The Voodoo Music + Arts Experience isn’t your average music festival. It aims to be what its name purports: an experience. More than providing attendees with some of the bigger names in rock, hip-hop and EDM, Voodoo is an adult playground run amok, where attendees can discover distractions beyond enjoying the music. The fact that it always takes place on, or around, Halloween just makes it that much more colorful—literally and figuratively.
Friday started off relatively quiet, as attendees wrapped up work or school and drizzled into New Orleans City Park; it wasn’t until the evening that the stages began to see more packed audiences.
Falling in the mid-afternoon, New Orleans’ own Mutemath treated the crowd to one of the better rock moments of the day, made all the better when lead singer Paul Meany brought his young daughter onstage to perform an instrumental number the band played ten years ago when they last visited Voodoo. Meany’s grandfather “Papa G” was on hand, and the band paid tribute to him by singing with the next generation. The crowd quickly embraced Meany’s daughter, who concentrated with next-level intensity on playing her pink toy guitar and, later in the set, her father’s.
Mutemath at The Voodoo Music + Arts Experience, Day One
Seratones and Chairlift each appeared on one of Voodoo’s smaller stages, but they delivered the kind of performances that could have easily translated to a larger setting. Chairlift vocalist Caroline Polachek got a marriage proposal from some dude named Anthony who wouldn’t stop hollering about marrying her [sorry Anthony; she’s taken]. The duo handled the awkward heckling in the best way, by launching into their hit “Amanaemonesia” and getting the crowd moving.
Chairlift at The Voodoo Music + Arts Experience, Day One
Elsewhere, hip-hop artists brought some of the better sets of the evening with both Rae Sremmurd (filling in for the recently incarcerated Kevin Gates) and Tory Lanez getting the crowd hyped for the night. It didn’t matter if they each played their hits or not (they did), their enthusiasm alone was enough to keep things entertaining. Sremmurd’s Slim Jxmmi stripped out of an orange tracksuit during “Come Get Her” and the brothers tossed water bottles into the crowd. Lanez performed his remix of Drake’s “Controlla” before exclaiming he needed to do his own thing, and proceeded to.
The Weeknd drew the biggest crowd, closing out Friday night. He performed an array of songs solo, accompanied by his triangular light and stage design, and commanded the stage even though it was practically empty. He started with popular single “The Hills” before jumping into his frenzied track “False Alarm.” Later in his set, fans got a special treat when he performed his collaboration with Drake, “Crew Love.”
The Weeknd at The Voodoo Music + Arts Experience, Day One
Besides the music, this year marked the first time C3 Presents (the company behind Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits Music Festival) overtook organizing and putting on Voodoo, and the difference was remarkable. Attendees could visit The Mortuary, a life-like graveyard featuring a haunted house, or they could grab a cold draft at Brew Dat, the craft beer hall. On top of those scenes, Voodoo offered an arcade, wine tasting and, of course, the ever popular Ferris Wheel. Unlike past years, which saw problems in where stages were set and how well bands could be heard, it seems C3 has done a much better job arranging everything so no one set bleeds into another. All in all, Voodoo may have changed owners, so to speak, but its development marks an exciting turn.