The Weeknd and Arcade Fire by Randy Cremean

words by Randy Cremean / photos by Randy Cremean & Amy Price

 

This year marks my first sojourn to Voodoo since 2010, where I fell in love with the venue at City Park. Nothing felt too far away and the Spanish moss draping numerous large trees accentuated all the festive people in their Halloween finery. Voodoo is a celebration of music and culture that can only happen in New Orleans, a city that doesn't have try to be eclectic and weird. It just is.

The festival is now managed by C3 presents, the company who turned Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits Fest into massive successes. The first result of this regime change is the lineup for 2016, which is completely stacked. All three headliners (The Weeknd, Tool, Arcade Fire) are currently in the studio working on new material. I'm not sure there's ever been another festival where that's happened. Artists are usually touring in support of albums they've already released. It should make for exciting sets with the chance to hear new material before anyone else.

Here are the acts I'm most excited to see.

The Weeknd
Altar stage
9:45
Friday, October 28

The Weeknd by Randy Cremean

The comparisons to Michael Jackson are inescapable and warranted, but The Weeknd will become the world's biggest pop star on his own terms. With the voice of an angel, a mad tangle of dreadlocks inspired by Jean-Michel Basquiat, and lascivious, often profane lyrics that are most assuredly not radio-friendly, Abel Tesfaye, is a superstar for the 21st Century. His new album, Starboy, is due out November 25th, so there's a chance we'll be the first to hear some new material. He's already released two videos for new songs, including the title track featuring Daft Punk.


Reignwolf
8:45
South Course stage
Friday, October 28

Reignwolf by Randy Cremean  Reignwolf by Randy Cremean  Reignwolf by Randy Cremean 

Reignwolf is a visceral reminder of what rock 'n roll should be. He's a kinetic blur of thrashing guitar, black leather and flying hair. He fucking rocks and you need to see him. What else is there to say? Oh yeah, his full-length debut is out next year and it was produced by GRAMMY® Award-winning visionary Mike Dean [Kanye West, Jay-Z]. Listen to the first single, "Hardcore", here.



Tory Lanez
6:30
Pepsi stage
Friday, October 28

Tory Lanez at SXSW 2014 by Randy Cremean

He's a high-energy performer with a stable of hits and soon-to-be hits from his debut LP, I Told You. Tory is the rare five-tool rapper who fearlessly and successfully dips his toe into soul, funk, trap and R&B slow jams. He's versatile and electric in person. Expect some epic crowd surfing on his part.


Foals
5:30
Altar stage
Friday, October 28

Yannis Philippakis of Foals by Randy Cremean

Simply put, they are one of the best bands in the world. In their home country of England, they headline Wembley Arena and major festivals. Their latest album, What Went Down, is more muscular than their previous offerings, but still maintains the pop-funk groove of albums past to create imminently danceable tunes. Foals' craftsmanship is always evident, even during their more raucous numbers. It's that tightrope between studio precision and manic live energy they walk so well; the thing that's made them that rare commodity, a new band capable of headlining festivals.


Chairlift
4:30
South Course stage
Friday, October 28

Chairlift by Randy Cremean

Chairlift have been producing some of the best pop songs of the past decade. Their work is often complicated and serpentine, yet incredibly catchy and rewarding. Their latest effort, Moth, is full of swagger and hard-edged funk. I've caught them at multiple festivals this year and their sets are always a massive dance party.


MUTEMATH
3:30
Altar stage
Friday, October 28

Mutemath by Randy Cremean

MUTEMATH have been, and continue to be, one of the best live bands in the world. Their sweeping mix of progressive rock and '70s psychedelic pop gets everyone moving. New Orleans is their home town, so expect an even more amazing set than normal. Things to look for:

1. Singer Paul Meany doing handstands on his keyboard.
2. Drummer Darren King being such a badass that he has to secure his headphones by wrapping duct tape around his head.

 

Ghost

8:30
Pepsi Stage
Saturday, October 29

Ghost by Randy Cremean

Ghost are the perfect booking for Voodoo Fest. They're brand of satanic heavy metal features the operatic vocal stylings of Papa Emeritus III, the anti-Pope. He's joined on stage by the Nameless Ghouls, musicians whose identies are hidden by identical demonic masks. Visually striking as they are, Ghost are also formidable musicians and performers whose work garnered them a Grammy this year for Best Metal Performance. The Voodoo Fest tagline, "Join the Ritual" has never been more apt.

 


Cage the Elephant
7:30
Pepsi stage
Saturday, October 29

Cage The Elephant by Amy Price

Cage the Elephant played at my first Voodoo Experience back in 2010. They'd already garnered a reputation for their energetic live performances, but they were a little sloppy with the music. Fast forward six years and their growth as musicians has been exponential. This is especially evident on their latest album, Tell Me I'm Pretty, which was produced by Dan Auerbach. These days, they are still legendary perfomers who rank among the best in recent memory, but the live set has a polish and dedication to craft that was lacking when they seemed more focused on throwing themselves around the stage. The more balanced approach makes for a better overall concert experience and serves to accentuate their incredible stage antics.

