BUKU Music & Art Project Rages Through the Flood
This weekend, the South got a little rain. Ok, maybe more than a little – think voluntary evacuation and that boat in your driveway floating away. Perfect time to hold a festival, right?! Some are having terrible TomorrowWorld flashbacks, but unlike that story this one has a happy ending. BUKU Music & Art Project came to a close on Saturday, and it had everyone wishing that the fest would go all weekend. Despite a small amount of rain, the festival went without a hitch. Except for the small flooding in one area of the porta-potty bathrooms – the weather could be easily ignored with a BUKU branded poncho. Shameless plug aside, everything about BUKU helped attendees immerse themselves in music and the colorful decor of live art – the stages, the river, the power plant, the floats, the music, the spray paint, not to mention New Orleans itself all contribute to BUKU being one of Sensible Reason’s favorite festivals.
Each year, the BUKU stages keep out-doing themselves. Five main stages make up the whole of the festival on land, while the VIP-only S.S. BUKU adds some exclusivity to the Mississippi River which runs right next to BUKU’s grounds, the historic Mardi Gras World in the Lower Garden District of NOLA. Each stage has its own little theme to it.
The Front Yard held several showcases for festival attendees held by local artists and musicians. No worries, there was always something to do over at the Front Yard whether you were passing through or sticking around.
The Power Plant was your typical main stage with your not-so-typical backdrop – the defunct Market Street Power Plant. Looming in the distance, Market Street was hard to ignore yet looked stunning in front of a Louisiana sunset.
The Float Den was another dimension with all the plastic coated Mardi Gras and other occasion floats looming over everyone, watching to make sure y’all were having a good time. The Float Den consistently stayed at rage level 10.
The Ballroom held the most diverse acts on the lineup, Mystikal and Juvenile shared the same stage as Crystal Castles and AlunaGeorge. While full of echos, the Ballroom was consistently a pleasant surprise – not to mention a solid shelter to the occasional rain drop.
The VIP S.S BUKU stage immersed VIP ticket holders in a comfortably plush and not to mention swanky environment with appropriately fitting tunes day in and day out. Funky Friday was in full effect with delectable soul tunes served up hot by the likes of Vibe Street and The Funk Hunters who kept the crowd stayin’ alive. Emerging electronic duo Louis The Child dropped some melodic and futuristic tunes on Saturday, and Autograf had the whole boat feeling dreamy as they concluded the evening with a smooth yet energetic set. Decked out with cozy couches, breathtaking views of the Mississippi River and the Power Plant stage, you could say it was practically impossible to leave the boat at times.
The Back Alley was truly the place to be. Its name describes its true party nature and the appeal of something a little more…well, back alley. The artists in the Back Alley were just as diverse as the hall, but in a more intimate setting. If you could bare the crowd, the Back Alley was the best of the small stages.
The production, stage, and sound teams at BUKU are clear professionals that know what festival lovers want – big drops, bigger bass, confetti, clear & bright LED screens, and crisp sound. All of these key components often go under appreciated and unnoticed, but BUKU did it right. They kind of have to – fans would be furious if Future didn’t have the kind of bass that rattles the windows.
The most bittersweet fact of festivals – there are a lot of people on the lineup, a lot of amazing people. That’s the beauty of festivals, all of your favorite artists are in one spot. However, often times there is simply too much to see and too little time. Unless you have go-go gadget ears, sacrifices must be made. We caught as much as we could, but we completely understand that not every amazing group is on this list. With that being said, our highlights are as follows.
Chvrches was a stand out act for Day 1. Full of energy and flawless sound, singer Lauren took complete control of the stage. Her booming voice came out clean and unwavering, and her small stature allowed her to jump on amps and do as many rock kicks as she could muster. All fans of the group had to have left completely satisfied with their set, and for those who had no I idea who this group was, they know now.
Tokimonsta overcrowded the Back Alley, with her special mix of future house, heavy bass, and dirty grooves she had a set that demanded the main stage. Fans were literally climbing the rafters to catch a glimpse of this powerhouse. She looked like she was having an absolute blast the entire time.
Tchami brought the house music to BUKU. High energy and deeper than love, his set was packed with those looking to groove. Bouncing back and forth between the typical build and drop and the perfect deep house breakdown, Tchami was a pleasant surprise that deserves another go.
Above & Beyond holds the #1 spot for Day 1. Their visuals, as usual, were unbelievable and stunning. Animations from extremely talented artists make A&B more than a set but an entire experience. Both visually, emotionally, and aurally captivating, Above & Beyond continue to impress. Their trance roots always pull through even with their heavy bass intervals and the occasional sinister remix of “Personal Jesus.” It’s hard not to feel the love when Above & Beyond types a message to you with that reminder. <3
Crystal Castles pulled it together and brought a new team with him to The Ballroom. A new singer as well as live drummer brought the creepy in true Crystal Castles form. The pretty/angry chick at the party, the singer nonchalantly smoked cigarettes in her chiffon dress, pulling away only to contribute her part of the song. The vocals sounded on par with what one would expect when listening to II or III, melting into the accompaniment. The Ballroom was the perfect place for Crystal Castles. Their music already full of static, feedback and echoes, it had a sort of echo to it due to its high ceiling. Even with new members, the stage presence for this group hasn’t skipped a beat.
