The 2015 Voodoo Music + Arts Experience in New Orleans was riddled with unfortunate luck and inclement weather from the start, including torrential rains and tornado warnings. This reduced the three-day Halloween festival to a quick two, which meant no Sunday performances by acts like Deadmau5, Chance the Rapper, Zac Brown Band and Third Eye Blind.
Although short that one day, Voodoo provided more than 100,000 costume-wearing fans spectacular performances from headliners that included Florence and the Machine, Jack Ü and Ozzy Osbourne. The showcase of large-scale interactive art installations and elite cuisine tents inspired by the historic city of New Orleans continues to secure Voodoo’s place as one of the world’s leading festival experiences. Here are the highlights from two muddy, unforgettably wild days at the 2015 Voodoo.
The crisp sounds from the dynamic Floridian band Hundred Waters welcomed fans on Voodoo’s first afternoon. With a delicate voice that still packed power, Nicole Miglis’ distinguished vocals carried the crowd through melodic tracks like “Show Me Love” and “Murmurs.” After some unfortunate sound bleed from neighboring stages, Miglis cracked, “Try to pretend that noise is part of our song — it’s a duet!”
The Joy Formidable
The North Wales three-piece brought searing guitar riffs to the main stage as lead singer Ritzy Bryan’s signature gaze pierced the audience’s hearts, the band pummeling through tracks like ”This Ladder is Ours” and “Whirring.” Although at times it felt the Joy Formidable’s sound decayed as they spiraled into heavy guitar jams, the veteran band reeled themselves back in with downtempo piano tracks like “Wolf’s Law,” taken from their 2013 sophomore album. Of note: the trio promised the crowd that they’ll tour next year to promote their upcoming album.
Voodoo was the last stop for the former My Chemical Romance frontman’s 2015 tour promoting his debut solo album Hesitant Alien. Way kept most of the performance dedicated to that project, playing “Millions” and “Juarez” before shaking the life out of his tambourine during “Drugstore Perfume.” Way also took the time between songs to speak candidly with the audience, encouraging them to explore the world while also providing the rare festival conversation about mental health awareness.
Canada’s Metric brought their precisely honed brand of futuristic synth-pop to Voodoo’s main stage on the heels of their September release, Pagans in Vegas. Lead vocalist Emily Haines offered enthusiastic energy, a nice complement to the band’s youthful, spirited vigor throughout their set, which included heavy-hitting versions of “Help I’m Alive” from 2009’s Fantasies and “Breathing Underwater” and “Youth Without Youth” from 2012’s Synthetica.
As inclement weather began slamming the festival grounds on Saturday, Brooklyn’s Santigold managed to deliver a thrilling Halloween set filled with hits that included “You’ll Find a Way,” “LES Artistes,” “Creator” and “Disparate Youth.”
Santigold’s costumed backup dancers took full advantage of the festive spirit, utilizing selfie sticks as canes. At one point during the set, Santi invited the audience to jump the barrier fences to join her onstage for a full-on, no-holds-barred dance party.
The often eccentric and boisterous multi-instrumentalists of Modest Mouse took to the stage on Voodoo’s first night, treating fans to a high-octane set. Led by Isaac Brock, band jumped right into a hit-laden playlist with tracks like “Float On,” “Missed the Boat,” “Dashboard,” and more. With Brock even shimmying through a few guitar solos with his mouth, the band’s crisply harmonious sounds kept crowds dancing late into the evening.
Skrillex and Diplo entered the stage dressed in basic bed sheet ghost costumes while a mashup of Soulja Boy’s “Crank Dat” and the Halloween theme blasted from their speakers. Jack Ü kept up that high energy sense of playfulness with projections of dancing pumpkins and skeletons behind them, interspersing their own tracks with crowd favorites (think Beyoncé’s “7/11,” Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money,” and Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.”
Jack Ü’s track with 2 Chainz, “Febreze,” found Diplo jumping on the DJ booth dancing with a back-up performer dressed as a life-size bottle of the cleaning product. New Orleans native Fly Boi Keno was brought out at one point while Skrillex ran around waving a Jack Ü flag. Streamers, smoke, and mini-fireworks shot up from the stage as their 2015 remix with Justin Bieber, “Where Are You Now,” closed the show.
The Voodoo grounds were littered with tons of amusement park attractions — a Ferris Wheel, a Tilt-a-Whirl, and even homemade mud slides, surfed by fans with inflatable pizza slices — but nothing compared to the ride Jane’s Addiction took their fans on. The music vets dug into tracks like “Ain’t No Right” from 1990’s Ritual de lo Habitual, “Mountain Song” off of 1998’s Nothing’s Shocking, and “Just Because” from 2003’s Strays. The crowd gazed in shock at the band’s sprightly performance and theatrics as two women suspended by hooks in their flesh, flew above the stage during the set’s final song “Whores.”
Florence and the Machine
Florence Welch rarely ceased dancing during her headlining set, dressed for the occasion in ghastly makeup and all. The British whirlwind’s commanding voice and dazzling stage presence kept fans enraptured throughout old songs and new, leaning heavily on her 2015 release How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.
Feeding off of crowd’s energy, Welch eventually shed her outfit, stripping down to her bra and running down from the stage right into the audience’s embrace. Concluding Voodoo’s first night with a passionate rendition of 2009’s “Drumming Song” and a powerful, passionate encore of “What Kind of Man,” Flo left the stage with a theatrical, emotionally enrapturing crawl.
Nothing was more fitting for the Halloween festival than a closing slot from the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne, but what made this performance even more special were the guest artists that joined the singer throughout the night.
Osbourne took to the stage in his all-black outfit, rocking a menacing grin before starting the night off with “I Don’t Know.” From that point on, it was a nonstop barrage of tunes as Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello joined the stage for “Mr. Crowley” and “Bark At The Moon.” Slash joined in on the fun soon thereafter, bringing heavier riffs to the song “Children of the Grave” before “Iron Man” saw, Morello, Slash, and Geezer Butler joining Osbourne onstage.
Osbourne maintained his charming intensity for the full set, spraying the audience with a fire hose as he ended the night with “Crazy Train.” “Thank you so much for sticking it out in this f—ing dreadful weather. I love you all,” said Osbourne graciously, as he bowed down on his knees.
A resounding “Ozzy! Ozzy!” chant resulted in the singer performing two encores — “Mama I’m Coming Home” and “Paranoid” — the latter of which featured a pummeling Slash guitar solo as fireworks lit up the night sky.