The Voodoo Music Experience can be hard to get a handle on. With no MTV, website or radio station that covers the breadth of contemporary music, bands have audiences, but few listeners know everybody.
Last year, Voodoo moved to City Park’s Festival Grounds, where it was easier to feel part of the event. On the other hand, the thumping bass from the Le Plur Stage affected two of the other stages, and it could be heard by much of the crowd at Voodoo’s main stage, Le Ritual.
Voodoo’s footprint has been expanded to better accommodate the acts and their fans. It’s easy to say, “Turn down the bass on Le Plur,” but the move to the Festival Grounds made it clear how important electronic dance music and its thump is to Voodoo as the audiences at that stage were often as big or bigger than the top acts on Le Ritual.
Friday night headliner Zedd (8:30 p.m., Le Plur) brings classical piano influences to electro house music, but electronic dance music remains a mystery to everybody but the millions of viewers for his videos on YouTube. “Break Free,” his 2-month-old collaboration with Ariana Grande has already been seen more than 132 million times.
In previous years, Voodoo has relied on the ’90s for its headliners, but this year’s crop is a little more contemporary. Atlanta’s OutKast formed in 1993, but its biggest successes came in 2000 with the release of “Stankonia” and “Mrs. Jackson,” and 2003 with “Hey Ya” and “The Way You Move” from the “Speakerboxx/The Love Below.”
Saturday night headliners The Arctic Monkeys formed in 2002, and they represent the biggest surprise among the headliners. For years, they’ve been perceived as an arena band in England but a cult act in America. When they played Louisiana last year, it was at The Varsity in Baton Rouge, but this summer they’ve successfully headlined a number of festivals including Chicago’s Lollapalooza. Closing night headliners, Foo Fighters, are this year’s most established act, having had hits right away from the group’s self-titled 1995 debut album.
The headliners have very different narratives coming into Voodoo. Excitement for the OutKast reunion (Friday, 9:20 p.m., Le Ritual) was muted by a rote performance at Coachella at the start of festival season. Over the course of the summer, Andre 3000 became more engaged and reviews of their shows talk about them as joyous dance parties. There are no more OutKast shows on the band’s schedule, so it’s very possible that this will be the last OutKast show.
Foo Fighters (Sunday, 6:30 p.m., Le Ritual) will come to Voodoo as perhaps the most corporate regular guys in rock ’n’ roll. While U2 took heat for partnering with Apple to sneak its latest album on to everybody’s iPhone, Foo Fighters have partnered with HBO for the eight-week series “Sonic Highways” — a context and ad for the band’s upcoming album — and recently performed a week-long residency on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”
Friday highlights include rapper Action Bronson (7 p.m., Le Carnival) and Red Baraat (5 p.m., Le Flambeau). Bronson is a man-mountain of a rapper who lifts weights and fans if necessary. He has an entertaining web series on eating his way around the country with the title, “F—-, That’s Delicious,” that indicates a coarser sensibility than palate.
Brooklyn-based Red Baraat blends brass band music with traditional Indian instruments, and the results are very familiar at times while beautifully exotic at others. Friday starts with Sturgill Simpson (1:15 p.m., Le Carnival), who has become an Americana sensation for his sometimes surreal take on country music, sung with a deep, authoritative voice that makes his songs sound classic and fresh at the same time.
Saturday’s highlights include the return of Lafayette’s GIVERS (7 p.m., Le Flambeau) and the biggest local gig to date for New Orleans’ Benjamin Booker (8:30 p.m., Le Flambeau). GIVERS have lowered their profile to record the follow-up to the exuberant, psychedelic pop on their 2011 debut album, “In Light.” The show should be a preview of what to expect, while Booker’s set will introduce the buzzed-about guitarist to a lot of New Orleanians. He moved to town in 2003 and quickly had his raw, fuzzed-out, blues-influenced rock ’n’ roll picked up by ATO Records, the label that also signed Hurray for the Riff Raff.
On Sunday, the anthemic, Gypsy-influenced punk of Gogol Bordello (5:30 pm., Le Carnival) is best heard in situations like Voodoo, where the energy and chaos of the festival feeds leader Eugene Hutz’s sense of adventure. Quintron and Miss Pussycat will close the Le Flambeau Stage (8 p.m.), and when they play opposite Foo Fighters and Pretty Lights, there will be none of the tranquility that his Weather Warlock synthesizer creates. His keyboard and electronic percussion rig are also homemade or home-modified, but their organ-powered garage rock is sweaty and personal. And their set will likely involve a puppet show, courtesy of Miss Pussycat.