Bauuer. The trap music everyone still loves to bathe in. He had trap-pop down to a science, and it somehow was extremely entertaining. With the floats looming in the background (watching you dance) it was easy to let the tension fall away and get down and dirty with Bauuer’s moombahton and dance hall. His ADHD style of mixing meant that everyone left happy and no one stood still.
Alunageorge stood out among the rest of the artists that took over The Ballroom. Her pleasant nature was a world away from Crystal Castles, but that’s the beauty of the diversity of BUKU. Her flowing white outfit gave her a stage presence, but it was her voice that allowed her to command the crowd. Everyone stood in awe at her bountiful performance.
Deorro entered into the Den, teasing the crowd for that breakdown we can’t seem to escape. However, he clearly must have understood that, as he immediately broke into something heavier. Instantly one-upping his predecessor at the Rage Den, Deorro made some impressive moves on the deck to show that he has this down to a science. Every track made you want to shuffle (regardless if you actually know how). The energy in the Den was at 11 all the way through this set.
Future was the #1 answer for “Who are you most excited for tonight?” on Day 2.
However, this came to everyone’s detriment when they all thought they would get there an hour before the set to make sure not to miss it. Well, this just turned into one of the biggest security clusterfucks seen at BUKU thus far. It didn’t help that in addition to the security checkpoint’s walk-through metal detectors, there were also police officers with metal detector wands right after you walk through (just to make sure, of course). In order to make the line go faster, they attempted to relate to the masses, “It’s just like jail, guys…” I would have said it was like the airport, but I’ve never been to jail.
Back to the music, Future was exactly what one would expect from a pro that got big at Magic City Mondays. Lots of lights, vibrating bass, and all the ATL hits the fans were itching for. A pleasant surprise, since most rap shows end up either hit or miss. Future made sundown memorable beyond the sky this BUKU.
Feed Me had a hard act to follow, taking over the Float Den after What So Not. He turned the tables to the shuffle with his signature chaotic electro sound. Being in the spotlight for several years, he never tires and his live sets continue to improve, which gathers more followers and therefore bigger sets. His rich just keeps getting richer.
SNBRN was the feel-good set of the night, playing all the pop hits that Zedd probably would have dropped had he been on this year’s lineup. Now, this is not a bad thing. People can talk crap about EDM all you want, goodness knows those were the ones rocking it out the most at SNBRN. The back alley became filled once more for some feel good grooves. There’s something about hearing a familiar song that you know the words to (by choice or not) that calls for a smile and a little bit of booty shaking, so we thank SNBRN for that privilege.
Pretty Lights took things to the next level this year with his full band. After being Pretty Lights and doing pretty much everything a couple times over, it seems obligatory to tour with a live band. Just as much of his music before this, the live band came to jam. If you put your mind to it, you can easily picture what this would sound like…sort of like every other jam band out there. The set, while new and exciting, became repetitive and mundane halfway through. Even the biggest of PL fans seemed a little disappointed, most coming in and out throughout the set. But, it seems Pretty Lights redeemed himself a little later in the night when he had a secret set after the festival.
Datsik has become a staple name in the rage community, and all his little minions are following him everywhere. For good reason of course, as his repertoire continues to grow, whether it be his light show or his new tracks he seems to drop at least once a festival. Datsik had his entire crowd singing the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the top of their lungs in unison. It’s hard to get thousands of people to be in rhythm, that was impressive.
Nero takes the cake for best electronic set this year. Their colorful aura of lights and bass filled the Float Den, which was packed to the brim. This set was more electro than anthem, but it was still everything Nero and they gave it their all. The entire crowd was mesmerized by their loud and hard-hitting breakdowns that slapped the crowd back 5 years to the first time they heard “Promises.” Alana only came to the stage here and there for the classic anthems and new favorites, letting the guys take over. They turned the stage into the Rage Den.
BUKU isn’t called a music & Art Project for nothin’. The entire weekend, talented artists (and a few people who happen to like to draw) came together to create the scenery for BUKU. While the art is truly spread throughout the festival, the famous graffiti wall on scaffolding outside the entrance to the Float Den and Back Alley was hard to miss. Attendees could literally watch the magic happen and witness these beautiful (or creepy) pieces take shape. A conspicuously placed shipping container or two turned into waves of color anyone could appreciate, especially Lucy. Outside of the containers were a sort of army net that turned into a giant communal hammock. The juxtaposition of color in BUKU’s landscape is unmatched. One can already see it in their website, real life is even more mesmerizing.
BUKU wasn’t a 24/7 party. Only lasting from the hours of 3PM – 1AM, there left a little bit of time for attendees to explore the city of New Orleans. Even without a festival, New Orleans will always be a popular destination spot for music lovers. Jazz and drums and live vocals permeate through the thick humid air, constantly both right in front of you and off in the distance. The culture of expression in the city (added with a little bit of capitalism) runs rampant in the French Quarter. Pay someone and they’ll write you a poem on the spot, or you can check out the carpenters that “climb” ladders to nowhere all after walking past a couple living pictures and a large group of break dancers. Getting awe inspired by the Bad Mother Shucker in the French Market for some cheap oysters ended up being an unexpected highlight as the BUKU slowly wore off on Sunday afternoon. It can be well worth the trip to explore the area surrounding BUKU if you didn’t get the chance this year, New Orleans carries the perfect culture for festival fans.
There’s no doubt that BUKU Music & Art Project will continue to grow and be a destination fest for anyone in the South and beyond. It’s hard not to love a festival and city with such color, variety, and culture.