Near-perfect weather set the tone for the 9th Annual Voodoo Music Festival (VME) last weekend at the sprawling New Orleans City Park, not to mention killer performances opening day from M.I.A. and the highly anticipated Rage Against The Machine. And while Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals delivered a woodsy sundown set fueled by empathy for New Orleanians in the wake of Katrina, encouragement for the people to “not feed on the false hope” perpetuated by the present American administration, and his signature cover of classic Motown Marvin Gaye… Smashing Pumpkins, well, didn’t deliver. Great outfits, cool light show – lame new material. The Pumpkins shoulda stuck with the patch. Today is most definitely not “1979” anymore.

The Soul Rebels Brass Band, Kermit Ruffins, and a few other local faves rolled through during the early parts of the days to keep the local flavor spicey, and, as expected, they never fail. You just can’t beat warming up your day with a ‘lil “Aeidie, Aeidie – Oh!” from the Rebels, and a ‘lil Second-Line in your step for the rest of the day never hurt anybody.

Speaking of local faves, NOLA’s own Galactic have certainly landed on the worldstage, especially with their latest funk-hop release, “From the Corner to the Block,” already gaining press, and they have officially made the “Ones to Watch” list without a doubt, their Voodoo performance definitely solidifying the hype. Another performance that had us rollin’ was Detroit’s Sista Otis & her Wholly Rollers who reminded us that there’s some darn good folk-funk-rock out there, and she too is “One to Watch.”

Quite possibly one of the most inspiring and interactive acts though, was (personal favorite) Zap Mama and her tribe’s unique blend of Afropean funk, afrobeat, hip hop, and soul… always bringing new meaning to “fusion.” With their retro-galactic garb, infectious beats, and killer dance moves, Zap Mama and crew nailed it. Always bringing something a little different, and reliably good, she left our dancing bodies left wanting more.

Yet, it was, of course, Common’s headlining set that drove us home closing night. His politically-charged charisma and effervescent wit charmed the pants right off the ladies – as usual. But perhaps his usual “F*#$ Bush” moniker tonight resonated a little deeper for the people of New Orleans who got to bounce to Common’s quick lyrics on the Saints, Reggie Bush vs. President Bush, and several other Nawlins’ isms, rallying the young crowd into a fit of team spirit. Not long though, before the master Chicago-bred MC put his skills back to work in the name of “real hip hop.” He “proved” that this hip hop star respects his women, “approaching them from the front, rather than the back.” Still sweating the fight against negative rap media, this Common Sense is determined to deliver a message… that true hip hop lives because one thing we can all agree on is hip hop… “we all love hip hop,” and “Kanye loves himself.” (!) The closing track appropriately dedicated to the late, great J Dilla.

Wait! You know we just couldn’t end a festival without an official Fusicology VME afterparty, could we? So of course we headed on over to the legendary Frenchmen St. corner to rock out with Common’s DJ Dummy at the Blue Nile, courtesy local promo wizards, Monopoli Projects, with big ups to DJs Real & HC for warming up the joint, and Jerome Holmes for catching a few snaps of the intimate wrap-up. Peep the pics @

By Jocelyne Ninneman for Fusicology.com

Video Courtesy the Times-Picayune.