It’s Halloween in New Orleans, about the weirdest it gets. Specifically at Voodoo Fest, where seemingly everyone is dressed as Rick and/or Morty, a Dia de los Muertos skeleton or wearing fishnet stockings despite it being 55 degrees and windy.
At Voodoo, you’re there to celebrate all things creepy and all things music all at once. There’s a haunted house in the middle of a makeshift mortuary and cemetery where you can recoil from a man with a fake chainsaw and run away from clowns — and then go straight to The Altar, the main stage, to listen to The Head and the Heart play “Rhythm and Blues,” while sitting next to a Pizza Cat as well as a bloodied zombie and a priest and nun couple. That’s what makes Voodoo Fest worth the five-hour drive out of Houston. With three days full of good music, good food and an eternal amount of weirdos in stellar costumes to our left and our right, it was tough to pick the best moments. Here are the ones we can’t stop thinking about.
The Toyota Music Den
This was a small stage inside a Toyota activation next to the food area, and I wandered in there just in time to catch Chicano Batman on Friday. The set was up close and personal, and it really had a SXSW-type vibe, which is known to host awesome bands on small stages such as this one. What I enjoyed was the intimate feel of the place, as if I had wandered into a secret show away from all the noise outside. I was also fortunate enough to catch an exhilarating set by Austin's own DJ Mel on Sunday afternoon, which turned into a big dance party with near perfect track selections and rhythms. MARCO TORRES
Prophets of Rage Honor Chris Cornell
The show was what any Rage Against the Machine fan could have wanted: minimal new Prophets of Rage songs, at least one fleeting political statement in which Tom Morello flipped his guitar over to reveal “Fuck Trump” written in Sharpie on letter paper, and what could only be described as a savage pit during “Killing In the Name” and “Bulls on Parade.” But watching Prophets of Rage always feels a little bit like watching a play on Broadway, where the performers are highly talented but, still, you have to suspend your disbelief in one way or another in order to enjoy it — like looking past the fact that B-Real of Cypress Hill can’t scream at all let alone like Zach de la Rocha.
But then the lights went down low, and it was only Morello and Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk that re-emerged onstage for what seemed the realest moment of the night. “Chris Cornell was a good friend of ours,” Morello said, and the crowd cheered. “If you know the words, sing along, and if you don’t, say a prayer for peace.” Morello retreated from center stage, leaving the spotlight shining on the mike with no one behind it. And it stayed that way, as the former Audioslave members broke into “Like a Stone” sans Cornell. For a second you wondered who was going to take the mic to sing it, and then you realized it was you. The spotlight remained on the empty mic, as the crowd crescendoed loud enough into “I’ll wait for you there,” so that it seemed Cornell could hear. MEAGAN FLYNN
We already knew that the Foo Fighters and the Prophets of Rage were going to bring their A-game to Voodoo, mostly because they are already legends and deserve the upmost respect. But it was still so fascinating to be there live and witness the greatness firsthand. Watching Chuck D and B-Real is like watching Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen win a championship. They are two of the best MCs of all time, commanding the mike and the stage with expertise and ferocity. Then listening to Tom Morello do unimaginable sounds with his guitar is about as perfect as it can get for lovers of Rage Against the Machine. And then Dave Grohl hits the stage like a hurricane, the wind blowing his mane of gorgeous hair just right as be smiles wide to his fans and keeps them on their feet for what seems like an eternity. So many hits one after the other, he really is a Rock God! MARCO TORRES
Because this festival took place in New Orleans, we were already expecting the food to be top notch. The variety and exoticness of the food was certainly exceptional. After waking along the Forked Up section of City Park and reading all of the menus, I narrowed down my choices to two options. First up was the fried alligator taco, which I absolutely could not pass up. With a squeeze of lime over the hot and spicy gator bits, I devoured it in three bites. The chipotle salsa, avocado, cilantro, and pepita seeds that topped the taco were perfect. It was a bit expensive ($10 for one taco), but they were kind enough to stuff the double corn tortilla very generously. I also tried the fried mac & cheese balls, which also turned out to be a nice and hot treat on a chilly afternoon. Excited to come back next year for more awesome Louisiana goodness. MARCO TORRES
Voodoo Fest Is ACL Fest East
This is meant as a compliment. And considering both Voodoo Fest and ACL are put on by C3, it makes sense that the two fests would mirror one another. Hell, The Killers closed out both festivals this year! Some folks decry music festivals as big-box commercialism, and they’re certainly entitled to their opinion. But, often times, when a behemoth such as C3 is running the show, they’re doing so for a reason. In this case, that means a conveniently located merch tent, restroom and beer lines that move quickly, water that is readily available, stages spaced far enough apart, and most importantly, the World Series on TV screens in the craft-beer tent. Having never been to Voodoo Fest, I was curious how the festival would play. Turns out, having attended nearly a dozen ACL Fests, I already knew the answer. CLINT HALE
Astros Fans Represent
As security tried to move everybody out of the park as Kendrick Lamar and a spurt of fireworks wrapped up Friday night, there were at least a few dozen people who weren’t going anywhere — namely those huddled around the TV inside the Brew Dat tent, watching the Astros hold down L.A. in the bottom of the eighth inning. The people wearing Dodgers hats — frankly, totally annoying people — were drowned out by a comforting amount of home-away-from-home Houstonians cheering “Beat L.A.” and “Let’s Go Astros.” And somehow it felt like you were going to lose your voice from cheering for the ‘Stros rather than while screaming for your favorite band. Once the Astros had the final out in the bag, those in orange broke out into hugs and high-fives and continued yelling for their team all the way out of City Park — and then onto Bourbon Street and for the rest of the weekend. MEAGAN FLYNN
