Reviewed by Austin Allen
Since the debut in 2012, Buku Music & Arts Festival has sold out for this third time; accommodating 30K individuals from all over the nation with pins on their hats and love in their hearts. All patrons eager to experience this remarkable festival.
How To Get There
As a Chicago native and an ambitious individual hungry for adventure, I decided to make the thirteen hour drive to New Orleans. 931 miles later and over $100 in gas, I arrived in the big easy; pumped to soak up the history. For those of you flying the closest airport is called Louis Armstrong New Orleans; probably a bit smarter than driving. When it comes to getting to the festival itself, you don’t have many choices besides driving.
Between $10 – $20 will get you a taxi from surrounding hotels however I would highly suggest carpooling. There is a gated parking lot right across from Mardi Gras World with only a $10 parking fee. With less than a quarter mile of walking distance from the parking lot to the venue it takes the hassle out of trying to spot your taxi in the cluster of cars.
Where To Stay
Sitting next to the Mississippi River and the beautiful Crescent City Connection Bridge, Mardi Gras World was the home to ravers of all different assortments March 11th through the 12th. Located in the bustling heart of the Warehouse District hotels, restaurants, and bars litter the surrounding area. Hotels (ranging from $100 to around $300 depending on how fancy you’d like to stay) provide a wide variety to festival goers of all economic standings.
Buku also offers hotel packages to help their fans out, however they are first come first serve! Joining forces with CID Entertainment they help provide hotel packages including a single hotel room for two nights at Aloft New Orleans Downtown or Courtyard Marriott New Orleans Downtown. Their package can pertain to either general admission or VIP depending on how much you’ve designated for your festi-venture. The cheapest general admission travel package includes two nights at the New Orleans Aloft plus two wristbands, as well as two Buku merch gifts; totaling out at $929.50. The cheapest VIP package includes the same perks, only your wristbands will allow access onto the S.S. Buku which is riddled with goodies.
For those of you that would like to experience Buku to its fullest (and if you have a little more to spend on a VIP ticket) it includes a plethora of perks that are sure to make your weekend even more memorable! I suggest getting your VIP passes early because of the increase in cost; VIP early bird starts off at $299.50 and increases to $399.50 for the regular VIP access.
Buku makes sure you get what you pay for by offering extensive additions to help make this an unforgettable experience. Out of all 30,000 attendees things could get pretty crowded so Buku offers an exclusive VIP only viewing area for each of their 3 main stages in addition to a limited edition Buku 2016 poster, a Buku shirt or tank top, as well as VIP only festival entrance to help cut your time in line in half!
Still not impressed? Did I mention that you also get guest-listed to one of the Buku after-parties of your choosing? Does your body ache from dancing to hard? Buku VIP members also get access to a licensed TOO Buku massage therapist as well as Buku Butlers. Buku Butlers are basically individuals that will bring you food and drinks to where ever you are on festival grounds. I know what you’re thinking, “Whoa how can this get any better!” Guess what? It does.
VIP Buku members also get access to a stage that general admission members can only sulk over. The S.S. Buku is a New Orleans style riverboat with 3 levels of fun! Complete with an open bar (yes you read that correctly), complimentary bottle service (groups of 4 or more including either a complimentary bottle or 12 pack of beer), VIP bathrooms, and climate-controlled lounges. Did I mention a stage where Autograf and Louis the Child played exclusively for the VIP members? One individual ended up getting so overwhelmed with the level of awesomeness that he ended up ‘abandoning ship’ and jumped overboard after Autograf got done with their set.
The Big Easy hosted a collection of beautifully strange individuals and artistic talent for as far as the eye could see. Buku featured break-dancers known as the BUKU Breakers, volunteers that wore giant festive heads (better known as the BUKreatures), as well as artists that painted sections of a wall which became a center piece amidst the stages.
General admission held a collection of four stages, three of which were main stages. Upon entering, festival goers were greeted by The Power Plant Stage which was more capable of appealing to a larger audience because it was outside and also viewable from the S.S. Buku. The Float Den kicked the festival off by hosting one of my favorite artists, G Jones, who played the first major time slot of the festival. Littered with giant Mardi Gras themed floats and beer vendors, it allowed for a New Orleans themed venue indoors.
