There’s something special about New Orleans. While it’s indisputable reputation as a cultural melting pot definitely aids in its magical pull, there’s a reason herds of people come through NOLA for a taste of the Cajun lifestyle, and on this particular weekend, BUKU Music + Art Project was ours. We started out our first day of BUKU with Robert Delong on the main Power Plant stage. His live drumming and energetic dance synths are enough to make any crowd jump, and such was the case at his BUKU set. Watching Delong perform his newest single, ‘Long Way Down’ was a definite highlight as it’s been on repeat for me since the video was released last week. Hurrying over to catch Run the Jewels in the Float Den proved to be an epic choice, as the two MC’s were giving their audience a much needed dose of crunk beats. Definitely felt the TOO BUKU vibe during their hour long set, as the crowd was officially in rage mode, rapping lyrics and jumping to every beat. After my visit to BUKU last year, I remember hoping there’d be more seating options, but it wasn’t long before we found ourselves stepping over groups of people sprawled on the pavement. The main reason this is a complaint to me is because most of these seated individuals were near the food vendor area, thus blocking me from re-ordering Fireman Mike’s jambalaya bowls.
Which brings me to the BUKUisine; not only were the choices phenomenal and affordable, but they were a great representation of the unique flavors the Big Easy is known for. My favorite of the bunch were definitely the jambalaya bowls from Fireman Mike Kitchen, which won me over by having the option of being topped with spicy red beans and rice, as well as jumbo chicken strips. Dat Dog and Bratz Y’all were also great vendors, serving up large portions of traditional hot dogs topped with unique Nola twists, such as the delectable Drunk Pig from Bratz, which was covered in slow-roasted pork, or the unbelieveable crawfish sausage from Dat Dog. Give me delicious festival food at a non-festival price, and you’ve won me over.
Another unique feature of BUKU was the VIP stage, where exclusive sets were scheduled all weekend. Upon feasting our eyes on the SS Buku’s open bar, stage view and epic photo booth, we were sold. Though it were crowded, the VIP option definitely seemed to be the way to go, especially when keeping festival alcohol prices in mind. The exclusive performances are enough to make anyone drool, and drool we did: over the weekend we caught sets by Slow Magic, Boyfriend, Hermitude, and Goldlink, officially sealing the deal for us on the VIP package. For those of you who missed out, we HIGHLY recommend upgrading next year!
The sun was still high in the sky when festival favorites STS9 hit the Power Plant stage at 6. Their unique brand of live jazztronica has earned them one of the most dedicated fan bases out there, and Tribe heads were in full force for the band’s BUKU performance. After taking in some of the set, I decided to use the opportunity to check out more of the BUKU grounds, and became immersed in the three story art wall that was squeezed between the Float Den and Ballroom. It had been a huge hit last year, and I was happy to see that the artistic features of BUKU extended to the BUKU FrontYard as well. This area caught my attention with its plethora of chill zones, craft vendors, and live painters.
A$AP Rocky took over the Power Plant with the rest of the A$AP Mob directly after Sound Tribe. A giant, inflated 40oz chilled stage left bobbing back and forth, while Rocky and his crew worked the center stage and riled the crowd. Shouting out love for recently deceased member A$AP YAMS, Rocky played ‘Goldie’, one of the last tracks the two had collaborated on. The crowd’s energy was infectious; it wasn’t long before I caught myself hands in the air screaming out lyrics at the top of my lungs during A$AP’s set. Though the trillest part of me longed to stay, I knew Thomas Jack was starting over at Back Alley, so I headed out to get some House vibes going. On the way, we stopped and rocked out to Portugal the Man, who gave an electrifying performance in the Ballroom.
Last year’s Back Alley played host to the hottest in fresh electronic talent, making it a fitting environment for Canadian transplants Bob Moses to take the stage. I came looking for a House fix, and it was soon clear I’d come to the right place. Equipped with a live vocalist, this duo stole my Bukrew’s hearts, and every other person packed into the sweaty dance party. They warmed up the crowd nicely for rising Australian producer Thomas Jack, whose old-school tracks from the 70’s had the crowd pressed against the barricades of the stage busting out their sexiest moves. Thomas Jack simultaneously switched from deep house to big room and of course, mixed in that tropical house sound we all love and crave. For being a relatively new artist on the scene, the crowd’s adoration was strong, as several members bounced inflatable pineapples and palm trees around during Jack’s set. A highlight of the set was an upbeat remix of Tracy Chapman’s ‘Give Me One Reason’, securing that my love for Thomas Jack had grown tenfold after his performance.
Now properly House’d, my trill nature called me over to Boosie Badazz‘s set, who had started not too long after Thomas Jack. As I walked up, the rapper was in the middle of a heart to heart with his crowd. “For those of you who know this next track, sing along. For those of you who don’t, listen, because this is the story of my life.” Boosie then dropped one of his most infamous tracks, ‘Mind of a Maniac’ and the audience went nuts. Boosie encouraged the energy, raging the crowd as he jumped up and down and clapped his hands. Playing another Boosie classic, ‘Exciting’, the crowd continued to sing along loudly.
Flosstradamus hit the Float Den at 7 sharp, and wasted no time in ripping up the dance floor. The duo climbed on the decks, waved Floss flags and whipped out brain rattling bass bangers one after another, including fan favorite ‘Roll Up’. At one point the producer team even called for a mosh pit. Dubstep mosh pits hadn’t been a thing to me till that very moment, and I hope to never get into one. I’m not the heaviest bass fan, but give me a nice set of female vocals and I’m in. When Flosstradamus played ‘Rebound’ featuring vocalist Ellka, I found myself singing along and have been obsessively playing the song since.
