BUKU Music + Art Project 2015 [Recap]
New Orleans is a city filled with culture, from the plantations and the history behind them, to the voodoo mysteries, to the French Quarter, to the riverboats, to Mardi Gras. One of the oldest cities in the South has experienced its ups and down, yet continues to be a great host for amazing and memorable events. BUKU Music + Art Project brought incredible talent on both a musical and visual level. Held at the place for float building, Mardi Gras World, BUKU highlighted the culture of New Orleans and its people all while holding an amazing festival.
Immediately upon entering New Orleans, it’s easy to tell how much culture and life encompasses the city. In parts of New Orleans, it is clear that a storm hit a few years ago. The outlying town of Algiers held many rundown homes and even a boarded up school. Throughout the city, light poles, power lines, mailboxes and street signs stood at a 45º angle, eternally posing for an action shot. Buildings in the city seemed to be moldy and dark, losing the battle with Louisiana’s muggy weather throughout the year. However, the look of the city gave it character. Never could one be turned off to a place with so much culture. The people of New Orleans are as colorful as its buildings, holding just as much character, strength and warmth. All the uniqueness of New Orleans made BUKU an inner city festival unlike most.
Headlining this year’s BUKU were Bassnectar, STS9, Flosstradamus, Die Antwoord, Porter Robinson, Empire of the Sun, Passion Pit, Odesza, A$AP Rocky, Gramatik, Claude VonStroke, and a ton more. In what seemed to be a fairly small festival (area wise) BUKU managed to squeeze 6 stages into this event, of course allowing for maximum variety in the extremely diverse lineup. The Float Den, the Ballroom, and the Power Plant held the top acts for the festival. As with most festivals, each stage had it’s own musical theme and was properly named by its location. The Power Plant had the looming, creepy, and fascinating power plant behind it, holding most of the attention in the BUKU skyline. It hosted most of the live bands such as TV on the Radio, Passion Pit, and STS9. The Ballroom was inside a warehouse-style building with large ceilings and a huge open dance floor. Many of the rap and hip-hip acts such as A$AP Rocky, Run the Jewels, and BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah dominated the Ballroom. The Float Den was one of the more creepy stages, home to the eerie faces of all the Mardi Gras floats. Covered in plastic but never out of sight, the floats truly made BUKU special. However, the Float Den should have been called the Rage Den, because this stage was bouncing the entire festival with acts like Flosstradamus, Die Antwoord, RL Grime, and Odesza. The Front Yard was the stage closest to the downtown streets of New Orleans and held more of the singer/songwriter act of the lineup. The Back Alley was, well… in a back alley behind the Float Den. The S.S. Blu-Ku held the VIP stage, and voyagers could play games and receive prizes from Blu E-Cigs. Each stage held its own personality, and it was fascinating to see the cast of characters would frequent each stage throughout the weekend. Plus, with Blu being a major sponsor, by the end of the weekend there were more people smoking E-cigs than regular ones, saving everyone’s lungs at least for a weekend.
BUKU wasn’t a festival for just one type of music lover, the lineup had solo singer/songwriters as well as the most in-your-face rap posse. It was surprisingly easy to lose oneself in music the entire day. Each set was staggered perfectly, and fans didn’t have to choose between RL Grime or Flosstradamus, they just put them back-to-back instead. Conflicts were almost non-existent, and each day was filled with endless amazing artists. In between bouncing from set to set, one could simply take a small detour and check out the interactive and live art. Huge walls of scaffolding, wood panels, and paint lined the perimeter of the Float Den and Ballroom stages, the smell of spray paint wafting in the air.
The weekend started off with a little rain, but soon amazing weather took over. Mr. Carmack’s unique style, warmed up the Float Den for the chaos that would ensue later in the weekend. Claude VonStroke had a slightly earlier set, but that just meant he could bump the house jams as he was intended to do, with no outside pressure to cater to any particular crowd. His old school abilities and true veteran status had the entire Float Den up and moving. STS9 seemed this time around to be simply going through the motions, jamming like usual but never losing themselves like usual. However, it’s near impossible for STS9 to play a bad set, their musical abilities are hard to top. Period.
Robert Delong stood out as an act to catch. Anytime this man is in a city near you, do. not. miss. it. His phenomenal ability to be a one man show blew everyone away. He jumped from keyboard to drums to MIDI kit effortlessly, truly building each song as his set progressed and busting out a drum solo that put all other drum players that weekend to shame. Delong ended his set with an unforgettable version of his hit “Global Concepts,” ending the song with a trap beat, throwing predictability to the wind.
Zomboy, Flosstradamus, and RL Grime had all the Hoodie Boyz/Girlz and ragers walking away happy from the weekend. However, it seemed as though their sets were a little too similar for comfort. We’re sure it’s difficult to take the time to pull together all your favorite bangers mixed with your best originals just to hear the set before you play the same songs. On the bright side, one could hear each artist play their own version of a song, but after the entire weekend that Ookay remix of the song from the Lion King got a little old…Odesza brought their banger set to BUKU. Self-proclaimed “weird guys playing weird music” they managed to flawlessly entwine their chill yet bass heavy tunes with the high energy feel of the Float Den.
Die Antwoord managed to kill the Float Den’s power…twice. The group started with their usual introduction of chants, a tribute to Leon Botha, and a friendly reminder that “DJ Hi Tek will f**k you in the ass.” But soon after Ninja and Yo-Landi took the stage, their entire set (lights, sound, mics, everything) went dark. The crowd got a little confused, but waited things out in hopes that the show would go on. Upon returning with a vengeance, a few songs later, DJ Hi-Tek’s music went out again, but Yo-Landi kept the set alive by spitting an unforgettable freestyle rap to keep everyone entertained. The set ended up highly successful given the huge glitch.
The Ballroom was on the low end of the acoustic spectrum in comparison to the other stages, with a large ceiling and the unfortunate feedback and echo that comes from a warehouse setting. However, acts like Hudson Mohawke, Run the Jewels, and BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah had attendees flocking from all sides of the festival to catch them.
Passion Pit played a more bass heavy set than I’ve heard in the past, and Empire of the Sun ran in the same family of awesome, happy, dance-y, and rockin’. The Power Plant almost couldn’t handle all the flare that these groups brought to the table. Soon after, Bassnectar truly brought the house down. It seemed the entire festival came to see him play yet another unique and amazingly heavy set. Confetti went flying for “You and Me,” (as usual) and everyone gathered together to sway in awe.
All of the musicians at BUKU were phenomenal, and it was more than just the sound system and the warm weather than helped. The people at BUKU were all open, friendly, and understanding. Southern hospitality is alive in New Orleans, and good vibes are always contagious.
All together, BUKU was a huge success. Logistically, the crowds weren’t too big, the security wasn’t too pushy, the bathrooms stayed fairly clean, and the entire experience felt positive. While some artists played unique sets catered to the festival and others dug into their roots, each artist truly shined. The artists featured in the live installations are extremely talented, the festival definitely brought out everyone’s A game. New Orleans was the perfect setting for a festival like this one, with such culture, color, and history to bring out the best in every artist, musical or visual. We can only hope that each year, the festival stays true to its name – a real Music & Art Project. Thanks, BUKU, keep that swag.