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October 27, 2008

Voodoo Notebook dump, day three:

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , , , , , — Alex Rawls @ 8:31 am

I waited until the Saints managed to not lose a game that should never have been close before going out to Voodoo Sunday. The hot day matched with people dressed for a cool evening meant the Bingo! Parlour was a little gamey by the time Quintron and Miss Pussycat came out to “Waterfall” from the new Too Thirsty 4 Love. Quintron’s use of noise and drone – particularly at the margins of songs – frames tunes, creating energy each time he slides out of them and into the song’s melody, and marking a clear closure when each track returns to noise. Noise seems to be the place from whence everything flows, and he and Miss Pussycat are simply wrestling it into shape for three or so minutes at a time. The high point: Pussycat’s punk-out moment, throwing her maracas (covered in red and white maraca cozies) to the back of the stage to jump in the crowd, pogo and shout “Yeah Baby, Yeah.”

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings – If this weekend didn’t demonstrate that retro soul starts Charles Walker and the Dynamites and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings belong at Jazz Fest, nothing will. The Dap Kings were pokey going on – part of a general slack that seemed to set in on the final day of Voodoo – but once they kicked in, Jones turned the WWOZ/SoCo Stage was the land of 1,000 James Brown-inspired dances. 

Panic at the Disco – Guitarist Ryan Ross looks like he’s 15, but he announced that he and the band would be voting for the first time this year, then hinted at their choice when they played “That Green Gentleman” with the chorus, “Things have changed for me, and that’s okay.” Singer Brandon Urie was a rock star when Panic played the House of Blues in 2006, but for this set, he was strapped to a guitar and rendered ordinary, much like the band when it played songs from the recent Pretty.Odd. The older material was self-consciously clever dance rock, with musical and lyrical thoughts tumbling into the next phrase, and Urie mugged and styled, enjoying the fact that he pulled one such trick off and would do it again in moments. Playing faintly psychedelic pop from the new album made the band ordinary. Pleasant, but ordinary.

Promoter Steve Rehage snuck onstage during Cowboy Mouth’s set to crouch beside a floor tom and play it during the band’s finale.

The Soul Rebels in the Preservation Hall Tent had crowd control that Fred LeBlanc would have appreciated. While Marcus Hubbard rapped that “I got nuthin’ but love for you baby,” they had the packed house jumping, crouching and dancing when and how he instructed.

R.E.M.’s closing set was the most political by a headliner, but it was also the feel-good show of Voodoo. The crowd was relaxed and in a sing-along mode when “Fall on Me,” “Don’t Go Back to Rockville” and encores “Losing My Religion” and “Man on the Moon.” When the set ended with “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine),” many sputtered out the wordspew lyrics to prove that they still could.

Michael Stipe was the best rock star of the weekend because he approached it with a sense of dispassionate play. He wasn’t working out basic tension like Trent Reznor, nor did he accept rock stardom without a hint of irony, unlike Scott Weiland. He seemed amused by it, but so much so as to mock those who love him and invest belief in him.  His performance matched the curious video presentation, which was in its way as impressive as that of Nine Inch Nails. Their live footage was manipulated in real time and presented on the backdrop and overhead screen as a music video, playing intelligently with the live/video relationship.

The set drew heavily on Accelerate, but it went back as far as Murmur for “West of the Fields,” which Stipe introduced as being inspired by living on the streets of New Orleans for a week or so and having a rough time on Elysian Fields. They also visited Automatic for the People, which was recorded here at Kingsway Studio, and sang “Houston,” which could be about New Orleans when it begins, “If this storm doesn’t kill me / the government will.”

Still, the political subtext threaded the show together. “We hate the Bush Administration,” Stipe said when he introduced “Man-Sized Wreath.” “We also really hated the Reagan Administration, too,” he followed as the band went into “Ignoreland.” During the song, the audience elbowed each other and pointed at the screen as the Obama “Change” image was interspersed with shots of the band. Near the end of the encore – between “Driver 8″ and “The One I Love” - Stipe asked the crowd how many were born after 1975, and “Who wants to end the first decade of the 21st Century with hope and change and joy?” At that point, Obama’s face was shown on the rear screen and the audience erupted. “Fuckin’ awesome!” Stipe said. Then “Seven Chinese Brothers,” “Man on the Moon” and time to go home.

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