The names that get the most attention at this year’s Voodoo Music Festival are those at the top of the bill — Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, Kid Rock and The Cure.
Rapper Macklemore with Ryan Lewis broke through in 2013 on the strength of the songs “Thrift Shop” and “Same Love,” and Scottish DJ Calvin Harris’ “We Found Love” is well-known, not because of his name but because Rihanna sang the song and took it to the top of the charts for 10 weeks in 2011 when she included it on her album, “Talk That Talk.”
But that leaves 70-plus slots to fill over the course of the weekend, many with emerging indie rock and Americana artists, as well as DJs, dubstep artists and electronic dance music performers who remain a mystery to anyone over 30.
New Orleans and Louisiana artists have also been an important part of Voodoo, in the past with two stages dedicated almost entirely to bands from the area. This year, Voodoo has streamlined its offerings to four stages on City Park’s Festival Grounds, with up-and-coming artists as well as Dr. John and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
The city’s flagship traditional jazz band might seem like an odd fit at Voodoo, but it has been a part of the festival since 2006 when Preservation Hall presented a stage for gospel, Cajun, New Orleans funk, the Indian brass band Red Baraat and the lead singer for The Kinks, Ray Davies in addition to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
“Voodoo has been a vehicle,” said Ben Jaffe, creative director for Preservation Hall. “It gave us the opportunity to program a weekend’s worth of music, something that expanded our family.”
This year, Preservation Hall is involved solely as performers.
“I feel like we’d come and done what our mission was,” Jaffe said. “This wasn’t something we ever intended to have last beyond its first year. Seven years feels like lagniappe.”
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band has also played Bonnaroo and toured as the opening act for rock band My Morning Jacket, but Jaffe insists that he has no youth strategy.
“These were events that I wanted to be a part of that reflected my musical tastes,” he said. “I wanted to go to Bonnaroo. It just made sense for me for the band to perform in those environments.”
This year, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band will perform Friday at 6:05 p.m. on the Ritual Stage before Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and Pearl Jam, so Jaffe has lined up special guests to make the set something special. “You’ve got a pretty big stage to fill, but we’re a big band. My sales pitch to Voodoo was, ‘My record (‘That’s It!’) is 38 minutes long. Give me 38 minutes and I’m going to blow these kids’ minds.’ ”
Lafayette’s C.C. Adcock played the one-day, makeshift, post-Katrina Voodoo in 2005 with swamp pop supergroup Lil’ Band o’ Gold. This year he’ll play with his band, the Lafayette Marquis, Sunday at 3 p.m. on the Flambeau Stage.
“For me, it’s a time to catch up with other musicians and friends that I work with or whose music I dig, acts that might not normally tour this far down south if it wasn’t for this festival,” Adcock said.
The band last recorded together in 2004, but after Voodoo, he and the Lafayette Marquis will go in the studio to record a new album of South Louisiana-influenced rock ‘n’ roll. He views the show as a chance for some final tweaks.
“The festival set should help us to slick back any cowlicks and give us a chance to test-top tunes before committing them to tape,” Adcock said.
For many bands, performing at Voodoo is the culmination of a dream.
“Playing Voodoo is up there with Jazz Fest for me,” said Jonathan Pretus of rock band The Breton Sound, which will perform on the Flambeau Stage Saturday at 4:30 p.m. He played the festival in 2008 as a member of Cowboy Mouth; this year, he’s looking forward to showcasing his own music, which doesn’t fall neatly in any category. The Breton Sound is not as slick as many commercial rock bands, but they’re more Foo Fighters-like than most indie rock bands.
“We feel confident that we put on a really good live show, and if people see that show, they’re going to get what we do,” he said. “It’s just a matter of getting in front of those people.”
Progressive ska-rock band The Scorseses recently released their debut album, Magnumopus, and they have been trying to play Voodoo for the last four years. This year, it will happen Saturday at 12:45 p.m. on the Carnival Stage.
That early in the day, they’re not likely to face headliner-sized crowds, but singer Vince Ebeier appreciates the appearance for what it means as much as what it does.
“It’s not going to make or break you, but it’s a big honor,” he said. “To be accepted on a big festival like this in your own hometown, it’s like — wow.”
Alex Rawls writes about music in New Orleans. He can be reached at MySpiltMilk.com.