New Orleans is proud to call itself the home of the Voodoo Experience. Since its inception in 1999, the multi-day music and art festival, held on or around Halloween weekend each year in City Park has been nominated twice for Pollstar's Music Festival of the Year. In 2005, it drew worldwide attention as the first major entertainment event in New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and it has grown steadily since. This year's lineup features heavy hitters including Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Metallica, Jack White, Skrillex, Gary Clark Jr. and dozens more. Check out some standout performances from past years.
From the beginning, the idea for the Voodoo Festival was to showcase great classic and indie rock & roll and rap alongside the traditional funk and party music of New Orleans. Case in point: this appearance by the reunited Stooges in 2003, with Iggy Pop imploring someone from the audience to join him onstage for a "Real Cool Time": "Hey fatso, let that motherfucker up!"
When the White Stripes headlined the closing Sunday night of the '03 Voodoo Festival, the beloved duo were at the top of their game. In addition to their own rapidly growing repertoire – check out this stomping version of "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" – they covered Son House, "Wichita Lineman" and a New Orleans classic, "St. James Infirmary Blues."
There was something unsettling about seeing the churchy, cultishly attired megagroup the Polyphonic Spree assembled onstage in front of a huge backdrop reading "Voodoo." Yet despite (or perhaps due to) the unlikely juxtaposition, the oversized group turned in one of the more memorable sets in the festival's decade-plus run.
Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor lived for several years in New Orleans – he once called his introduction to the city "mind-blowing" – so when the levees broke during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he took it personally. NIN helped signal the city's comeback by headlining that year's festival, which was free for first responders, volunteers and returning residents. An adjunct event was held in Memphis.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers demonstrated their deep love for and indebtedness to New Orleans funk by inviting members of the Meters, the city's groove standard-bearers, for an extended jam at the 2006 Voodoo Fest. They wailed together on a jam built around the riff of the Meters' "Handclapping Song."
M.I.A. was just earning her reputation as an international provocateur when she stormed into New Orleans for the 2007 festival, adapting the Modern Lovers' prepunk classic "Roadrunner" as her own emcee jam.
With the bitterness of the botched response to Katrina still heavy in the air two years later, Rage Against the Machine were well-suited headliners. They opened, aptly, with "Testify."
Homegrown wordsmith Lil Wayne received a hero's welcome when he took the stage in a headlining set a few months after the release of Tha Carter III.
A decade after the Voodoo Festival began with a handful of acts and attendance of 8,000, the huge stage productions of headliners Kiss and Muse – seen here in futuristic garb playing their Triumph of the Will-style anthem "Uprising" – made it undeniably clear the festival was now a mass-scale draw.
Favorite son Dr. John, a festival regular, previewed his big comeback a few months before the release of his album Locked Down (produced by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach) with an evocative set at the 2011 Voodoo Festival. Here he and his band, the Lower 911, perform the good Doctor's eerie swamp classic, "I Walk on Guilded Splinters."
This Brooklyn band are a perfect example of the Voodoo Festival's aim – bringing together a wide range of modern music under the big tent of New Orleans tradition. Playing a riotous mix of Indian bhangra and Big Easy brass, the group has quickly become a favorite, and they made it abundantly clear why with their ecstatically received Voodoo set last year.