With around 100,000 attendees every year, Voodoo Music and Arts Experience in New Orleans boasts a medley of high-profile music artist performances, attractions, art installations, and cuisine. This year’s Voodoo Festival was my second attendance to date. I went on the first day of the festival on Friday, October 25th. There were four artists scheduled to play that I was particularly keen on seeing: Magic City Hippies, Still Woozy, Moon Taxi, and Guns ‘n’ Roses.
1:45 pm – Arrive at Voodoo!
The sky was grey and dense, and it was heavily raining since the early morning, but I was expecting people to power through and head over to the festival rain-or-shine. The line took about five minutes which is the shortest amount of time I have ever had to spend waiting to get through the security checkpoints at a festival’s grounds. I had my iridescent orange backpack and we immediately headed over to the Hydration Station to fill up my water pack with cool and refreshing filtered water. Water is my holy grail at festivals.
2:00 pm – Head over to the Altar stage to see Magic City Hippies:
There was a small crowd gathered together by the railings to catch the closest glimpse of the band. The energy of the crowd was particularly low because of the weather, but that didn’t stop the festivalgoers including myself from getting down and dancing once they walked over to their instruments onstage and began playing.
Magic City Hippies began their journey in Miami (a hometown band!) as a neighborhood Friday night act at the local dive bar. Robby Hunter enlisted instrumentalists and eventually released their Hippie Castle EP which debuted in 2015 and reached global charts, launching their musical careers as a tour band.
They played ‘Limestone’ a third of the way through their set, sealing their track-run of their hits. Lead singer Hunter notably donned a tropical shirt and sunglasses. This only highlighted the band’s theme of upbeat summer tunes—the kind of guitar riffs you want to hear when you’re sipping pineapple juice by the pool. Their one-hour set radiated a kind of sunshine that could be heard and felt. It was a perfect contrast to the gloomy weather.
2:45 pm – Run over to the South Course stage for Still Woozy:
By this point, there were more people trickling into the festival. South Course is a smaller stage with less digital production and no screens, so it was made for smaller crowds and more lowkey artists. The size and quality of the stage may have underestimated Still Woozy as his fans poured in. He started the set immediately with one of his most popular songs, “Lucy,” featuring ODIE.
Still Woozy is the solo, self-recorded venture of Californian musical artist, Sven Gamsky. His music reflects his personal style and personality, which can be described as funky, ethereal, and experimental. He was accompanied by a guitarist and a drummer for the show.
After the performance of Lucy, Gamsky looked over the crowd and said, “I was expecting like twenty people to show up. You guys are awesome. You guys all look like a crowd of colorful tarps. You’re beautiful.” The crowd cheered. He brought out his girlfriend, artist Amiya Kahn-Tietz, who designs every piece of album artwork and merchandise for the woozy branding.
This was very notable for me as a fan because being a part of his show was like getting a glimpse of how the Still Woozy project comes together in real time. Gamsky and the two accompanying instrumentalists delivered the kind of fun and bubbly performance that parallels the way one might feel when individually listening to his tracks. It was one of my favorite performances I have experienced to date.
Kahn-Tietz, who designs every piece of album artwork and merchandise for the woozy branding. This was very notable for me as a fan because being a part of his show was like getting a glimpse of how the Still Woozy project comes together in real time. Gamsky and the two accompanying instrumentalists delivered the kind of fun and bubbly performance that parallels the way one might feel when individually listening to his tracks. It was one of my favorite performances I have experienced to date.
3:50 pm – Head back to Altar for Moon Taxi:
We ended up getting to about two feet by the railing with a great middle view. Lead singer and guitarist Trevor Terndrup, lead guitarist Spencer Thomson, keyboardist Wes Bailey, bassist Tommy Putnam, and drummer Tyler Ritter walked onto the stage. It was a special moment for me to go from seeing YouTube videos of them perform at Bonnaroo in previous years and have them walk across the New Orleanian stage as a band that has impacted the ears and hearts of millions.
Moon Taxi has reached national fame as a Tennessee-bred band intertwining different genres focused on feel-good motivating lyrics and uplifting melodies that have bits of indie, country, rock, and pop that mingle to form a very approachable and popular sound.
Most notably for me, they played ‘All Day All Night,’ as their second song during their time slot and set the tone for the rest of their performance. Their energizing stage presence made those around me including myself to smile, dance, and pump fists in the air. The band has a lot of favorites from fans and they did not fail to include them all. They sealed each song being performed by following it up with another great track. The flow of their movement through the performance reflected their familiarity with a typical festival performance but did not echo a kind of boredom that usually comes with very popular touring bands. Moon Taxi was not there to get in and get out. They were there to enjoy and groove just as much as the fans that came to see them. They closed off with “Two High,” the internationally acclaimed hit that shot them forward into stardom.
By the time we were leaving the set, I turned around and realized they had attracted the biggest crowd I had seen so far that day. I did not see a single person not smiling, dancing, or moving in splendor.
5:00 pm – Eat, explore, and relax:
The end of Moon Taxi’s set meant we had time to kill until Guns ‘n’ Roses’ set. I grabbed an Italian Stallion vegan hot dog from the vendors of local restaurant Dat Dog. From there, we explored the cemetery and art installations and made our way into the House of Blues tent. As the sun was beginning to set, it was getting colder and the rain showed no sign of slowing down. We spent the majority of our time inside the tent listening to two instrumental bands and a DJ set in between that was sponsored by music venue House of Blues New Orleans. There were couches lining the tent, a bar, and freebies like reusable band coasters and free tickets to other shows they were having later. This was a good time for us to recuperate before spending another couple of hours on our feet.
7:00 pm – Find a good spot for Guns ‘n’ Roses back at the Altar Stage:
Guns ‘n’ Roses were scheduled to play at 8:00, but we decided to start walking over to the stage by 7:15. When we arrived, there was already a pretty sizable crowd of people dressed in Axl Rose and Slash costumes and their merchandise. We found a pretty good spot quite close to the stage and stayed put as people began to gather behind us.
Guns ‘n’ Roses is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band formed in the mid-80’s at the ripening age of hard rock in Los Angeles, California.
Fifteen minutes into the set, the lights went out and a visual came on. The opening introduction of the performance was like a movie with a visual of a main character going on a rollercoaster ride full of monsters, swerves, and bumps. The character finally evades the villainous oddities and rides through several doors gleaming with different depictions of the classic round Guns ‘n’ Roses crest. Lights went on, guitars were being played, and out emerged lead singer Axl Rose, guitarists Slash, Duff McKagan, and Richard Fortus, and keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Melissa Reese.
I had an amazing opportunity back in the summer of 2017 to see Guns ‘n’ Roses at the Sunlife Stadium five rows behind the stage in Miami and all I can say about their performance on Friday is that they have still got it. They have this spark about them that explains their ability to stand tall and record-breaking since the 1980’s. Every single band member delivered a notable performance, and no one was particularly outshined by another. This was a band that had worked out their past dramas to deliver a worldwide tour that led to a very rainy stop in New Orlean—most likely just a glimmer in their careers—but meant the world to the die-hard and newbie fans alike.
Reflections going back home at the end of the night:
Wow, just wow. I was not prepared for the breezy beginning tunes of Magic City Hippies, the effervescence of Still Woozy, the uplifting and emotional breadth of Moon Taxi, nor the consistent greatness of Guns ‘n’ Roses. I was thoroughly joyous, certainly tired, and absolutely grateful.
Note: The opening date of Voodoo Music and Arts Experience 2020 has not been released yet, but the ball usually starts rolling by the latter end of the spring season of each year.