Day Two of Voodoo 2013 is on the books in New Orleans, the long-running festival having hit its stride on Saturday after a slow wind-up a day prior with hugely celebrated sets from rockers Nine Inch Nails, Reignwolf and Alkaline Trio, as well as ecstatically received EDM dance explosions from Big Gigantic, Rudimental and Afrojack.
One band took us by surprise, however. I’ve seen every rock goddess in the game: Alison. Alexis.Brody. Juliette. Courtney. The list goes on, rich with powerhouses of rock. But at the risk of committing scene blasphemy, Hayley Williams has them beat. Hands down. Somewhere along the road from pop-rock darlings to superstars, Paramore have found a lioness in their vocalist, and she has evolved into the most electrifying, energizing frontwoman on the circuit today.
Hitting the stage in a skin-tight black leather outfit, with a black stripe across her eyes and a shock of cropped orange hair, she skipped the false-fang posturing and danger games for a high-kicking, fist-pumping blast of adrenalized fun on the main stage just prior to Nine Inch Nails’ headlining set.
Aggressive enthusiasm and strutting confidence didn’t detract from the sheer fun of Paramore’s performance, which caught a great many Nails fans entirely off guard. It’s a genuinely hilarious experience to watch rock purists and ragemongers camping out at the main stage for NIN’s set begrudgingly accept that the teenybopper novelty has grown into a true rock veteran with chiseled chops, somehow serving as a beautiful send-up to the oncoming Nails set.
Earlier in the day, Reignwolf enjoyed a 3:45 stage time, a damn sight better than the 12:30 zone they’ve been paying dues at from Coachella to Sasquatch to Lollapalooza and beyond in recent years. Wielding a duct-taped Gibson and ferocious blues framework around songs like the sizzling opener “Electric Love,” “Mandolin Song” and “In The Dark,” frontman Jordan Cook presented an evolved showmanship and more psychedelically immersive instrumentation than we’ve seen in previous outings.
This was at no expense to Jordan’s trademark maniacal thrashing onstage, however. Drummer Joseph Braley & bassist/guitarist David “Stitch” Rapaport provided faithfully rockin’ support through Cook’s blues-demon conjuring insanity, sweating and gnashing his teeth as he ground the microphone into his guitar strings and howled like… well, a wolf, entirely off-mic. And when we found each other later in the pit for Nails’ closing set, he was still a lightning bolt of energy and positivity.
Rudimental and Big Gigantic each brought live instrumentation to their EDM-centric sets, with the latter providing a dynamic performance range with a full band, multiple vocalists and a wildly ebullient audience. The former, led by engaging frontman Kwesi, demanded to see people on each others’ shoulders for the party, overzealous security be damned. And oh, how those molly kids lost their ever-loving minds…
Pearl Jam provided the connecting currents of heart & soul at Voodoo on Friday with a breathtakingly great performance, but the following night Nine Inch Nails served an overwhelming dose of hyperadrenalized screaming catharsis medicine for anyone looking to purge a few demons – or just flex some funk-thrash testosterone with an electronic seasoning that strongly hints at the notion that NIN nucleus Trent Reznor has been spending a lot of time listening to Thom Yorke.
Reznor is no stranger to the magic of New Orleans, having once called the city home. Nails performed without compensation at the free, scaled-down Voodoo just after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when the city was still an utter disaster. The love he cultivated through such selfless devotion to the city was paid back in multitude on Saturday, with a capacity crowd roaring along with the majority of the band’s 2-hour set of revamped NIN classics and expanded variations of newer tracks from this year’s return album Hesitation Marks. New songs included “Disappointed,” an echo-rich expansion of “Came Back Haunted” and “All Time Low,” which was tagged with lyrical snippets of the smash hit “Closer”.
While guitarist Robin Finck prowled the stage like a restless tiger, drummer Ilan Rubin was absolutely unhinged, obliterating his kit in a blur of hair and flailing arms. Think Animal from The Muppets, beating the kit like it insulted his mother. This resulted in an extra buoyancy during “Only,” while the live-rarity Bowie collaboration “I’m Afraid of Americans” benefitted from added rhythmic menace.
While the singalong for encore-bait “Hurt” was predictably and poignantly unanimous, the blasting intensity of “Head Like a Hole” was a pure scream-a-thon throughout what seemed to be the entirety of City Park.
It’s hard to imagine that Kid Rock and The Cure can top what we’ve seen so far, but that’s what we’re heading into Day Three to find out…
Photos: Johnny Firecloud