The 2009 Voodoo Experience kicked off in New Orleans on Friday, and what started out as a hot and sweaty day quickly cooled off in temperature and heated up sonically.
Thanks to far walks, slow transportation and the help of a man in a golf cart, I finally got checked in around 3 p.m. and made my way out into the festival grounds at City Park.
It's definitely a different setting, yet similar setup when compared to Bonnaroo. There are two main stages that are on opposite sides of a track. A few smaller stages are set out among the trees and pathways. Odd sculptures dot the landscape.
I caught a snippet of the set by The Vettes - rock fronted by a female, that sounded pretty good from a distance. Next up, across the way, was The Cool Kids who hinted at the hip-hop that was yet to come that night.
Alejandro Escovedo performed on the third largest stage and quickly showed off that the rock side of his latest album, Real Animal, is the driving force in his music these days. He had some furious guitar wars with his guitarist, David Pulkingham. This is the third time I"ve seen him recently and he's definitely getting better and a little harder every time.
Janelle Monae was next up on the Voodoo Stage and quickly won over the crowd with her infectious rock-flavored soul. Dancing her ass off like a female James Brown, she also found time to slow it down for a vocal showcase of "Smile." Just like at Bonnaroo, Monae finger painted a portrait of a woman's posterior before launching it into the crowd.
As soon as Monae's set was done, The Black Keys started up on the PlayStation Stage and the rains came flowing down to the cheers of the crowd. Frigid breezes cooled things off, but the Keys definitely heated it up for their hour-long set. They left the stage smoldering after ending with "I Got Mine." For me, the highlight of the day.
Silversun Pickups brought things back to the Voodoo Stage in the musical volley that is the Voodoo Festival. Sounding less like the Smashing Pumpkins than I expected, the guys (and girl) hammered away at their first-ever performance in New Orleans. Though their set was almost canceled due to rain - during a later TV interview, the band said they were looking into doing a free show in town instead - the downpour slowed enough for them to warm the crowd back up.
Back over to the PlayStation Stage for the dual DJ work of Justice. For an hour-and-a-half the crowd bounced and swayed to the monotonous, incessant thumping of techno. Yep, I'm not a fan and don't see the fun in watching two guys stand behind turntables. Visually boring, and sonically mind-numbing.
The highlight for many of the thousands in attendance was the headliner of Eminem who performed for roughly an hour and 15 minutes as he made his return to the stage after a five-year hiatus. He hit the stage to "3. A.M." "Hey New Orleans, I'm back. Did you miss me?" Eminem asked the crowd. After a huge applause - "I missed you, too."
His set mashed up a number of his hits as he quickly went from one song into another in a sort of medley. "We Made You," "The Real Slim Shady," "Stan," "Kill You" and "Toy Soldiers" were big sing-alongs, as was his encore of "Lose Yourself."
Eminem also brought out the guys from his band, D12 for "My Band" and "Purple Pills" after joking about "when he used to get high." Welcome back, Eminem... I'm not a big fan, but it was an entertaining, head-bobbing performance.
Up on the schedule for Saturday - MuteMath, Gogol Bordello, Wolfmother and headlining sets by Jane's Addiction and Kiss.