We rounded the final bend of the Voodoo 2013 festival experience on Sunday with a Day 3 wind-down that saw Matt & Kim open for Kid Rock, who gave way to headliners The Cure. Across the field, meanwhile, Beats Antique came further into their own as high-concept immersive bellydancing EDM before Bassnectar gave the collective New Orleans crowd one last chance to get their dance-freakout on to close the show.
Outrageously enormous VIP sections, frustrating ticketing confusion among organizers and a clear angle away from that which makes Voodoo so regionally special – which may be a direct result of Live Nation's involvement this year – all gave the sense that Voodoo Fest is in a transitory stage of relative instability. With such a glut of festivals taking place nationwide these days, Voodoo stands the chance of running itself into the ground unless it can recapture that which made it so uniquely special in previous years. Even the local food fare left a great deal to be desired.
None of that is why we traveled nearly 3,000 miles to New Orleans, however. We came for the music, and through incredible performances from Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, Reignwolf, The Black Cadillacs, Paramore and many others, we most certainly got our fix.
Sunday's slightly downshifted energy did nothing to detract from the mesmerizing showcase from Beats Antique. Project creators Tommy Cappel and David Satori, a week into their “A Thousand Faces Tour,” brought an immersive multi-media extravaganza that laced interactive video with the sultry, seductive hypnosis of belly dancer Zoe Jakes.
Based on Joseph Campbell’s concept of the hero’s journey, the show revolves around the band's new album, A Thousand Faces-Act I, and chronicles each stage of the journey through a fusion of Middle Eastern music with funk, jazz, hip-hop and a thick EDM current. 98% of the audience likely had no idea that they were witnessing a high-concept piece of performance art, but hey, people don't go mollydipping for philosophical enlightenment.
For those looking to sidestep the enlightenment and just dance their silly asses off, Matt and Kim brought their always-on-ten shitgrinning enthusiasm to the main stage with a blasting jukebox run through a spectrum of hits from other artists as well as their own.
Drummer Kim Schifino was clearly in aggressive spirits, dropping over 100 "motherfuckers" throughout the course of their set as Matt danced his bubbly ass off. The crowd responded in kind, jumping like they were in a giant bounce house and roaring along to every club banger tease the duo threw.
Kid Rock presents himself as a backwoods Frankenstein pastiche of classic rock and country icons, and from Bob Seger to Warren Zevon, no legend in the spectrum was immune to reference in his immensely polished hourlong set. Dropping a heartfelt, rockin' cover of Marshall Tucker's "Can't You See" alongside a hilarious song called "I Guess I'm Fuckin' 40" – complete with references to prostate exams, little blue pills and the Stones being almost dead – Rock played right into his country-rock badboy caricature.
Teasing Rush's "Tom Sawyer" before "Forever," the self-made white trash superstar locked in the interest of sentimental classic rockers in the crowd while connecting the crowd constellations with the sentimental tribute-rich ode to the glory days in "All Summer Long". Hugely charistmatic, cocky to a point of caricature indulgence (a ten-minute record-scratching session found him standing atop the turntables, smoking a cigar and pounding Jim Beam – all at once), Rock alone carries the shitckin' classic rock torch at Voodoo, and does it well.
The only drawback? The legions of aging Cure fans in the front rows, clearly struggling to endure the carefree good times while waiting for Granny Smith and his merry band of emo pioneers to arrive and close out the night. When The Cure arrived, however, it was entirely on their own terms. Opener "Shake Dog Shake" caught casual fans off-guard, with guitarist Reeves Gabrels visibly amused by the lack of recognition.
Now, when I say "Granny Smith," you have to understand this is a bit of affectionate teasing. Robert Smith applies makeup and does his tumbleweed hair precisely the way grandmothers do – or would, if the side effects of their prescriptions conflicted into a haze of demented visual oddity. Fashion aside, however, I found myself increasingly irritated as the band made their way through impeccable deliveries of their third, fourth and fifth songs. I was convinced that Smith was lip-synching. He sounded too good, his delivery was too perfect.
I was wrong. They're just that good. Whether in the abyss of "From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea," to the bitterness of "The Hungry Ghost," or through the encore hit blast of "Love Cats," "Close to Me," "Let's Go to Bed," "Why Can't I Be You," and "Boys Don't Cry," Smith's performance was spot-on, with an apparently effortless execution. 40 years in the game will have that effect, it seems.
Most of the younger crowd had migrated to Bassnectar's hyperstimuli extravaganza across the field by the time The Cure hit their stride, resulting in a visible, physical generation gap in City Park. Variety is the true spice of a festival's life, and despite its logistical shortcomings this year Voodoo still possesses the core of what makes it one of the best festivals in America. Here's hoping they round off the edges and level out the corporate lean in time for next year, because we're already itching to get back to New Orleans for 2014.
Photos: Johnny Firecloud