There is something crazy and awesome about Die Antwoord, and BUKU is just the type of crowd to revel in their strangeness. With flashing lasers, an eccentric backdrop and energy unmatched, Die Antwoord flipped the Float Den upside down. So much in fact, that the power on stage went out. A round of slow claps managed to draw a mic check from one of the members, but it wasn’t till nearly five minutes later that Die Antwoord finally appeared back on the stage, and they gave fans exactly what they wanted. Possessing a feverish energy that both intimidated and enticed, Die Antwoord played many of their most popular tracks, including ‘Ugly Boy’, ‘Fatty Fatty Boom Boom’ and ‘Fok Julle Naaiers’.
Gramatik was playing at the same time in the Ballroom, so we high tailed it to catch the funk that Denis Jasarevic is known for. To our wonderful surprise, he was joined with fellow Low Temp labelmate Russ Liquid, together making it one of the most energetic sets of the weekend! On-stage collabs are some of our favorites, and we were super stoked to see Russ chopping it up live with Gramatik.
After all the excitement of day one, it was hard to believe we had the late night to look forward to as well! We headed downtown to find Joy Theater, where GRiZ would be performing with Snails as opener. Situated next to The Big Easy Tattoo Co., it felt fitting to have one of our favorite masters of funk throwing it down in Nola. The show peaked when Russ Liquid made a surprise appearance onstage for a banging re-work of ‘Rebel Era’, drawing massive screams and cheers from the crowd as the first day of the festival ended.
Our adrenaline was running high as we reached the BUKU grounds for our final day of shenanigans and amazing music. xxyyxx at the Float Den was our first stop, who had a pretty sizable crowd for having an early time slot. Floating clouds danced on the backdrop behind him, working perfectly with the flow of his bass heavy yet chill-wave beats. We couldn’t help but burst into bumps and grinds when the producer dropped a remix of R Kelly’s ‘I’m A Flirt’, and the BUKU crowd agreed wholeheartedly, with spontaneous booty shaking erupting the dance floor.
Up next in the Ballroom were BADBADNOTGOOD, who would be accompanied by legendary MC Ghostface Killa of Wu Tang Clan. An instrumental jazz band known for their genius covers such as ‘Lights’ by Kanye West and ‘Seasons’ by Future Islands, BADBADNOTGOOD gave quite the performance, and with help from Ghostface, theirs was truly one of the most mesmerizing of the weekend. Playing a cover of classic hip hop track ‘Whose World Is This?’ by Nas brought the heavy sways, and an impromptu jazz sesh near the end kept our eyes fixated to the group the entire set. Ending their set with a cover of Ice Cube’s ‘Today Was A Good Day’, we walked over to Float Den to catch the highly anticipated set from Odesza.
Besides being the most insanely packed crowd I’ve ever seen, Odesza’s set was one of the most memorable of the weekend for us! The duo, hailing from Seattle, are no strangers to massive crowds, and had no problem giving their BUKU fans exactly what they wanted. Playing favorites such as their remix of Zhu’s ‘Faded’, and Slow Magic’s ‘I Waited’, the crowd pulsated to each thud of the drums as the duo pounded out rhythms to wild applause. The definite peak of the set though was when Odesza played their top track, an original called ‘Say My Name’. It felt as though an explosion had occurred as confetti rained down upon the crowd. To say Odesza left us coasting on a high would be an understatement!
Bassnectar was scheduled to hit the Power Plant soon, so we made our way through the hordes of attendees to grab a good spot. Opening with a ground shaking remix of ‘Candy Shop’ by rapper 50 cent, the 37 year old producer stops the track and asks the crowd, “How ya feelin’ tonight?!”
A short rise of shouts are heard before Bassnectar suddenly cuts them off with a menagerie of bass goodness, rumbling the concrete beneath our feet. Whipping out ‘Put It Down’, a drum and bass fueled track featuring Excision, the crowd literally went nuts with energy, as Bassnectar hyped them even more, swinging his signature mane back and forth over his decks.
Though the energy was seriously addicting, we left to check out Justin Martin, who would be tag teaming a B2B set with fellow Dirtybird label mate Eats Everything. Giving us the heaviest dose of house we had all weekend, the two really gave Nola a taste of how the West Coast likes to party by playing an epic hour and a half long set. Cutting out early to catch G-Eazy in the Ballroom, we made it in time to see the Oakland, California native rapping along to Ginuwine’s ‘My Whole Life Has Changed’, before pulling out his cell phone and having a heartwarming moment with his crowd, nearing the edge of the stage to take a ‘selfie’. “New Orleans is a second home to me,” the rapper said. “Show me how crazy tonight was so I can remember it when I’m 80 fucking years old!’ He then played a fan favorite, the chilled out track ‘Let’s Get Lost’.
In those simple words, G-Eazy truly summed up what BUKU felt like to us; home. Though it were our first time exploring New Orleans, the comforts of the city couldn’t be ignored. From the music and art, to the incredible crowd we had the pleasure of festival’ing with all weekend, we couldn’t thank the BUKU Music + Art Project enough for having us out again this year! We highly suggest joining the shenanigans and friendly vibes that New Orleans and BUKU are known for in 2016, and will most definitely be seeing you there. Keep an close eye on Compose Yourself Mag and the BUKU website for more updates.