 


Shakey Graves
6:30
South Course stage
Saturday, October 29

 Shakey Graves by Randy Cremean

Shakey Graves is a Gentleman From Texas. He has his own day in Austin, as proclaimed by the Mayor on February 9, 2012. With appearances on Conan, Letterman and Austin City Limits, as well as high-profile festival slots across the globe, other cities may soon join in celebrating this incredibly gifted musician. He's an icon-in-the-making and you need to do whatever it takes to see him live.

 


Nothing But Thieves
3:30
Altar stage
Saturday, October 29

Nothing But Thieves by Randy Cremean

Meet the next big rock band out of the UK. Comparisons to Muse are apt, as Conor Mason's vocals are reminiscent of Matt Bellamy. Musically though, I think they share more in common with Foals. There's a funky vibe underpinning what they do. The common thread here is that arena-ready sound that British bands seem to channel at will.

 


Arcade Fire
Altar stage
7:30
Sunday, October 30

Arcade Fire Backyard2011 22  Arcade Fire Backyard2011 12   Arcade Fire Backyard2011 35

Arcade Fire are my favorite band of all time, so I'll try not to write a book. In the Summer of 2004, I was still mostly listening to music that sounded like what I'd listened to in college. Then, one cold day in December, I picked up, on a whim, the album of a band who were blowing up on some of the music blogs I'd just started reading. That album was Funeral from Arcade Fire. As I drove home to Austin from North Texas in a rare snowstorm, I put in the CD, curious to see what all the fuss was about. At first, I found the vocals off-putting. They didn't sound like Thom Yorke or Chris Martin. I persevered, but was only half-listening as I concentrated on driving. Then "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" started playing. It had my attention. By the time "Wake Up" began, I could feel the neurons in my brain forging new connections. I may have started weeping. It was as if a multitude of universes had been revealed to me. That single moment, driving through the snow while listening to an album about childhood, winter and death, opened me up to a world of music I'd formerly eschewed as "weird college music". From then on, I consumed new music voraciously. Always at the center, though, was Arcade Fire. Each album of their discography was, thematically and emotionally, in lockstep with my own life.

My moment of clarity in the snow is only half the equation though. Going into the 2005 Austin City Limits Music Festival, I was excited to see Arcade Fire. Video of their performance at Coachella earlier in the year set the Internet ablaze. The day of their gig, the heat index approached 120 degrees. People were passing out at 11am. Arcade Fire's stage was, thankfully, shaded. What I witnessed was the most euphoric and single greatest set of live music I'd experienced. Dressed in second-hand funerary wear (wool suits!),  the large collection of musicians sang as one while they leapt around the stage banging on everything with drumsticks. It was a concert photographer's wet dream and cemented Arcade Fire as my favorite band. Through the years, they've grown into one of the world's most popular acts, with arena shows, celebrity friends and Grammy Awards, but I will always cherish them for those two moments that changed my life; one born of fire, the other of ice.

Win Butler and Régine Chassagne have been living in New Orleans as the band works on the follow-up to 2013's Reflektor. With their personal ties to the city and new material (hopefully) in the can, Arcade Fire's Voodoo performance is shaping up to be absolutely epic. If you can't make it to the fest on Sunday, stream the concert via Yahoo.

 

Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals
3:30
Altar Stage
Sunday, October 30

Anderson .PAAK by Amy Price

Anderson .Paak is a genre-defying West Coast rapper who blends R&B, hip hop, dance music and even classic rock. He also spends a fair amount of time playing drums and he does it expertly. His latest LP, Malibu, is among the best albums of 2016. When Anderson .Paak is spitting rhymes, he reminds of Kendrick Lamar, both in terms of content and style. That's the highest compliment I can pay a rapper. He's poised to join Kendrick in the upper echelon of hip-hop sooner rather than later.

 

Sir the Baptist
2:30
Pepsi stage
Sunday, October 30

Sir the Baptist press photo

The son of a Baptist-turned-Pentecostal pastor, Chicago's William James Stokes, is looking to upset the status quo. With a name that honors John the Baptist and a debut album called, Preacher's Kid, he clearly embraces the influence of religion upon his upbringing. However, his jazz, hip-hop and gospel-influenced music doesn't shy away from calling out the bullshit inherent in modern religion and society in general. He's a spiritualist looking to create a new kind of church for his audience. Expect a spirited performance that will move the crowd to rapturous heights.

 


Preservation Hall Jazz Band
1:30
Altar stage
Sunday, October 30

Preservation Hall Jazz Band by Randy Cremean

This is what New Orleans is all about. Preservation Hall Jazz Band are the living, beating heart of New Orleans music. In addition to their normal set on Sunday, they will be collaborating with an emerging local act in the Toyota Music Den at 5:30.


Little Scream
12:45
South Course stage
Sunday, October 30

 

 

An intoxicating blend of folk, pop and art rock. I fell in love with Little Scream (Laurel Sprengelmeyer) back in 2011 at SXSW and her new album, "Cult Following" is one of my favorite releases of 2016.