A look at the last day of Voodoo with The Cure, Dr. John, Kid Rock and a lot of ambient roar.
It was hard not to become obsessed with Robert Smith’s head. Time and thinning hair has made his trademark tangle harder to pull off. Someone on Twitter thought it resembled Spanish moss, but I replied that was unkind to moss. It left me wondering if he has a round head, and how far back the male pattern balding starts. I don’t write this to be unkind, but watching Smith move methodically and unhurriedly through the first 20 minutes of The Cure’s set invited a consideration of him. What’s he like at home these days? Just another guy tending to his garden in his country home? Someone who watches hours of downloaded anime at a time? That seems hard to imagine, but since he interacted little with others onstage, it’s hard to imagine him a social animal inviting friends over for tea.
He didn’t seem like someone overconcerned with niceties. The set was one for fans focusing on album favorites; the hits were dotted through, but not with such regularity that they defined it. The casual listeners who just knew a few songs would have to wait.
Still, the process of playing clearly engaged him and by the end of the set, Smith wasn’t just a rock star because he’s the lead singer of a famous band with a distinctive look. He was one because he was fully engaged in the songs and the moment and engaging for it, making thoughts about his off-stage existence seem irrelevant. The band warmed to the moment as the set continued as well, and songs that were largely exercises in mood early were far more dramatic and developed as time went by. When The Cure finally rolled into a string of hits for the encore, it almost seemed unnecessary. Almost, because it would have been a deal-breaker for many to go without “Love Cats,” “Let’s Go to Bed,” “Close to You” and “Boys Don’t Cry,” the show didn’t lack anything that The Cure by the end of the regular set.
- As an aside, I’m not sure what to make of The Cure’s ability to talk to women (Is it him? Is it them?) but it continues to find new audiences. There were as many young women excited by the show as ones who bought the albums when they came out.
Elsewhere at Voodoo
- Dr. John’s stock has been in need of bolstering after the sub-par effort turned in by his band at Jazz Fest, and his Voodoo set was - *ahem* - just what the doctor ordered. He revisited his Night Tripper era, and did so with an all-star band that included George Porter Jr., Herlin Riley, Uganda Roberts, Monk Boudreaux and Nicholas Payton. Together, they rediscovered the sexy, mysterious, funky grooves of “Gris Gris Gumbo Ya Ya,” “Loup Garou,” and others from the period before he became the translator of New Orleans for the rest of the world. As exciting as the music was, his own vocal performance brought them to life. There have been long stretches when Dr. John seemed to grumble his lyrics, but since the recording of Locked Down, he has sung with animation, wit and a hint of deviousness. The set was a reminder that the Dr. John that excites people is still capable, and the body of material remains potent as well.
- When Kid Rock was the rapper from the trailer park Sunday night, he was all swagger and unbeatable. When he was a southern rock singer from southern Michigan, he put aside his wit and hip-hop chops to invite comparison with singers and songwriters better than him. He survived those moments by mashing the two most reliable buttons in the country arsenal - nostalgia and patriotism - and they worked with the crowd, but that doesn’t make them anywhere near as distinctive, engaging or original as “Bawitdaba.”
- It was cool of Matt and Kim to bring Big Freedia onstage, but they brought her up to shake to her own track and leave? No collaboration? Seemed like a bit of a tease.
- “I can't believe I forgot my words,” G-Eazy rapped at one point during "Runaround."
- Miss Pussycat dealt with the sound bleed on the Carnival Stage by explaining the format of her show with Quintron - first a puppet show, then music - off mic, forcing everybody to move to the edge of the stage.
- For more of my coverage of Sunday at Voodoo including more on The Cure, Kid Rock, Dr. John, Bassnectar and Quintron, go to Spin.com.
- In the past, I’ve always found the swooping overhead cameras distracting. I was pleasantly surprised by how discretely that camera was used on the Ritual Stage, and in general how good the video was this year. Generally, it does nothing but document the show for people at the back; this year, it was actually cinematic and enhanced the experience. While Cults looked glum and immobile on a dark, mid-afternoon stage, the video screen laid psychedelic visuals over the footage of the band to create the visual equivalent of dream pop. Shooting Pearl Jam in black and white, generally from low angles, visually underscored the band’s larger-than-life, working man image. Kid Rock inserted video clips to accompany “All Summer Long” and Ford truck-like, all-American, baseball, hot dogs and apple pie video to introduce “Born Free,” and the tight shots of Nine Inch Nails added to the show’s simmering claustrophobia. Even when the video was essentially documentary as with Paramore and the other bands on that stage, the resolution was better than in years gone by. I usually have nagging doubts about going to festivals and watching a screen instead of the artist in front of me, but this year it added enough to the show to cool those doubts.
