While last year’s waterlogged event lost an entire day due to torrential rain, the 2016 Voodoo Music + Arts Festival in New Orleans was blessed with picture-perfect weather and a stacked lineup full of amazing artists and powerful performers over the celebratory Halloween weekend.
After running from stage to stage across City Park and taking in a plethora of performances over the weekend, here’s a rundown of six of the best acts we saw at Voodoo Fest 2017.
The Weeknd wasted no time in galvanizing the massive crowd of fans (many sporting his signature “XO” logo on clothing and even inked on skin) that packed the main stage area for his headlining set on the festival’s opening day, opening with “The Hills” before launching into his most recent single, the frenetic “False Alarm,” taken from his soon-to-be-released full-length, Starboy. Reaching as far back as his legendary debut mixtape, House of Balloons, and offering up an inspired set list (including his raunchy remix of Ty Dolla $ign’s “Or Nah”), singer Abel Tesfaye’s stage presence is both immense and immediate, even without his recently shorn crown of dreadlocks. Stalking the stage beneath an ominous illuminated triangle while delivering his angelic croon, he ended the set with the menacing pulse of the Starboy title track, produced with the assistance of notorious French disco robot duo, Daft Punk.
Lanez continues to vie for the title as the hardest working man in R&B as he moves closer to the breakout moment that will make his the superstar he’s clearly ready to be. Spending as much time out in the crowd as he did on the stage, the singer’s efforts to connect with his fans paid off handsomely as they carried his crowd-surfing body deep into the audience and back again, performing songs including “LUV” and “Say It” the entire time without missing a beat. Leaning heavily on his latest album, I Told You, Lanez earned every bit of love he wrung out of his adoring masses.
DJ Mustard took over the mostly EDM-focused Le Plur stage to preside over a massive hip-hop dance party that attracted one of the biggest and most enthusiastic crowds of the entire festival. Rolling out a panoramic set that covered everything from old-school classics by Snoop Dogg, DMX and Black Sheep to current hits by Drake, Future and Kanye West, Mustard’s rapid-fire style and crowd-hyping MC skills kept the multitudes of party people jumping for every moment that he was onstage.
Whenever Swae Lee and Slim Jimmy take the stage, it’s safe to say that the turn-up is real. Jimmy (who like the Weeknd has cut off his dreadlocks) hit the stage in a Dragon Ball Z Halloween costume that he peeled off piece-by-piece, tossing most of it into the crowd for clamoring fans to covet. Their set is nonstop energy, bouncing through party anthems “No Type,” “Black Beatles,” and “No Flex Zone” in what felt like a blur, with fans rapping along to seemingly every word. Running through the front rows and at times scaling the scaffolding along the stage, the duo’s infectious exuberance was not to be denied.
Sir The Baptist
This Chicago native makes music with a higher purpose than most: Sir The Baptist wants to save lives. Bringing a loud and clear message of self-empowerment, economic responsibility, and community building, he goes out of his way to spread love and unity through song. “You’re going to dance to a lot of stuff this weekend,” he stressed at one point. “Let me feed your soul.” Between songs from his debut album, The Preacher’s Kid, Sir The Baptist even went so far as to give out his phone number at the end of the set, calling it a “personal prayer line” for his fans.
Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals
Paak fully embraced the Halloween spirit, as he and his band, the Free Nationals, took to the stage dressed in ‘80s metal drag to the opening of Guns ‘N Roses song, “Welcome to the Jungle.” It was the perfect jumping off point for Paak’s all the way live hip-hop heroics, with him going so far as to man the drum kit for a series of tracks. His huge main stage crowd was packed with fans that sang the lyrics of songs including “The Season/Carry Me,” “Room in Here” and “Come Down” right back at him. His star power is readily apparent, and it shouldn’t be long before he experiences a major crossover breakthrough that will elevate his superstar status to an even higher level.