Voodoo 2013: reflections on the "experience"

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Lost in the crowd at The Cure at the 2013 Voodoo Experience.
  • ALEX WOODWARD
  • Lost in the crowd at The Cure at the 2013 Voodoo Experience.

The 2013 Voodoo Experience, its 15th, was my ninth. At my first, in 2002, I naively collected "Stop Bitching, Start a Revolution" bumper stickers from the Zendick faithful before bobbing my head to 311 (for what would be one of five 311 shows I attended in a hilariously small time frame, which I'm only now comfortable sharing). In 2003, DJ Z Trip made me briefly consider blowing my carwash earnings on a turntable. In 2004, I impatiently waited for my friend's mom to give us a ride as I heard the Beastie Boys in the distance. I never saw the Beastie Boys, and I never will. I blame my friend's mom.

I paused to listen to Smashing Pumpkins play "1979" from my 1996 Toyota Camry while trying to get it unstuck from the neutral ground and lost a pair of socks in the mud getting lost while walking to Justice. I've recapped some of the highlights from the last several Voodoo Fests for Gambit.

I'm in a demographic of Voodoo attendees who have attended the festival from their early teens through their late 20s. This year's performers New Found Glory and Alkaline Trio have been performing for as long as many of today's Voodoo's attendees have been alive. New Found Glory blasted The Cure before it went on stage, and Alkaline Trio teased its audience with Bauhaus. The Cure closed out the festival, and a guy next to me in a Bauhaus T-shirt looked like he was at the best show ever. I entered a Twilight Zone episode. The one where the guy finds out he's been living inside the music festival the whole time.

Voodoo always surprises me. Last year it was Skrillex. This year it was Rudimental, the U.K. R&B and drum and bass quartet that absolutely slaughtered the Le Plur stage. The band's effortless, mind-bending gearshifts from jungle to dub and neo-soul hypnotized the crowd. Both Skrillex and Rudimental have in common the Le Plur stage. Voodoo gradually has shifted its focus to Le Plur's largely electronic lineup, adding massive screens to the stage and plunking it square in the middle of the festival grounds — which saw a dramatic shift from its former site on the other side of City Park to its smaller, more efficient real estate. The new layout made sound bleeding from stage to stage a minor problem, but Le Plur's sound dominated the grounds; the stage is unavoidable. A teen campground formed Friday and by Sunday night turned into a teen colony, with provisions provided by Red Bull and French fries. To teen mountain I am invisible.

Older crowds gripe endlessly about the changing, much younger face of Voodoo, and how festival organizers cater more to electronic music and dance fans and not local acts. It's not a subtle change from one generation to the next, but neither is Kid Rock opening for The Cure.

Kid Rock matched his spoken word tribute to America (?) with a slow-motion video of an eagle, and he closed with another video and spoken word tribute that was essentially a commercial for Jim Beam. In between, the man embodied his comfortably schizophrenic career. Is he a Detroit b-boy or a trailer park Bob Seger? Is he Bruce Springsteen or Fred Durst? Kid Rock is everything, even you, as difficult a pill that is to swallow.

What followed was precisely the opposite — a band that is so definitively The Cure that legions of bands have attempted the same. Robert Smith's moss-clump hair still stands on end, and he led the band through two and a half hours of nearly every pop song the band has produced. The set breathlessly bounced from album and album without losing steam or miring too long in any of its atmospheric dread. Smith left the stage wearing an "aw shucks" grin and smiling gently to his thousands of fans. The band opened with "Shake Dog Shake" and "Fascination Street" and performed a live debut of "Burn" paired with "Pictures of You" and "Lullaby" and wrapped with hits "In Between Days" and "Friday I'm in Love" before an encore of "One Hundred Years," "Give Me It," "The Lovecats," "Close to Me," "Let's Go to Bed," "Why Can't I Be You?" and "Boys Don't Cry."

A younger, chatty fan wearing a sleeveless hoodie nearly clashed with a stoic 40-something goth. I saw the future of Voodoo somewhere in the twee hand-holding couples and Bud Light pounding bros between them.

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