Words By: Meghan Bender | Images by: aLIVE
Full review below photo gallery!
It’s hard to believe that BUKU Music + Art Project is
only in their second year, drawing over 12,000 people for a sold out weekend of music, art and comedy on the
Mississippi River. The two-day festival packs a punch, with a unique urban location in music hot spot New Orleans and
line-up that could attract fans of nearly any genre.
The choice of venue was the first huge draw for fans, drawing a crowd from all 50 states. Many traveling Buku-ers
agreed that the excuse to come visit New Orleans weighed into their decision to check it out. Since there was no
camping at Buku, patrons were encouraged to stay in the nearby French Quarter or Garden District and experience the
city. Mardi Gras World has an industrial vibe to it, spanning between a Mardi Gras float storage warehouse and an
abandoned power plant, the Mississippi River and old train tracks. This year’s event featured four stages and the VIP
VIPs were treated to a free happy hour in the movie set-esque bayou themed Grand Oaks Mansion, open bar on the S.S.
Buku boat near the Power Plant stage, and exclusive performances onboard from artists like Two Fresh, Blackbird Blackbird, and Cameron Kelly.
They also got access to the sold-out after party with Diplo.
It was refreshing to see that producers understand the multifaceted interests of their fans. Rather than
compartmentalize festival-goers into set musical genre boxes, they created a unique blend of indie rock, electronic,
hip-hop, and funk, acknowledging our diverse and broad tastes. The artists took advantage of this unusual gathering
musicians as well; Alt-J performed an
amazing collaboration on “Fitzpleasure” with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Earl Sweatshirt performed alongside Flying Lotus, and R3hab and Flux
Pavilion joined Zedd.
The weekend was filled with musical high points. Lettuce single-handedly represented the funk genre for the weekend and played an awesome set
to convert any non-funkster. White
performed between Lettuce and Flux Pavilion keeping the crowd locked in with some dead-on trap music. Flux Pavilion
played all of his most popular club bangers, turning the Power Plant stage lot into a sweaty dance floor.
Just adjacent to the Power Plant stage was the Riverfront Stage where we were pleasantly surprised by Brassft Funk.
While it may seem obvious to some, we were not expecting the horn driven Daft Punk cover band that played the slot
before Primus, but it seemed oddly perfect for the setting. Primus, who never seems to disappoint, performed with their new 3D visuals. While the 3D was
cool, the best parts had to be Les
Claypool playing a stand-up bass with a bow, rocking around in a pig mask, and generally being the best 3D
aspect of the show.
Closing out the main stage for the night was Kid Cudi, whose set did not have a dull moment. He played a slew of old favorites, new tracks
from the upcoming Indicud album, and even brought Chip Tha Ripper up for a few tracks. Cudi
interacted with fans, owned a huge stage presence, had a huge smile and even shared some Jameson with the front
For an artist that’s been under the radar recording for the last year, it was a great welcome back and huge teaser for
Saturday kicked off with an impromptu outdoor performance from the Hot 8 Brass Band, starting the day with
genuine New Orleans flavor. Icona Pop,
who came all the way from Sweden, seemed as excited to be there as the crowd was to have them. Their mix of
samples, synths, and beautiful live vocals made them some of the most badass ladies there all weekend. Flosstradamus played an incredibly high-
energy set, driving the crowd wild with amped-up samples of favorites like the “Harlem Shake” and fellow Buku-er Kendrick Lamar’s “Backseat Freestyle”.
The only low point of the weekend, for this author at least, was the long delay before the Alt-J set. There was no
explanation for what caused the 45-minute delay, and the set was extended to make up for the error, but those fans of
Kendrick Lamar who had intended to catch the overlapping sets were left waiting in the ballroom. Aside from that
production was great and both the video walls and sound were clearly seen and heard even for those at a distance
(though the intimate vibe usually allowed for listeners to get close to the stage).
Former south-easterners STS9 headlined
the Float Den Saturday night, playing two sets with Daedelus sandwiched in between. A fantastic show for new and old fans alike, the guys played a
lot of old favorites and even had the security guards dancing. "Vapors", "Be Nice", and "EHM" all made appearances as
well as tracks off their latest release When the Dust Settles. Since the band was headlining Snowball music
festival in Colorado the next day, their signature pyramid lighting structure was not a part of the show, but any new
were none the wiser and old fans were glad to hear the tunes they wanted, more than anything.
In addition to an amazing line-up of all star musicians, there was also a small line-up of stand up and performance
comedians and live graffiti art. A dozen taggers and artists set up on scaffolding by the waterfront, painting
the weekend and offering up the pieces for sale. Some of the comedy events throughout the weekend included a local
crew from the NOLA comedy hour, Air Sex Championships (think of an air-guitar contest, but with more thrusting), and
The Real @ChrisTrew Show.
Buku also did a fantastic job of communicating with and engaging festival-goers. The Buku App made checking the
schedule easy, and if you had free time you could learn more about the artists, post your pictures, or engage in the
challenges that they gave you through push notifications. Obviously mobile apps are not a great solution for all
(camping festivals with nowhere to charge up or rural festivals with no service) but it worked great in this urban
Buku Festival is a great opportunity to experience one of the music capitals of the US and indulge in a diverse spectrum
of amazing music, food, and new friends. Considering that this year’s event sold out days before it started, keep it on
your radar early for next year.
JamBase | BUKU
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