeming frenetic. She also went out on limbs of corniness fearlessly, most obviously when during “The Dog Days Are Over” she encouraged members of the audience to take off “something you don’t need” and wave it over their heads. Then she slipped off her jacket, vest and shirt, leaving her in a thin bra and pants for one last run down the runway that led to the soundboard before scampering off stage. 

In my review for The New Orleans Advocate, I wondered if it wasn’t the influence of the band Queen, which seemed to give everyone after them permission to be epically dramatic. In retrospect, I wonder if it doesn’t back further. If memory serves, Colin MacInnes’ book Absolute Beginners deals the rise of teen culture in England along with the development of the teen music scene—it has been a long time since I’ve read it—and the artifice of the scene was taken for granted from the start. In America, we tend to rally around people who are one of us, Bruce Springsteen being the best example. A working class guy. Someone you could have a beer and talk football with. British stars aren’t bound by the same “Keep it real” aesthetic. The result is frequently someone like Welch, someone it’s hard to imagine having a drink with at all, and if you could drink a little wine with her, you’d be embarrassed by how little you know about wine. 

That otherworldliness seems to free them up to be larger than life onstage, and Voodoo’s video crew accentuated that Friday, often shooting up at Welch to make her seem not just taller but towering. She ended “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” with an energetic dance of struggle that went over the top for me, but the cheers that accompanied it suggest it played differently in other quarter of the audience. Throughout, Welch used that grand scale to make her gestures of outreach and compassion more powerful and compelling than they might be from another musician. (Alex Rawls)

jessica hernandez photo by patrick ainsworth for my spilt milk Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas at Voodoo, by Patrick Ainsworth

"I know we're at a music festival, but do you mind if we play a slow one? After all, nothing's spookier than a love song."

That was the preface to "Cry Cry Cry," a song by Detroit's Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas. Hernandez's whip-smart sense of humor was present throughout their set Friday at the Carnival Stage, as the band blasted through a wide range of songs that touched on garage R&B on some occasions, No Doubt at others. Hernandez's energy kept the crowd engaged despite serious sound bleed from Gerald Way's set on the main stage. When The Deltas broke a song down to bass and drums, Way was louder than Hernandez's band, and even when The Deltas were playing en masse, Way's set became part of the band's sound.  

It clearly took a concerted effort by the Detroit soul band not to lose its composure, and its tenacity was impressive, especially when they boosted the energy towards the end of their set with “Sorry I Stole Your Man” and a cover of "Who Put the Bomp?" that ended the set on a raging, high-energy note.  Ultimately, more than musicianship, this set was a triumph for composure. (Justin Picard)

florence and the machine photo by patrick ainsworth for my spilt milk Florence Welch at Voodoo, by Patrick Ainsworth

We'll have more Voodoo reviews each Sunday, Monday, and our final wrap-up Tuesday.