BUKU: neon Dionysian fest
During the weekend of March 21-22, an influx of fluorescent adolescents made their way to the BUKU Music + Art Project, a relatively new festival in New Orleans that showcased emerging and established artists in hip-hop, indie and EDM.
I went in blind.
Over the months of writing this column, I’ve had one consistent complaint, and it’s a valid one: I tend to write about only independent alternative acts. Lafayette’s music scene, while diverse in some respects, has limited representation of genres other than the standard drums-guitar-bass.
BUKU has bass-bass-bass. And fun-fun-fun.
The crowd was as diverse as the music. One girl in a bra bedecked with daisies kissed my cheek and said I was beautiful. Many more were in head-to-toe glitter, a sort of space-age pageantry fit for the futuristic circus that is BUKU.
The festival’s head of décor, Chloe Cerabona, 25, described the festival’s theme as “industrial” with “vibrant colors,” like an “acid-trip junkyard.”
It really was. Located in Mardi Gras World within the Warehouse District, each of the five stages were close to each other. Despite the bass-heavy sounds emitting from most of them, each one was a different world, separated by a short walk and some pretty killer local food offerings.
This was an ideal festival to discover new music and revisit familiar acts, which I believe festivals are all about.
Oldschool hip-hop group Bone Thugs-N Harmony performed its major hits and homages to deceased rappers. (It was a long set). Paper Diamond rocked the Float Den and provided an excellent warm-up to the rest of the weekend. Rap legend Nas performed his classic album “Illmatic” above a dense smoke cloud then told the BUKU crowd, “You better invite me back!”
Of course, you hear a few songs and recognize some names, but seeing an artist perform is a multifaceted way of experiencing his or her art. It’s a sensory overload of music consumption, as it should be, and that’s precisely what BUKU is: a sensory overload, but the one that you asked for. Everyone came to party, but that made for an unevenly dispersed crowd.
Surprisingly, The Flaming Lips’ crowd at the festival’s largest stage, the Power Plant, was embarrassingly small. Other crowd members noticed, and one observed how another act performing at the same time, Cashmere Cat, is “really big in L.A. right now.”
The astoundingly beautiful set from Explosions in the Sky had a satisfied but relatively smaller audience compared to other popular DJs. Festival favorites Beats Antique also had a tiny crowd, despite its gigantic inflatable Cyclops chicken and special surprise guest and bounce artist Sissy Nobby.
Don’t get me wrong. It was a blast. But you probably shouldn’t expect as many rock acts at BUKU next year.
Instead, you’ll probably see more EDM and hip-hop than indie. People literally ran to Schoolboy Q and Tyler, the Creator, and the biggest crowd was the throbbing mass for David Guetta. Griz put on a sick show and was the first DJ I’ve ever seen play saxophone on stage. Another favorite EDM find, Glitch Mob, was extremely fun, and Danny Brown closed out the festival to a still-raucous crowd.
Above all, BUKU is an excellent way to experience new music and refresh your memory with others. It is a young festival put on by young people for young people. It’s growing, and its tastes are evolving, just like us.