I’ve been to my fair share of music festivals and concerts. I covered BUKU Fest earlier this year; it was a unique experience that did its best to capture the culture of New Orleans while also providing the best available artists from around the world. I thought my previous experiences prepared me for what I would experience at this years VooDoo Fest, I was wrong. There was a torrential downpour a day before the festival, which is nothing new for New Orleans so the mood for the festival was still positive. Childish Gambino was originally set to headline the second day of the festival. He was arguably their biggest draw and his cancelation marred the plans of many festival goers but Travis Scott who is known to pull crowds and put on an energizing show replaced him. I arrived for the 2nd day of the festival on Saturday and was unprepared for the sheer size of the festival with five stages dedicated to different genres of music.
VooDoo fest was as much of a carnival as it was a festival with a Ferris wheel and two carnival rides that had lines as if there was an artist performing on them. Pretzel stands and other food vendors had their fair share of attention as well. As I made my way through the attractions to catch Janelle Monáe’s performance I encountered the biggest negative of the festival, the mud. It was churned up from Friday’s crowd and produced by the downpour on the day before the festival it was abundant and it was dense and made it tough to navigate around City Park. Traditionally I’m a photographer and it was a change I had to get used to in just reporting on the artists instead of photographing them. Janelle Monáe came out with an energizing ballad marred by some short audio issues with a fairly sized group of fans supporting her. It was no secret that a fair amount of people in the crowd where just there to get the best seats possible for the Travis Scott show later in the night. But the ones that were there to see her were very much into her performance. Her backup dancers provided great energy and helped enhance her performance as they sprayed the crowd with water guns. Later into her performance she addressed the ongoing civil rights battle that LGBTQIA persons have been fighting for decades, urging everyone in the crowd the accept themselves and love and fight for the rights of others.
Unfortunately she went over her time and the Festival cut her sound but that didn’t slow her as she finished her set a cappella much to the pleasure of the crowd; a treatment I’m sure she would not get if she was the headliner of the night. The sun had gone down at this point and I decided to explore more of the festival ground the “MerchChurch” sold merchandise of most of the artists involved in the weekend. The craft brew tent sold different specialty beers for those that are into that and have an abundance of money to spend on the festival. I made my way to the media members observation deck to watch ODESZA’s performance. As they were getting started someone came and stood next to me and struck up conversation. His name was Matt he was eccentric but claimed that he was a drum tech for Travis Scott and Modest Mouse.
He had an artist wristband that granted you access to the backstage areas of the festival and asked if I wanted to run with him and get backstage. I was not sure if he was serious or not but I had nothing to lose so I went with him. We ended up back stage during ODESZA’s performance. Keep in mind that I only had a media wristband that doesn’t grant access to any of these areas but I quickly learned that it’s all about who you know when it comes to these sort of things. Since Matt was with Travis and not ODESZA we were asked to leave the stage during their performance but I was more than satisfied with that short-lived experience. With ODESZA being a purely EDM group they seemed to of realized that they had to bring more to their performance than electronic music so they brought a drum line to enhance their performance and one of the members kept engaging the crowd with energy much like a DJ Khalid performance. They were the last act on the main stage before Travis’ performance so the crowd was pretty thick. I lost a shoe for the moment in the mud and the incredibly dense crowd as well as losing Matt as I made my way back to the press area. ODESZA ended their performance with a thank you to the crowd and those that did not care to see Travis made their way to the second stage to see Marilyn Manson, an artist whose legacy deserves respect even if you are not a fan of his music. He was going through the motions not really giving a performance worth mentioning. He mentioned that he was aware that most of the crowd was there to see Travis Scott and so was he.
After his performance the only thing to look forward to was Travis Scott most of the festivals attention shifted that way. The air was quiet as we all waited for his show to start his AstroWorld promo played as he came out full of energy and opened his set to “Stargazing” much to the delight of the crowd that had doubled in size. After his opener he wished well to Childish Gambino who had to cancel his performance due to an injury and how eager he was to fill in for him due to his love for New Orleans a kinship that New Orleans and Houston seem to share. He then performed “Carrousel” featuring New Orleans native Frank Ocean. He blazed through some songs from Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight as well as songs that he featured in like “Love Galore” and the viral hit “ZEZE” he put out an A.P.B. for Ray’s Corrupted Mind his missing photographer and invited a fan that security was in the process of throwing out to dance on stage. He closed out his show to “Sicko Mode” which was enhanced by countless fireworks and smoke effects. He thanked the crowd and quickly left the stage with time to spare, which lead many to hope for an encore that he did not deliver. However, I feel like he was a very good replacement for the original headliner and gave the crowd their moneys worth with an unforgettable performance. I woke up the next morning with a debilitating cold but I couldn’t be too upset with the experience that I had yesterday.