The Voodoo Experience 2009 is only one day away, so it’s time to figure out which shows you’ll hit and which ones you’ll miss. New Orleans is home to some of the best bands and the biggest parties in the states, and if you’re going to do Halloween weekend here, you better do it right. That means the checking out the Zydepunks instead of the Black Lips on Saturday, and missing the first few Flaming Lips songs to hear all of Trombone Shorty’s set on Sunday. Here are some of this year’s Voodoo essentials, and why you’d be crazy to miss them:
Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship?
3 p.m. Friday @ Bingo! Parlor
The local nine-member ensemble has more energy and more instruments than you can imagine. An accordion, a stand-up bass and a banjo make appearances in most of their songs, and the band is known around town for their bluesy, gospel-infused, funk performances at AllWays Lounge. Yet Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship? can do more than play mellow shows with haunting vocals — they can also tear it up as well as any New Orleans band. The first time I saw them was at an abandoned warehouse with no sound system but plenty of gutter-punks and beer, and I expect the band to get the Voodoo crowd moving as hard as we all did that night.
The Black Keys
5:40 p.m. Friday @Billboard.com Stage
With a blues-rock sound unlike anything else produced in the past decade, The Black Keys play live shows with the same soul as they record their music. Watching drummer Patrick Carney play like his life depends on each and every beat is not something you want to miss. Never mind Dan Auerbach’s powerful voice, the intensity of his guitar will be enough to get you hooked on The Black Keys for good. So if you hate the superficiality of the most modern rock, stop by The Black Keys show for a refreshing reminder of what rock is supposed to feel like.
7:30 p.m. Friday @ Soco/WWOZ Stage
Also hailing from the New Orleans, The Knux are a rap duo that work so well together that could almost guess that they’re brothers. Kentrell “Krispy Kreme” and Alvin “Rah Almillio” Lindsey got discovered in Houston, where they landed after Hurricane Katrina. They moved out to the Los Angeles area, and the self-produced pair has been playing their own music ever since. While The Knux made a name for themselves touring with Common and have worked with Eminem’s producer Paul Rosenberg, their original style and musical talent ensure that they’ll do just fine on their own.
Eminem + D12
9:30 p.m. Friday @ Voodoo Stage
Ten years since his debut release, Eminem is back with as much fire as ever. Not that you really need someone to encourage you to pick his show over the second half of Ween, but in case you do: Eminem is one of the greatest rapper-MCs of all time. Relapse may not be your favorite Eminem album, but the man’s energy and talent — plus D12’s own skills — doesn’t seem to have faded, and Friday night is your chance to find out for sure.
Saturday/Sunday highlights after the jump!
1:30 p.m. Saturday @ Bingo! Parlor
These energetic, frenetic New Orleans natives exemplify the city’s international heritage and culture, performing wild folk dances and singing songs in six different languages (English, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Yiddish). The Zydepunks consider themselves “New Orleans’ favorite Cajun Irish Jewish punk band,” and their original material never strays from their international folk roots. With a fiddle, an accordion, a violin, drums, bass and a melodica backing up their untamed antics and untraditional vocals, the Zydepunks put on the kind of show that you can’t not dance to, even if you have no idea what they’re singing about.
1:50 p.m. Saturday @ Voodoo Stage
The politically-conscious Somalian rapper fuses American Hip Hop with a Jamaican/Marley-style reggae feel, and has been slowly building a name for himself, both in Canada and the States. He’s known for his meaningful lyrics, though his shows have become more elaborate — including a badass light show, for example — as K’naan breaks into the mainstream Hip Hop world. So get ready for both political and personal lyrics, a stellar performance and a show that will rival even the more well-known Hip Hop acts at this year’s Voodoo.
The New Orleans Bingo! Show with Special Guests
2:45 p.m. Saturday @ Bingo! Parlor
The New Orleans Bingo! Show is right to call itself a show rather than a band, as the vaudevillian musical cabaret incorporates acrobatics, costumes, skits and a live, interactive bingo game. Yet they are up to par with other French-Quarter bands, using instruments that include the organ and stand-up bass to compliment their alternatively sinister and tender lyrics. If there’s anyone on the Voodoo lineup whose live show is really an “experience,” it’s The Bingo! Show. So make it to their tent and be prepared to be enthralled and entertained, both by their circus-style antics and their jazz-infused, cabaret-style songs.
George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic
8:15 p.m. Saturday @ Soco/WWOZ Stage
George Clinton is a must-see for anyone with any interest in a funk/soul/rock band that has essentially defined the funk genre. With a career that began more than 40 years ago and landed him in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 12 years ago, you might think that Clinton can’t possibly bring it as strong as he used to, but P-Funk has barely even slowed down. Bringing as many as 30 performers on stage with him, George Clinton hasn’t lost his energy or his style, and the show promises for the kind of funky, rockin’ show you want at a New Orleans festival.
9 p.m. Saturday @ Voodoo Stage
Alright, alright, I know you don’t actually care about KISS’s lyrical voice or musical talent. But, we’re talking Halloween night with thousands of drunken middle-aged men and women with KISS face paint, plus what is still probably one of the best pyrotechnic lightshows of all time. So while it may be three decades after the band’s prime, KISS is not the kind of band that loses their energy or ability to put on a spectacular performance. Expect the kind of legendary KISS show that made them famous to begin with, and to be swimming in a crowd of Gene Simmons look-a-likes.
2:15 p.m. Sunday @ Billboard.com Stage
This Clash-inspired Irish/English punk-rock band has been internationally kicking ass since the early ’80s, and while they remain politically conscious, you can look at their Sunday show as your post-Halloween/KISS hangover cure. Their mandolin, banjo, accordion and host of other instruments create the kind of noisy, danceable momentum that punk Irish folk bands are famous for. Lead singer Shane MacGowan’s rough and powerful voice has an energy that rivals his band’s, and The Pogues’ show will be the early-afternoon wake up you need before the rest of Sunday’s lineup.
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
5:30 p.m. Sunday @ Soco/WWOZ Stage
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, a self-declared “SupaFunkRock” group, include some of the most talented young horn players emerging from New Orleans’ Treme neighborhood today. Shorty and his band are best-loved in the city for their all-night Mardi Gras shows at Tipitina’s, during which the band from around midnight until the parades begin seven hours later. Imagine the energy and force they can bring during a show less than a third of that length. Shorty can play the trombone and the trumpet with equal power and skill, and he will make you fall in love with the New Orleans-style horn ensemble. If you were only going to check out one of the local jazz/funk/rock bands (which include Big Sam’s Funky Nation and Rebirth Brass Band, to name a couple), make it Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue.
The Flaming Lips
5:45 p.m. Sunday @ Billboard.com Stage
The Flaming Lips should have you hauling ass from Shorty’s show at the Soco/WWOZ Stage to the Billboard.com Stage as soon as you can get away. The acid-bubblegum Oklahoman band is famous for some of the most elaborate modern live rock shows, which have included weird giant hands, puppets and a man-sized plastic bubble, in which lead singer Wayne Coyne rolls through the audience. Not only are their spacey, eclectic pop-rock songs undeniably likeable, but their surreal shows make a Flaming Lips appearance something you don’t want to skip. End your Voodoo Fest with a show that can be described as nothing less than the full — though bizarre — live music experience.