Courtesy of Live Nation – House of Blues Voodoo
A rendering of House of Blues Voodoo, which will offer Voodoo Festival attendees an “oasis” featuring elevated food and beverage and special performances.
When Voodoo Music + Arts Experience returns to New Orleans’ City Park Oct. 25-27, the massive event, staged by Live Nation and C3 Presents, will offer attendees a new attraction away from the main stage.
In a union that could have ramifications for Live Nation’s broader festival portfolio, Voodoo Fest will now feature a House of Blues outpost, in collaboration with the entertainment giant’s clubs and theaters division.
The area, comprised of a 40-by-60-foot tent and a similarly sized outdoor area, will offer Voodoo Fest patrons elevated food and beverages, intimate performances and – maybe – interaction with some of their favorite artists.
“We’ve all gone to festivals,” Live Nation president of clubs and theaters Ron Bension tells Pollstar. “You just look for a place: ‘I want to chill out.’ There’s not a lot of that. We think you can both be chilled and entertained at the same time, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
It’s a match that makes sense for House of Blues, which built one of its earliest operations in The Big Easy’s French Quarter and has “always had a small presence at the Voodoo Fest, but nothing on the scale we’re talking about now,” according to Bension.
“Voodoo Festival, it’s just a perfect fit for us,” he says. “It fits our Southern roots vibe. We’re very much at home in New Orleans, and it’s a great way for people to experience the House of Blues in a way that they’ve never been able to do before – and also, I think, to provide the Voodoo audience something that’s unique and different.”
Heightened concessions will be a centerpiece of House of Blues Voodoo, with a food menu that includes brisket sliders, po’ boy sandwiches, Voodoo shrimp and Impossible burgers, and speciality-batch cocktails such as margaritas and punches.
“Most festivals, typically the food and beverage is in a white tent with a paper sign, and you get your food,” Bension says. “We didn’t want to do that.”
From Impossible burgers to craft cocktails, the food and beverage offerings draw directly on the items that Bension and his team have found most popular among fans attending their clubs.
“Hopefully, you’ll be able to get familiar drinks that are all batched up and ready to go and nice and cool and tasty on what I’m sure will be a hot and humid day in New Orleans,” he says.
But, sequestered away from the main food and beverage drag, House of Blues Voodoo won’t be presented as just another dining option for attendees. Explains Bension: “We really wanted it to be an oasis.”
While headliners Guns N’ Roses, Post Malone and Beck rock the main stage, House of Blues Voodoo will also offer visitors smaller-scale music programming, with artists playing from the late afternoon on and DJs keeping the party going late into the night. Bension even suggests that artists might do press events or meet-and-greets at the tent.
As the festival sphere continues to evolve, with many events embracing experiential aspects that extend beyond the performers on stage, Bension sees House of Blues Voodoo – and unions between Live Nation’s festivals and clubs and theaters divisions, generally – as a way forward.
“We think it’s a fit in many festivals throughout the country, which we’re continuing to look at and explore as we gain some experience,” says Bension, adding that similar partnerships could be introduced at other Live Nation festivals as early as next year.
“Live Nation can bring to bear some of the unique assets it has to raise the level of the visitor,” he says.
In a sense, these partnerships have been a long time coming. Live Nation may have separate divisions, Bension explains, but they’ve long worked collaboratively. For instance, the clubs and theaters division has often assisted the festivals division with booking, because the former often has stronger relationships with smaller acts.
For now, though, Live Nation and Voodoo are focused on House of Blues Voodoo.
“We feel that people will find this as a destination and an oasis to get away from the hubbub and chill out for a while and relax and listen to some great music,” Bension says. “We’ve created an indoor/outdoor space that we think carries the House of Blues vibe into the Voodoo Festival.”