Halloween Weekend in New Orleans
Voodoo is a musical gumbo; with music, arts, community, and cuisine all stirred together with the mystery and adventure that Halloween in New Orleans conjures up. Voodoo is more than just a three-day music festival; it is an experience.
This was Nashville Music Guide’s first time getting the opportunity to explore Voodoo through our own eyes and tell about it in our own words.
We started our travels the Thursday before Halloween weekend to ensure that we get down in time to be well-rested for the kick-off of the festival on Friday. Expectations were high. With a line up that included names such as Mumford & Sons, Third Eye Blind, Arcade Fire, Marilyn Manson, Odesza, and Modest Mouse the music scene was enough to keep any music lover awake with anticipation. Over 65 bands in three days – not a bad way to celebrate Halloween. While Childish Gambino was one of the tops acts on our must-see list and the news that he had to cancel was momentarily devastating the replacement of Travis Scott eased the blow.
Being a music-driven publication the line-up was the main focus on our interest in covering. However, with any music festival and as most veteran music festival-goers know that a music festivals acts are only one of the ingredients in the mix that make a music festival a success. The vendors, the staff, the setting, and the other festival goers can make a HUGE difference in a festival experience.
Prior to our arrival, it had rained for a few days and not being familiar with the terrain our first day was more muddy than we could have expected. After a quick run to get proper footwear we began our experience.
A Culinary Experience
New Orleans is known for its food scene and Voodoo brought out some of the tastiest indigenous flavors around. The “Forked Up Food Court” featured some traditional NOLA dishes like duck quesadillas and crawfish tots.
As a perk, we were treated to snacks by the Voodoo staff that included cajun dogs and more. We were very grateful for the experience and hospitality.
After some good music and a full belly there was still time in between sets for some exploring. Across the festival grounds of City Park, Voodoo had interactive and immersive large-scale art installations.
From amusement rides to the haunted Mortuary to the Brew Dat Beer Hall there was plenty to see and do.
Let’s not forget one of our favorite parts beyond the music at a festival – the vendors! The voodoo Marketplace had incredible shopping with hand-crafted goods, art and more.
Music Worshipers in Disguise
Voodoo’s music, food, arts and vendor scene was on point which leaves the final, and maybe most important, ingredient to a good festival — the festival goers. Voodoo brings out the mystics, madmen, femme fatales, gods, goddesses, and music lovers of all kinds under one collective consciousness — to worship the music on the weekend of all hallows eve. Speaking of, the costumes of the weekend didn’t disappoint either.
Back to the Music
With their commitment, crisp musicianship and the uplift of “Ditmas” and other anthems Mumford & Sons killed the festival.
Lettuce served up an airtight set of contemporary funk. Trumpeter and New Orleans resident Eric “Benny” Bloom set off sonic fireworks in front of a big crowd. As the other five musicians maintained a fat, churning groove, Bloom used effects to manipulate the tone of his matador horn during a long instrumental number that could have continued indefinitely.
Official Voodoo Experience account tweeted, “Janelle Monae is a force of nature.” Well, the future-funk/R&B singer/show-woman wasn’t a strong enough force to prevent the festival from cutting off her sound exactly at 6:30 p.m., her scheduled stop time, even though she was clearly winding down “Tightrope,” her biggest hit.
ODESZA’s final “It’s Only” featured nine people, including Mills and Knight, pounding drums as fireworks popped off overhead. It was a big moment for a big stage.
A Few Notes
While we enjoyed our time and the experiences that we had at Voodoo a few things that we thought could be improved upon. There was not a great plan for the grounds. The mud was overwhelming and couple that with the lack of lighting around the festival grounds made it treacherous terrain to trek around in. The lack of lighting at a festival this size is also meant that if you lost some one or something it was difficult to near impossible to find.
The set up of the festival with the food, merch and other parts of the festival being isolated rather than scattered through out the venue made for backed up lines and confusion amongst the festival goers. Couple that with the only solid sidewalk that was not muddy being the place for lines for the food also made the traffic jams of people trying to get from one place to another pretty tough. While this could not have been foreseen, it would behoove the festival to scatter the merch, food, and drink vendors around the grounds to aid in having too many people in one place at the same time.
Another problem which we did not experience but heard other festival goers complain about were the long lines at the bathrooms. One of the most vital pieces to a festival are the restrooms and the rule that you can never have enough. While looking over the festival grounds from the media tower you could see the lines for the bathroom that were at a standstill for show after show.
Lighting for safety, variation of location for vendors and extra bathrooms were the main things that we saw that we felt could be improved upon to increase the experience of the festival goers for VooDoo. A few touches like this would make a huge difference.
Voodoo a 5-Star Experience
Despite the rain and mud, Voodoo truly was an experience to hear, taste, smell and feel. It was an aesthetic experience that is perfectly themed with the Halloween weekend and creates a sensory overload worthy of being repeated annually.