- Today on Nicholas Payton’s Twitter feed, he complained about the sound bleed onstage during the Dr. John set, and he wasn’t the only one. Musicians on Carnival and Flambeau routinely noticed their neighboring bands, and attendees couldn’t help but comment. Some bleed has its uses, but Sunday night hit critical mass. If you weren’t right in front of the stage you were watching, you were hearing something else. Cure fans heard Bassnectar’s low roar, but Bassnectar fans heard The Cure as well. Dr. John fans and musicians heard both. I’m not sure how much can be done on that footprint for real change, but next year has to be better. Oh, and did a tornado swing through and sweep away all the garbage cans?
- Now that Voodoo’s over, I want to listen more to Rudimental, Allen Stone (to see if I get it), A Silent Film, and Reignwolf.
- It's not hard to guess what Dirty Bourbon River Show might sound like by name alone, but a vocalist with an operatic gift is a bit of curveball. Charles “Big Charlie” Skinner's intense tenor echoed through the festival grounds midday Sunday.
- It's doubtful anyone came to Voodoo's final day in hopes of catching a set of modern indie songs played by a miniature orchestra, but there was Jingle Punk Hipster Orchestra, putting the classical spin on Phoenix's "Lisztomania" and MGMT's "Time to Pretend" among others. The group made sure to have some fun on the Carnival Stage, and a few festivalgoers joined in. Still, as with many novelty projects, the most compelling aspect was not knowing what would come next.
- The Voodoo bio for Sports and Leisure was loaded with enthusiastic praise for the New Orleans rockers, comparing the band to fellow Louisiana acts GIVERS and Royal Teeth. Sports and Leisure was introduced using the word "epic," but the set was messy, with songs struggling to stay in time. Sports and Leisure's live lineup features six members, but it never sounded as big as it should've. The group is certainly talented, but Sunday's set didn't merit the hype.
- G-Eazy put on one of Sunday's most exciting acts, featuring smooth and relaxed beats matched with catchy samples, including Grizzly Bear's "Two Weeks." The New Orleans rapper drew one of the Ritual Stage's youngest crowds and managed to pull a lot of the Le Plur crowd away from the mothership.
- C.C. Adcock played some of the best guitar of the weekend with his band, the Lafayette Marquis. Adcock was unexpectedly pedal-happy, but his experimentation with classic southern rock and more abstract guitar effects manifested wonderfully.
- Matt and Kim was one of the biggest letdowns of the weekend. The electro-pop duo has a reputation for high energy sets, but Sunday's late afternoon show focused more on the party than the soundtrack. The show shifted chaotically from a Matt and Kim concert to a Matt and Kim DJ set as samples overpowered the duo's original work. It felt pandering instead of fun and free spirited, and most frustratingly, the duo seems talented enough to make its own music as a exciting as the samples used. But Matt and Kim seemed content to keep partying, and some of the crowd didn't mind that at all.
- Strolling through the crowd at Kid Rock's Sunday set shows he’s still a polarizing figure. Many bought his shtick without hesitation, head banging and rapping along to Kid Rock's country hip-hop. Others were struggling to keep a straight face, while some plainly ignored the set as they awaited The Cure.
- Most Unintentionally Funny Moment: Minutes before Kid Rock took the Ritual Stage, official Voodoo social media broadcasted an exciting offer: weekend credentials were reduced to $110 for the remaining three or four hours of the festival. Facebook responded as charitably as you might expect.
- Say what you want about their music, but Matt and Kim know how to throw one hell of a party. They were even courteous enough to bring their own balloons Sunday. Their performance was overloaded with memorable moments: Kim dancing on top of her drum kit or twerking over the crowd while wearing a number of thongs thrown on stage; Matt ordering men dressed in banana costumes to crowd surf and throwing water bottles into the audience. Sure, it was a performance that focused less on their music and more on the audience, but is that always so bad?
- Beats Antique’s performance was stunning. The onstage performers, including belly dancer, Zoe Jakes, added a story line to the music and the video art was as hypnotizing as promised. And while I loved their cover of “Get Lucky,” I wish that they played more songs from the latest album, A Thousand Faces: Act I.
For more coverage of Voodoo, see our stories on
Friday in review
Keys N Krates
The Breton Sound
Matt and Kim
Maxim of The Prodigy