Outkast closes out the first day of the 2014 Voodoo Fest


Outkast's Andre 3000 and Big Boi appeared onscreen for the title track to 1996's Aquemini.
  • Outkast's Andre 3000 and Big Boi appeared onscreen for the title track to 1996's Aquemini.

"We have some bad news." I was sort of expecting Andre 3000 and Big Boi to call it quits right there, announcing the end of Outkast's 20th anniversary tour and the end of its reunion. What began in April as a reunion set for Atlanta's hip-hop kings became a globe-trotting tour with more than 50 dates that, with no other shows in sight, ended Halloween night at the 2014 Voodoo Music + Arts Experience. Before the band's finale, Big Boi broke the bad news, with a laugh: "The Saints are No. 1 in the division."

The 90-minute set burst open with Stankonia's explosive "B.O.B." as the stage lit up with white light and the album's black-and-white U.S. flag. Accompanied by an impressive visual display and a full band, Outkast's 24-song set was a nearly breathless retrospective of the duo's career, reaching back to 1993's Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik ("Player's Ball," "Hootie Hoo," "Crumblin Erb"), ATLiens ("ATLiens," "Elevators (Me and You)") and several tracks from 1998's breakthrough Aquemini, including "Skew it on the Bar-B," "Da Art of Storytellin," "Rosa Parks," and the title track (with a surreal, wet-look video of the duo dancing on a massive screen onstage).

Big Boi — wearing rose-colored lens on his sunglasses and a custom shirt-jersey from "Stankonia" (wearing No. 1, of course) — performed a brief solo set, digging into Speakerboxxx tracks "Ghetto Musick" and "The Way You Move," assisted by Organized Noize's Sleepy Brown performing the hooks.

Wearing a short silver-white wig, white sunglasses and silver-gray jumpsuit with the telling words "I don't know what else to say" and a price tag (with the word "sold out") hanging from a pocket, Andre had his turn for a solo set, moving leisurely through The Love Below's "She Lives in My Lap" and "Prototype," as 3-D schematics and cirtcuitboard renderings floated on the screen behind him. For his finale, he invited a dozen women onstage for a crowd-bursting "Hey Ya."

Outkast finished with "Roses" and "So Fresh, So Clean" before a tribute to UGK's Pimp C, performing their respective parts to that group's "Int'l Player's Anthem (I Choose You)," shaking the ground as the beat dropped after Andre's introduction.

Then came the "real" bad news: "We have to go home." The duo ended with "The Whole World" as the stage cameras panned over the audience.

Sturgill Simpson opened the 2014 Voodoo Fest Oct. 31.
  • Sturgill Simpson opened the 2014 Voodoo Fest Oct. 31.

Kentucky's Sturgill Simpson
 who took home emerging artist honors at the 2014 Americana Awards as well as mountains of critical acclaim for his Metamodern Sounds in Country Music — introduced himself to "The Big Stink" with a honky-tonking steamroller of songs from his acclaimed sophomore album and 2013's High Top Mountain. Simpson opened the day with his bare-bones crew, with twang-busting guitarist Laur Joamets shredding alongside him.

"There's a f—kin' roller coast in front of me, I can't focus," Simpson joked as he adjusted his eyes, later adding, "We ain't used to this 1 p.m. shit."

Simpson routinely is compared to Waylon Jennings, with a tender booming voice and flair for storytelling. Simpson, naturally, performed Jennings "Waymore Blues." He also did Lefty Frizzell's "I Never Go Around Mirrors," before Metamodern's ode to shitkicking, "Life of Sin." Simpson also performed that song's spiritual successor, "You Can Have the Crown" (of "king turd of Shit Mountain") before Metamodern's "Turtles All the Way Down," featuring riffs on self-medicated philosophy, a Simpson signature that has come to define some of his recent buzz. With his killer three-piece band and his beat-to-death guitar and songwriting chops, it's clear that Simpson is much more than a country music shaman.

Elsewhere at Voodoo, the massive Le Plur stage — which now occupies its own huge nook of the festival grounds — buzzed with costumed dancers and energetic dance music. Le Youth deftly mixed '90s club music with a contemporary palette, making Ace of Base seem like a good fit among throbbing bass lines. Makj's big beat drops turned the crowd into a pulsating mass. The producer turned alarms into melodies, with "Still D.R.E." blasting several times, weaving into Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams" ("sing this shit with me!") and 69 Boyz' "Tootsie Roll."

Chicago punks Rise Against made the most of its arena-sized platform and asked people in the crowd to support the Gulf Restoration Network. Singer Tim McIlrath, on the much cited "football field of wetlands an hour" metric for coastal loss, said, "You guys know about this shit but it blew my mind." The band then performed "Help Is On the Way," inspired by the 2005 levee failures and the BP oil disaster.

Halloween night's natural headliner, however, was Slayer, the longtime California speed metal demons. The band's gut-busting catalog played alongside animated screens of its iconic logo, with upside-down crucifixes spraying in an animated bloody waterfall during the epic "Raining Blood" from 1986's landmark Reign in Blood. "You came, so we came," said bassist and vocalist Tom Araya, warning, coyly, that the crowd was in for a "roller coaster" — despite there being a light-up tree, a ferris wheel and actual roller coaster a few yards away.

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