Nine Inch Nails
New York Dolls
Story and Photos By Andy ArgyrakisApproaching the grounds of New Orleans' City Park for the 2005 Voodoo Music Festival was an incredibly surreal experience considering all the area has experienced as of late. Around this time last year, the streets were overflowing with concertgoers attached at the hip to the hustling and bustling lifestyle of the raging city streets. But times have indeed been a changing come this Halloween weekend since a vicious natural disasters blew its way through town several weeks ago almost extinguishing all likelihood of rejuvenation let alone an annual rock and roll pilgrimage. And though it looked extremely grim if the event would actually come to fruition in the land of Mardi Gras, the seemingly impossible became a reality thanks to the rebuilding efforts of emergency relief personal, and perhaps most importantly, the courageousness of local citizens.
In fact, organizers were so inspired by the actions of the New Orleans community that the concert was closed to the general traveling public at large and opened with wide arms free of charge to those firefighters, police officers, city officials, volunteers and residents who bravely offered assistance. Though it wasn't a conventional concert crowd, the experience was history making in and of itself considering it was the first major extravaganza within city limits since Hurricane Katrina. And with that added incentive to entertain, the artists who donated their time threw a daylong party that kept right in the spirit of the legendary land.
Leading the pack was industrial icons Nine Inch Nails, led by one time resident Trent Reznor who was especially invested in his heavy handed delivery. The group is making its return to the road this year after a lengthy hiatus and appeared in just as fine of form as before while presenting cuts of 2005's With Teeth. It marks NIN's first all original studio project since 1999's double disc The Fragile yet it picks up where that project left off with its thrashing electronic nuances and neck breaking bass beats. "The Hand That Feeds" has already earned significant airplay and found the most favor out of the fresh batch, grinding with gritty guitars and the front man's guttural growl. Others of equal emotion and eeriness followed those patterns, such as and "Right Where It Belongs" and "Only."
Of course tracing NIN's back catalogue was the most beneficial to its blistering 90-minute set recalling the unbridled energy of 2002's live set And All That Could Have Been. "Head Like a Hole" opened with a rumble of recklessness and rebellion, allowing fans an appropriate opportunity to blow off some steam, especially after a lengthy wait for the band to begin. "Closer" came midway through the experience to incite a rowdy audience participation point, complete with the expletive centered chorus capable of causing an uprising. At one point Reznor invited his friend Saul Williams to offer a few poetry-induced raps, opening a door of tribute to New Orleans and then the chilling keyboard clangs of "Wish." Despite its force on stage, "Hurt" took on an increased eloquence ever since Johnny Cash covered it, tracing Reznor's songwriting skills and summarizing the feelings of many attendees with eloquence.
Running a close second was the legendary punk act The New York Dolls, who've been on the road excessively since the Spin party at SxSW into a summer tour. Though many of the original members have since passed away and the group hadn't toured for quite awhile, all that added time on the road contributed to the tight performance and impassioned interaction amongst members. Front man David Johansen appeared in his usual androgynous state, though his vivacious personality made the shtick seem fresh. Cuts like "Looking For a Kiss," "Private World" and "Personality Crisis" pumped with bawdy, boozed drenched precision, recalling the group's younger years of tearing up tiny dive clubs and trailblazing a movement.
Of course Queens of the Stone Age were also highly anticipated, and after being seen every night before Nine Inch Nails on tour, members seemed to be in sharp step. The group's set pulled heavily from its latest album Lullabies to Paralyze and a combination of striking guitar chords and driving distortion provided an outlet of aggression. Rollicking rockers like "Go With the Flow," "No One Knows," "Little Sister" and "Song for the Dead" connected with class, while also opening a window for fist pumping perfection.
Taking a totally different course but an equally enthralling demeanor was Big Apple boys The Bravery, who turned its guitars down in favor of keyboard-derived dance delights. Like the group's recent tour in support of 2005's self-titled debut, the vibe ranged somewhere between The Killers and Duran Duran, recalling the best of 80s excess with modern arrangements. Though they occasionally demonstrated derivative moments, front man Sam Endicott led his troops through infectiously snappy tunes like "Out of Line," "Fearless" and "An Honest Mistake."
Not everyone was as enlightening, most notably the jazzy rap/hip-hop outfit Digable Planets. Although the group's rhythms were sensuous combing live instrumentation and a DJ, the material for the most part lagged with similar sounding beats. The set seemed especially lengthy and drawn out, not really earning any real reaction until an overly extended version of "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)." On completely different terms, buzz band The Secret Machines were also disappointing, though members were up against the challenge of playing after Queens of the Stone Age on another stage, but before Nine Inch Nails. Everyone's minds seemed to have been elsewhere and the trio's trippy mixture of ethereal keyboards and thundering percussion fell on dead ears. Even as the momentum swelled when the set wore on, all attention seemed to be lost and The Secret Machines were reduced to merely a time filling side note.
Thankfully other areas of excitement came from the rabble rousing Cowboy Mouth, the always ballsy Supergroup, famed trumpeter Kermit Ruffins and the percussion peppered Native American troupe CC Adcock and the Lafayette Marquis. All these area acts have seen the hurricane's aftermath first hand but refused to bask in the pain, instead championing the town's diversity and delivering to the best of their ability. And in the end, it was the gallant efforts of all the musicians, organizers, and most importantly, the city itself that signaled full out revival is well on its way.
Nine Inch Nails
The Secret Machines
New York Dolls
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