The final main stage is The Ballroom, an indoor stage complete with a dance floor and balcony so that if the dance floor gets too hot or crowded one can venture upstairs to still enjoy the music without having to worry about heat exhaustion. The smallest GA stage, and arguably the most memorable, was the Back Ally stage. With the advantage of the beautiful Mississippi and the famous Crescent City Connection Bridge the stage held a beauty that the other stages couldn’t compare to.
Food & Vendors
Twelve food venders allowed a wide variety for the hungry attendees to choose from. Pizza, corndogs, burgers, and it wouldn’t be Louisiana without some soul food and Cajun cookin! Food from all over the world made its way into BUKU to bring a diverse and unique addition to this already authentic music and arts festival. Eight different vendors also gave shoppers a wide variety to choose from. Grassroots, Headspace and many others attracted the curious and satisfied the stylish.
What Makes Buku Different
Buku Music & Arts Festival brings together the rich history of their past and flawlessly combines it with modern day styles to birth a music festival like none other. Tucked between an active railroad, a decaying power plant, and barges cruising down the Mississippi, this festival provides an atmosphere only New Orleans could pull together. Old school meets new school; creativity and love reins supreme in the Warehouse District of New Orleans making this festival a must attend. If you’re looking for a diverse blend of music in an authentic area… look no further, because Buku Music & Arts Festival will be coming around next year to quench your festival thirst. Start planning your trip and gathering your “BuKrew” because this is one festival you don’t want to miss.
As if getting to cover this festival wasn’t good enough, fate had one more present for me to unravel. After blending up some wubs and dubs with his signature funk; GRiZ and Muzzy Bear ended their set by endorsing Bernie Sanders by putting his picture up on all the big screens with the American flag flowing behind him. Then he spoke to the crowd about the importance of voting and urged us all to vote; stressing the importance of this election. I suppose it’s safe to say GRiZ is “feeling the Bern.”
After GRiZ ended his set by shouting to the crowd, “SPREAD LOVE,” only to be answered back by the crowd shouting, “SHOW LOVE.” My crew and I strolled back to our car excited for the after show which featured GRiZ, members of Lettuce, Break Science, and Russ Liquid; however fate decided that wasn’t enough.
I was hanging back from the rest of my friends trying to light I cigarette and I look to my left and walking right there was Grant himself. In the flesh. We lock eyes and my jaw drops, astounded. With the coolest smirk Grant looks at me and puts his index finger by his lips and goes, “Shhhhh.”
Still bewildered and trying to keep my excitement down I tell him how amazing and artistic I think he is and ask him if I can get my best friend & roommate, Dylan, over here to meet him because he’s his biggest fan. “Yeah, go grab him,” and I do my best to be low key while grabbing him away from our friends.
I pull him back and watch as my best friend meets someone he’s always wanted to meet; an idol of his. I love seeing the people I care about happy and that was the happiest I’ve ever seen him. He even teared up with joy! Dylan goes, “Dude, you’re honestly the man,” and Grant goes, “Nah dude you’re the man!” and Dylan lost it. I’m pretty sure his knees gave out for a second. GRiZ’s cameraman looked at Dylan and said, “Dude you looked so shocked I thought you were going to punch me.”
GRiZ ended up signing our GRiZ flag and shaking all of our hands. A completely spontaneous interaction all dependent on our walking speed; right place at the right time lead us into meeting one of the coolest artists I’ve ever met. After we collected ourselves and tried to get over the shock we made our way to the Joy Theatre.
As much as I can appreciate EDM, I love me some good ol’ jam and that’s exactly what I got at the after show. GRiZ with Break Science plus members of Lettuce and Russ Liquid all on one stage turning GRiZ songs into jam. Taking electronic music and forging it together with strings and brass to bring it to life in a new form.
The after show displayed how talented and diverse GRiZ is and how dynamic he can be as a musician. Two forms of music back to back in one night with other iconic musicians backing each other up; it was such a magical and memorable performance.
All in all…
The BUKU Music & Arts Festival was surprising and truly addicting. Such talent pulsed throughout this music festival while love and respect spread like a wildfire throughout all festival goers. BUKU is a must-attend festival in a must-visit state, so rich with history and art it fulfills the wanderlust so many of our restless souls feel at the beginning of the festival season. Don’t forget to visit Shakedown Street! It supposedly used to be the heart of town, you just gotta poke around.