Thank the Voodoo gods for showing the Dodgers take on the Astros inside the beer hall every night of the festival. I tried to stream the game on my phone, but service was not that great. So after shooting bands for most of the day, myself and about three hundred of my Voodoo Fest pals crammed in front of the two small-ish TVs and prayed for an Astros win. I wish they had the same large screens from ACL, but hey, at least we didn't miss the home runs and heartbreaks of this classic matchup. Go Astros! MARCO TORRES
I bought an Astros ski cap years ago, despite the fact that I neither ski, nor does it usually get cold enough in Houston to wear such a cap. However, it was unseasonably cold in New Orleans last weekend, which finally allowed me to bust the Astros beanie out of storage. Turns out, that cap prompted a number of pleasant conversations with complete strangers, many of whom empathized and expressed kind words for Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. New Orleans certainly experienced its own tragedy more than a decade ago in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and a number of locals told us their stories as we did the same. This is probably why I get to New Orleans at least once a year: it’s a beautiful city filled with some of the kindest people you’ll find. CLINT HALE
Black Pistol Fire’s Kevin McKeown Shreds
Fact: Black Pistol Fire, from Austin via Toronto, was the most underrated band at Voodoo Fest. Playing a set on the much smaller and intimate Toyota Music Den, which was beneath what just felt like a large beer tent with a disco ball and multiple random Toyota show cars inside, Kevin McKeown and drummer Eric Owen made significantly more noise than anyone could possibly expect from two people. And then came the last song, “Bully.” The tempo is kind of slow — but still that doesn’t make much difference for guitarist/vocalist McKeown, who is either rolling around on the ground or jumping from the drum set platform at every opportunity no matter how slow or fast he is playing. During “Bully,” he climbed to new heights quite literally, jumping from the stage into the crowd, walking over to a shiny royal blue 2017 Toyota Corolla and getting his muddy shoes all over its windshield as he got on top of it. He then climbed back down, walked back onto the stage, and while in the middle of an epic solo, motioned for the crowd to move in closer and closer and still closer. Then, he jumped on top of them. For a relatively small crowd seeing a relatively small band with a commanding stage presence, it doesn’t get more satisfying than that. MEAGAN FLYNN
They may only be at the advent of their career, one fueled by untraditional Youtube and Soundcloud successes, but they still put on really fun, solid sets here at Voodoo. I'm talking about the young'ns... Rich Chigga and Post Malone. Although they may not have the same appeal as the other headliners, they held their own with huge crowds and very solid energy. Rich is still working on creating more music to fill a festival type time slot, but his confidence and stage presence was phenomenal. Post Malone drew in the largest crowd that I saw at the Wisner stage, and he began his set by acknowledging the victims of the Las Vegas tragedy. It then turned into a sad boy vibes kinda night with Post drinking beer and smoking on stage, but turning up at the right time with his hits "Rockstar," "White Iverson" and "Congratulations." Fun times overall, and excited to hear more from both young rappers in the future. MARCO TORRES
Rufus Tiger Taylor, Son of Queen drummer Roger Taylor, Joins Foo Fighters For “Under Pressure”
“We’ve known this little shit since he was this big,” Dave Grohl said as he called for Rufus to take the stage. “As you know, we’ve always been a big fan of Queen.” It was one of those cool generational moments, where the son of one of the best rock bands of the 20th century joined one of the best rock bands of the 21st century to play a song his dad used to play. Rufus Taylor cheesed the whole time as Taylor Hawkins, Foo Fighters drummer, took the mike to belt out the Queen classic. MEAGAN FLYNN
The Killers Open With “Mr. Brightside”
If you’re like me, you spent most of junior high obsessed with this song no matter how many times it played on the radio after it stopped being new. You bought Hot Fuss and scratched it up in your Walkman from playing it too many times, and even though after that you may not have been as crazy about the rest of The Killers discography, you never stopped listening — somewhat because the radio never stopped playing “Mr. Brightside” or “Somebody Told Me.” So when Brandon Flowers came out in his aqua-colored suit jacket and slicked-back hair and started coming out of his cage, it was not embarrassing to be screaming like a 12-year-old again, because everybody was. MEAGAN FLYNN
Things Seen and Heard
Considering Voodoo Fest took place over Halloween weekend in New Orleans, I certainly expected to see an array of costumes on the festival grounds. Turns out, there weren’t nearly as many as I expected. Sure, there was Spider-Man and some lady dressed as a dinosaur, while some women braved the cold and dressed in a manner that can safely be described as “scantily,” but all in all, most folks rolled with comfortable festival attire, sports jerseys and the like. CLINT HALE
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Wearing a hoodie to any other festival will cause heat stroke. Wearing a hoodie at Voodoo Fest this year was not only a blessing, but it was almost necessary. It was so pleasant to walk around a music festival without ten gallons of sweat dripping down our back and legs. Actually, it was downright beautiful the whole weekend, with the exception of the bitter cold wind that almost gave us frost bite during the Foo Fighters set. The sunsets were also magical, to the point that I stared at them each evening instead of the action on stage. No wonder this festival is one of the favorited of the whole year. MARCO TORRES
The fireworks at the end of the festival were a nice touch… The cold weather, particularly on Saturday night, really livened up the crowd and made for one hell of a set by the Foo Fighters… The acoustics were great, particularly for an outdoor festival, when the music can occasionally get muddled… Caught the Saints game at Noon, then headed over to the festival for the remainder of Sunday, all the while monitoring the Cowboys score before checking in on the Astros – Sunday was one long, awesome day. CLINT HALE