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2014 Voodoo Music + Arts Experience: Friday Picks 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAVID CONGER
  • Photo by David Conger

Outkast

9:20 PM • Friday
Ritual Stage

Atlanta's hip-hop royalty began to part ways following 2003's prophetic double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, on which Outkast's Big Boi and Andre 3000 each created solo albums as half the project. Big Boi went on to release two lyrically dense, musically layered solo albums, while Andre 3000 dropped into a dozen hit singles and featured slots with his typically slick, intergalactic wordplay — all while skirting rumors that the two would reunite. Earlier this year, the group announced it would celebrate its 20th anniversary with a string of headlining festival gigs worldwide, starting with Coachella in April. New Orleans waited for its turn (but the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Essence Festival lineup announcements returned no sign of the duo). Its headlining set at Voodoo Music + Arts Experience is the group's 20th performance in the U.S. this year. More than 10 years after Speakerboxxx, and 16 years after the breakthrough third album Aquemini, how are the pushing-40 hip-hop giants doing? Recent press from Outkast's 2014 concerts proclaim the duo rightful wearers of Southern hip-hop's crown. — ALEX WOODWARD


click to enlarge PHOTO BY
ALEX RICHTER
  • Photo by Alex Richter

Action Bronson

7 PM • Friday
Carnival Stage

Action Bronson — aka Arian Asllani, pride of Flushing, Queens, with a Ghostface Killah-esque attack and culinary taste for adventure, as host of the Vice webseries "F—, That's Delicious" — is due to release his anticipated major label debut, Mr. Wonderful, later this year. Action Bronson released a string of mixtapes, beginning with his debut, Dr. Lecter, in 2011. His releases glimpsed an imaginative lyricist (and equally playful production, from the likes of The Alchemist and Party Supplies) who loves food, comedy (rapping over Phil Collins' "Sussudio" and Tracy Chapman's "Give Me One Reason") and larger-than-life storytelling. In the webseries' New Orleans episode, the big bellied, red-bearded MC shares his food-driven philosophy over a plate of fried chicken from Willie Mae's Scotch House: "I'm throwing my body into a whirlwind. I'm getting stoned." — ALEX WOODWARD


click to enlarge PHOTO BY 
CRACKERFARM
  • Photo By Crackerfarm

Sturgill Simpson

1:15 PM • friday

carnival Stage

Country music in 2014 often is reduced to two stereotypes: fraudulent folk singers in period costume, and glossy all-American commercials for Ford. Kentucky country singer/songwriter Sturgill Simpson has understandably been compared to Merle Haggard in peak-outlaw country mode, though Simpson isn't interested in nostalgia or imitation (or knocking the "mainstream" down a peg) as much as he is in writing honest songs and telling good stories. His acclaimed second album, 2014's Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (High Top Mountain), is a slightly overdriven, twang-filled breath of fresh air produced by Dave Cobb, who also helmed Jason Isbell's excellent 2013 album Southeastern as well as efforts by Shooter Jennings (son of Waylon), who called Simpson "as authentic as it gets" in Rolling Stone. It may be unconventional — Simpson lists the drugs that "changed the way I see" before he sings, "Love's the only thing that's saved my life" on "Turtles All the Way Down," then cheekily thanks God for his self-medicated, broken-hearted "Life of Sin." But Simp-son's soul- ful voice, storytelling and sense of humor ground his mind-altered outlook. His voice — booming bass, or wolf-howling like Bruce Springsteen (on "It Ain't All Flowers"), and all-around tender — is backed by a stripped-down skeleton crew, blasting fully loaded through tracks like "Living The Dream" or lending a delicate hand to a cover of When in Rome's "The Promise." On the album's title, Simpson told The Fader, "Everyone is just spinning their wheels trying to think of what's next, but nobody's got the balls to make the gamble so they keep spinning their thumbs and counting on the formula." — ALEX WOODWARD

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