Nov 5, 201510:56 AM
The sounds that move the Crescent City
Voodoo and the Early Bands
all photos by mike griffith
Voodoo Fest, for me, was way too short this year. Due to a delayed flight, I missed what by all accounts was a stunning set from Florence + The Machine. Of course, we all missed Sunday due to the (extremely) muddy grounds. For me, Saturday was a glimpse of what the festival might have been had the weather held. Despite some grousing over the headliners, this year the organizers did an excellent job of booking in rising talent to fill out the Flambeau and Carnival stages. Saturday afternoon we managed to see half a dozen excellent shows by mostly just bouncing between these two stages.
In many ways Mike Dillon’s Punk Rock Consortium set the tone for the day. There was a barely contained mayhem both on stage and in terms of the music. Anytime you have seventeen costumed musicians all on percussion the pace is going to be frenetic. To their credit this ensemble is incredibly tight. By this point in the day there was a tension in the air, punctuated by regular stops to check the local weather radar. The driving rhythms of the band feed on this tension. Our anticipation was heightened and illuminated by their cool progression through the beats.
Over on the Altar stage, Fantastic Negrito took the stage with a beautiful but understated pattern painted around his eyes. In what would be one of the last dry sets of the day he took the crowd through a series of tightly crafted tunes that blurred the lines between indie and R&B. Toward the end of the set the persistent humidity and starting drizzle had drenched Dphrepaulezz. He reached up and wiped his face clean of the paint before starting in on a cover of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”. It was quite excellent. These days it is difficult to cover that song without invoking Kurt Cobain’s version. Dphrepaulezz version is more inquisitive than hostile. It seemed a perfect sentiment for the late afternoon of a second festival day.
Recently at music festivals there has been an oft discussed tension between the EDM acts and the more traditional rock acts. Fan of each want more or less of the other, but ultimately festivals need to balance both in order to fill the fields. The benefit to the listener is the generation of projects that create fusion among these various sounds. Terence Blanchard and the E-Collective was around Saturday to prove exactly that. The improvisation and pacing of jazz combined with the patterned looping and live sample generation that characterizes really good EDM combined here to create a sound that we can look forward to hearing more of in New Orleans. Recently I have noted that New Orleans musicians haven’t been taking the kind of risks their peers around the country have used to define new sounds. It looks like this is changing. A truly excellent set.
For me the next two sets were the highlights of the day. The Growlers and Django Django played back to back sets on the Flambeau stage. Based in southern California, The Growlers are a throwback to the psychedelic rock movement with a generous dash of surf rock and an indie sensibility. The band threw themselves into the Voodoo scene with hand painted black capes and full makeup. As an ensemble, they looked as great as they sounded. There was a brief blip in the set where the sound cut out, but the percussionists persisted with a lilting beat that just barely seeped out into the waiting crowd.
Finally, London based Django Django came out to play a good chunk of their new record Born Under Saturn. Despite the extremely heavy sound bleed from Jane’s Addiction, they were able to persist and ultimately thrive on the small stage. Their sound is a distillation of so much that was excellent about the early post-punk movement washed over with contemporary production techniques. Maclean and company know precisely what they are doing. See my interview with drummer and producer David Maclean here.
We ended the night with a bit of Ozzy and a bit of Lettuce. By this point conditions in the fields were pretty extreme but that didn’t dampen the crowds at all. Both Ozzy and Lettuce comported themselves admirably, but after a few songs each, the consensus was that it was time to slog out to the cars. Personally, I think I’m getting a bit worn out on the triumphant return style show.
Despite all of the talk about the Voodoo that might have been (and looking over the schedule that would have run on Sunday there would have been a lot of excellence to discuss), This year was fantastic, especially considering the weather hazards. I am looking forward to next year when we’ll have just the right, crisp fall weather (hopefully).
Republic of Girlpool
In June, Los Angeles based punk group Girlpool released their debut record Before the World Was Big. The duo of Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad had made a splash on Bandcamp the previous year with their self-titled EP (and the track “Blah Blah Blah” is still among my favorites of the past few years). Their music is timely. It has fit right into a recent movement of female vocal based indie rock that focuses on the relationship between emotional innocence and the overwhelming demands on modern life. Girlpool has joined bands and performers like Bad Bad Hats, Diet Cig, Lady Lamb and Courtney Barnett in mapping the contours of this space. I was able to catch up with the pair while on the road. They shared their insights on the endearing qualities of music, the process of writing and the nature of inspiration.
Both Tucker and Tividad have talked about adopting music from a young age. I asked about that relationship, if they had any insight into what truly grabs us about the musical form. Tividad began, “Music is communicating, art is communicating. Since I was a baby I would go to my dads gigs, he's a jazz bass player, and he would play different music for me in the car on the way to school, telling me different facts about each band. In both circumstances I felt deeply moved and connected by the way music could effect and move people, as well as the way it could articulate ideas and empower thought.” To which Tucker added, “There are so many indescribable pulls. It's so fascinating to me! Sometimes I just love a room. Playing music gets me to the warm place I love…For a while music has been getting me there in a way that I really like.” What makes Girlpool powerful as a band is their ability to pull the audience along with them to that warm place as well.
The band has been touring extensively in support of this record and sometimes that can take its toll as Harmony noted, “The road is magic in the way it can evoke both positive and negative emotions in a radical, almost emotionally intrusive way to the self. The way different feelings come up can be jarring, being thrown into new contexts and environments everyday--effecting perceptions of the self as well as of reality.” The key is really finding the common moments of shared meaning in these larger experiences. This is what Girlpool have been able to do in their songs. Within their work there is a profound connection between the magical and the mundane that restores some of that lost playfulness to the listener. I think Cleo said it best, “ I find inspiration all over the place. There is so much! O my god! Everywhere!” Hopefully we can all find a bit of that at their show.
Girlpool will be at Republic with Alex G on the 10th.
To Do This Week
Friday check out The Psychedelic Furs at Tips. On Saturday Tool frontman Maynard Keenan will bring his side project Puscifer to the Saenger. Also on Saturday, Slow Magic and Giraffage will play at Republic and Youth Lagoon will play One Eyed Jacks. On Sunday the Suicide Girls will be at the Joy Theatre. On Monday Grimes will be at Republic and the outstanding Parquet Courts will be at One Eyed Jacks. On Tuesday Girlpool will be at Republic with Alex G. and finally Of Montreal will be at The Howlin Wolf on Wednesday.
To Listen This Week
Martin Courtney’s new record is beautiful check out track “Airport Bar” here.
Tom Jones has announced a new record listen to him cover The Milk Carton Kids and Gillian Welch over at CoS.
Courtney Barnett did an episode of Austin City Limits for PBS watch it here.