On June 10, 2021, the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience announced the cancellation of that year’s festival via Twitter, but with a promise that Voodoo “will return to City Park for an epic Halloween experience in 2022.”
Exactly a year later, Voodoo tweeted out confirmation of what many music fans already suspected: The 2022 Voodoo Fest won’t happen either.
Friday’s announcement on social media and the festival’s website used the same phrase as 2021’s: Voodoo “will take a pause.”
But the “pause” might permanent. Unlike last year’s termination notice, the latest makes no promises about Voodoo’s eventual return. Instead, fans are advised to “take care of your krewe and follow along on social media for updates.”
The only updates Voodoo has tweeted for the past year has been its two cancellation notices.
Rock, rap, electronic dance music
New Orleans’ major spring festivals – the Jazz & Heritage Festival, the French Quarter Festival and the BUKU Music + Art Project – all returned in 2022 after a two-year pandemic hiatus, and the Essence Festival of Culture is set for an in-person comeback at Caesars Superdome the first weekend in July.
The last Voodoo to date, the 21st overall, was in October 2019, five months before the pandemic shutdown.
Voodoo is produced by international entertainment conglomerate Live Nation via its Austin-based subsidiary C3 Presents. The festival’s founder, Stephen Rehage, still owns a minority stake in the event, but has not been involved in its production since 2015.
C3 Presents also produces the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago in July and the Austin City Limits Festival in Texas in October; both draw considerably larger crowds than Voodoo. The broader Live Nation portfolio includes many other festivals, including Bonnaroo in Tennessee, which also dwarfs Voodoo in size.
Third Eye Blind headlined the first Voodoo Experience, a single-day, modestly attended event at City Park’s Tad Gormley Stadium in 1999. That year also featured Wyclef Jean, Moby and several local bands.
In Voodoo’s second second year, attendance exploded, thanks in large part to rapper Eminem, whose popularity was at its peak.
Over the years, Voodoo moved to different sites in City Park and expanded to three days. Headliners – a who’s who of rock, rap and electronic dance music – included Metallica, Pearl Jam, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ozzy Osbourne, KISS, the Killers, Kendrick Lamar, the Cure, the Beastie Boys, Nine Inch Nails, Tool, Rage Against the Machine, Snoop Dogg, Lil Wayne, Neil Young, Florence + the Machine, Garbage, No Doubt, 50 Cent, Duran Duran, Skrillex and many more.
Many attendees wore costumes as they frolicked amid the oak trees of City Park. They also enjoyed the team’s carnival rides and team explored festival elaborate Halloween displays curated by the Mortuary Haunted House.
In 2015, an entire day of the festival was rained out. That also turned out to be the last Voodoo produced by Rehage, the festival’s founder.
Having previously acquired a majority ownership stake from Rehage, Live Nation and C3 took over Voodoo’s production in 2016. Don Kelly, a New Orleans-based lawyer who had been part of Rehage’s team, has in recent years served as Voodoo’s director.
Voodoo had been on a roll before the coronavirus pandemic. Total attendance for the three-day 20th anniversary in 2018, which featured Mumford & Sons, Travis Scott, Janelle Monae and the Arctic Monkeys, was reportedly 180,000. That was a 20% increase over the 2016 and 2017 totals of 150,000, and an even greater leap over previous years.
The 2019 Voodoo was hit by storms that damaged the grounds overnight. But performances by the likes of Guns N’ Roses, Post Malone, Brandi Carlile, the National and Beck went on as scheduled.
the bad omen
In December, Voodoo issued refunds to fans who had rolled over their tickets from the pandemic-canceled 2020 and 2021 festivals. The surprise refunds fueled speculation that the 2022 Voodoo would be called off.
Those suspicions have now been confirmed. Neither Kelly nor a C3 spokesperson responded to messages seeking comment on 2022’s cancellation and what it might mean for the future of the festival.
One person disappointed by Voodoo’s disappearance is Jeff Borne, also known as the Lord of Darkness. Borne’s company runs the Mortuary Haunted House on Canal Street and, for several years, gave Voodoo its Halloween flavor courtesy of frightful installations that grew more elaborate every fall.
Being involved with Voodoo “was a great experience,” Borne said. “It’s one of our favorite things to do. We’re disappointed that it’s not happening this year.”
His fall will be unusually quiet. The Scream Park, a scary, alternative amusement park that his company produced at City Park’s Scout Island, won’t return. He’ll focus instead on the Mortuary, which opens in September, then wait to see whether Voodoo comes back from the dead in 2023.
“I hope so,” Borne said. “It means a lot to New Orleans. But in the big picture, it’s not that big of a thing for C3 and Live Nation.”