written by Danny Smith
photos by Kelsey James
Introduction – BUKU sits in the heart of New Orleans parallel to the mighty Mississippi River. Walk into the grounds thru metal detectors and security then the maze opens up. Upon entering are two cargo containers connected by a mesh web to lay in overlooking the Power Plant stage. The Live Graffiti Gallery was a little higher next to the cargo containers. Around the bend, you pass the VIP S.S. BUKU. Next is a tent between the Ballroom stage and the boardwalk by the river. It had an interesting ceiling and often had music playing, both live bands and DJ’s. Walking straight runs directly into a cool light tree placed in front of the Float Den stage. To the right was a narrow path that led to the Back Alley stage with the Crescent City Connection as the backdrop. To the left of the Float Den lied the Front Porch.
Music genre – Electronic, Rap, Downtempo, Funk, Dance, Pop, Trap, and House
Camping: No. Plenty of hotels and there is even a hostel in town. Major shoutout to The Quisby and their staff (Ashley, Reid, and David in particular) for assisting me while in a tight spot. It is an extremely hospitable and pleasant hostel environment. I met people from Georgia to Italy; diverse lodgers to say the least. You might even catch a film like Pulp Fiction playing in the early hours. Dope, affordable spot, especially for solo travelers. Look into The Quisby if you are visiting New Orleans!
Capacity: Extra Small (5K-10K attendees)
Crowd type: Dickheads, Ravers, Frat Girls, Spring Breakers, Ballers, and Festies
Water stations: Yes. Stations were accessible at least near the access points to the two main stages (Power Plant and Float Den). The quality was definitely better than expected. Always a plus!
For The First Timers – It was my first BUKU. Advice, do what you want! The stages were close so I spent most of the time hopping between sets. It was easy to get near the front at the main stages due to side access. Bring comfy shoes because the grounds are pretty much all concrete. Bring earplugs. Watch some music from the top of the cargo containers and lay in the spider web. Lastly be an extrovert, meet new people! Sounds cliché, but I went solo and during conversation someone told me “You’re not alone, look around.” So true. At times, it was reassuring to see the BUKrewe family experiencing the same bliss of what seemed to be a dream.
Standout Food – I honestly only ate jambalaya both days. There were other Cajun delicacies like crawfish mac and cheese, and different versions of beans and rice. Hamburgers, fries, pizza, and other festival foods were available as well.
Musical Highlights – All the artists I saw were amazing. So glad I got to see new and repeat performances. I was disappointed because Washed Out and Young Thug were scratched from the original lineup.
- GRiZMATiK was amazing. Sax play got funky. Everyone was getting down as songs like “Superstitious” and “Funky Town” were played. The ‘Learn About Something’ and ‘Flipping the Script’ sequence was pretty fire. GRiZ and Gramatik did play a few of their solo songs as well. The visuals were great also, especially the heart bombs/nukes GRiZMATiK dropped on BUKU!
- Travis Scott’s performance was electrifying. Not only from his energy but the effects involved. His set had several smoke and fire blasts. His visuals had several American symbols, but in shambles? Maybe I misread it. He even had two guys on stage to be hype men. Shortly after, they dove into the crowd a couple times. Travis Scott even started climbing the stage setup near the end of his set. Dope set, people love Travis Scott.
- Zeds Dead was impressive as usual. The visuals were rattling and vibrant. I always love hearing “Collapse” live. Some joker thought it was ok to climb to the rafters above during the set, he definitely got kicked out. People were so amped they started moshing. ‘Z’s up for DC and Hooks!
- Tycho was super cool. Scott Hansen, Zac Brown, and Rory O’Connor had a stellar performance. Real airy and appropriate for the time of day as dusk arrived. The magic of the set enhanced as a string of random bubbles floated by. I really enjoyed the set as I watched it from a cargo container with a few cool people. The set had awesome visuals; it looked like they incorporated an album cover or two into the visual scheme. The vibes felt beachy. Pretty chill set.
- Run The Jewels was hype and empowering. Dope visuals and props that included the RTJ famous fist and gun symbols. It looked like Killer Mike was enjoying himself as he smiled and danced across the stage while rapping. El-P did his thing ripping the mic. He even conducted a finger snap session for poetry. They exploited messages like: being confident, love & companionship, fun and cohesion amongst other memos. “Stay Gold” and Killer Mike advising a morning mirror ritual of saying “I’m the shit bitch!” helped such messages. Congratulations to El-P and his fiancée by the way!
- Zhu was astonishing, possibly my favorite set of BUKU. It was odd seeing performers (the bassist and saxophonist) turn their backs to the stage unless they were playing. Rail raging on the VIP/GA rail was legit. Zhu’s unique voice live was uncanny. Songs like “Faded”, “Working For It”, and “Cocaine Model” up close felt so surreal. It even got a little spooky as the skeleton visual danced to “Thriller”. A proper bodacious BUKU closer.
Things To Do – BUKU had several chill spots: cargo containers, the mesh web, the light tree, and the boardwalk. Explore. Watching the artwork progress throughout the weekend was cool. Photo booths were available onsite. Vendors were also setup along the main strip in the middle of the festival.
VIP or Nah – To my knowledge VIP got you onto the VIP S.S. BUKU (free food/drinks and specific stage only performances), premium viewing area at the Power Plant, Float Den, and Ballroom stages, and some free swag.
I say General Admission is the way to go. Porta potties stayed relatively clean and the lines were never long. Some of the VIP S.S. BUKU artists performed at late night sets after BUKU. At any given time in GA you could be extremely close like front and center of a set with minimal effort. Maybe even better views than VIP.