Saturday, 12:10 p.m. to 1:10 p.m., Gris Gris Meadow
Frankly, I've been waiting for this moment ever since I saw Gomez for the first time about four years ago at House of Blues, on Scott Jordan's recommendation. Now, Scott and I have our differences in musical tastes, particularly about a certain band that still refuses to live up to the second part of their name (dead), but this is a form of improvisational blues rock that I can get behind. Gomez, pure and simple, is built for larger, open spaces; with early works such as 1999's brilliant Liquid Skin -- whose opening track, "Hangover," is the perfect way to start your day -- and 2002's more experimental In Our Gun, Gomez is constantly trying to flesh out its neo-psychedelic spin on roots music. Last May's release, Split the Difference (Virgin) appears to be a return to their, ahem, roots. Though they're still relative pups, vocalists Ben Ottewell, Ian Ball and Tom Gray sound like Tom Waits' drinking buddies without a lick of pretense. The intricacies of their acoustic-guitar playing (they must lug around something 11 of those things) speak to a maturity rarely found in today's noodlers. Put another way: Gomez is the jam band I've been waiting for, so here's to seeing, and hearing, them with serious elbow room. -- David Lee Simmons
Saturday, 4:40 p.m. to 5:40 p.m., Gris Gris Meadow
How different would the contours of rock history be if the Velvet Underground played the Woodstock festival and were accorded the overnight mainstream status lavished on Sly and the Family Stone, the Who, Santana and Joe Cocker? We'll never know, but the argument that the Velvet Underground's nihilist, New York rock would not go over with the jam-loving Woodstock hippies was finally blown out more than 30 years later when Sonic Youth played at Bonnaroo. The band, working in the Velvets tradition, performed one of the highlight sets of the weekend last year to an ecstatic crowd that had clearly come to the festival to hear lighter fare than SY dished out. The moral is when you rock that hard under an open sky, a festival audience doesn't care what chords you're playing or how much dissonance works its way into the mix. SY certainly didn't start out with such messianic intentions, emerging from Thurston Moore's 1982 Noisefest project, but by the time the band signed with Geffen for the 1990 release, Goo, all the elements for rocking the masses were in place. Sonic Nurse, with anthems like "Unmade Bed" and "Stones," adds new ammunition to what is sure to be a Voodoo highlight. -- John Swenson
Saturday, 6:10 p.m. to 7:25 p.m., Gris Gris Meadow
The Pixies never sold out. The band never sucked. It's still playing with the same abandon and ferocity that it did when I saw it three Thanksgivings in a row at the Ritz in Manhattan. I love the Pixies. Black Francis' lyrics combine a sense of absurdity, surrealism and humor. I was never quite sure what they meant rationally, but emotionally they made sense, and they were fun to scream at the top of my lungs. Who else could sing, let alone write, lyrics such as "Why don't you tell me one of your biggest fears / losing my penis to a whore with disease," or "there was a guy / an under water guy / who controlled the sea / got killed by ten million pounds of sludge / from New York and New Jersey" or "what you call it / when you look at the sky in a poetic kind of way / you know when you grope for luna." And, when the band starts "The Lady in the Radiator Song" from the movie Eraserhead and bassist Kim Deal and Black Francis are singing then barking the opening lines of "In heaven / everything is fine," I will be barking along with them. -- David Kunian
Saturday, 9:40 p.m. to 10:55 p.m., Gris Gris Meadow
I grew up in Pine Bluff, Ark., and there was no punk rock in my little Bible Belt town. We didn't even have MTV because the city council banned it for immorality, so my favorite songs were whatever was on the radio, including "I'm Too Sexy," "Don't Worry, Be Happy," and Wilson Phillips' "Hold On."
When grunge hit, I was in seventh grade. My brother introduced me to Pearl Jam and Nirvana, but they were heavy and dark enough that I didn't know the difference between them and Guns 'n' Roses or even Poison. Those bands were serious and depressing, so as much as I liked them, I knew Green Day was a whole other beast when Dookie came out in 1994. It was juvenile and fun, and Billie Joe Armstrong sang about having his teeth busted out and stuff. Some of my friends had skateboards, but nobody really knew what to do with them. Before Dookie, we would gather together and just slowly ride them around the driveway in little circles. When Green Day came out, skateboards made sense. Say what you will about Green Day's true punk cred, but they clued a lot of America into punk culture. -- Rob Bryant
Sunday, 2:15 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Avalou Warehouse
Save for gaping in disbelief, there shouldn't be much standing still during Gogol Bordello's set at Voodoo. This band of irreverent Ukrainians, Russians, Israelis and Californians will whip bystanders into a multicultural frenzy, and if they can't, they'll make their own party of it. I didn't know anything about Gogol Bordello (named for the Russian satirist) when I crept into the musty hallway at the (now-defunct) ARK on Marigny Street in early 2002. What I thought was a wailing animal and a drum troupe broke into a runaway accordion solo atop searing guitar crunch. When I reached the stage, the bandleader was doing somersaults. Led by fearless guitarist Eugene Hutz, these immigrant New Yorkers put on a gypsy-klezmer mish-mash with the extreme urgency of punk rock, sew it all up with the wow-factor of sideshow cabaret, and give it a hipster makeover. The result is the most bizarre and cathartic adventure this side of the Ukraine, spiked with Hutz's antics, for which there is no good excuse but the Chernobyl disaster. Records aren't Gogol Bordello's forte, but the band just finished recording a new album with alt-rock production giant Steve Albini. Tentative titles include "Alcoholympics," "East Infection," and "Think Locally F--k Globally." -- Cristina Diettinger
De La Soul
Sunday, 4:20 p.m. to 5:20 p.m., Bamboula Stage
Two summers ago, De La Soul came to House of Blues for a show sponsored by Kool Cigarettes. Kool provided a scene of contrasting options: Scantily dressed nymphs were pushing cigarettes, TV screens were flashing Surgeon General Warnings, and De La Soul were encouraging women to "eat the whole box of chocolates" and praising women who kept it natural in the song, "Baby Phat."
After the show, I was stopped for speeding. My expired out-of-state plates, reckless driving, and mild inebriation had forced me to reconcile the possibility of an unwanted jail experience. The officer told me to go home and said if he saw me driving again that night, I'd go to jail. After that, I met Pasemaster Mase of De La Soul in a bar. Emboldened by my reprieve and scotch, I asked if he realized that Western society believes that women are culpable for our expulsion from the Garden of Eden. He said he didn't hold it against them and mentioned something about how some people "go looking for God but find religion instead." Then he signed Shiloh's house guitar and exited with a Renaissance woman. -- Reuben Brody
- When Dookie came out in 1994, Green Day clued a lot of America into punk culture.
- The Pixies' lyrics combine a sense of absurdity, surrealism and humor. They made sense emotionally and were fun to scream at the top of your lungs.