Festival Squad photos by Guest Photographer, Carlos Rodriguez
Featured photo by Gudvibesphoto
Written by Jordan Kausin & Jennifer Gross
Expanding across railroad tracks, weaving in and out of a warehouse aesthetic, and spanning along the Mississippi River resurfaced Buku’s seventh installment. New Orleans’ Mardi Gras World yet again homed its community-strengthening Buku Music & Arts Project. Funneling in lovers of not only music, but also art, people, and a damn good time, Buku was the it event for us and easily restacked our top festivals ever list. As the Port of New Orleans effortlessly transformed into an explosive festival destination, what’s amazing is the way Buku collectively reflected upon the Big Easy itself— by bringing the aesthetic and culture of New Orleans into its gates and showing visitors that huge, distracting installations aren’t always necessary for events. What was insanely captivating was not only the smorgasbord of talent, undeniably loving energy amongst the many BUKrewes that seemingly became one, but the ingenious placement of Buku. Come on, it’s not often we are allowed to play on a sensory overload playground under the Crescent City Bridge and across train tracks! As a primarily electro-beat based event, the sound was quite impeccably versatile including Hip-Hop (for those artists who showed up) *COUGH* Lil Uzi Vert, Migos, etc. *COUGH*, rock, and unique sounds in between. As each stage provided a insanely unique vibe and aesthetic to Buku, here is what we feel shaped them.
The Float Den
Unlike other large festivals that rely on huge screens and massive statues to impress, Buku is as distinct as New Orleans and instead uses its own city to create the backdrop and décor. The Float Den is a perfect example of this in its simple industrial structure. The city’s own infamous Mardi Gras floats joined the party when Alison Wonderland took us all to Church. Yes, Church. In addition to her trappy greatness and rock features, Alison ran us through her recent heart-string-tugging track,
Church. Another notable moment in
her set was when she played her track ‘No’ off of her forthcoming album, ‘Awake.’ The impressive sound system and lasers never disappoint and always seem to be created just to showcase the bass of Rezz.
The Power Plant
The Power Plant seemed to be the perfect location for SZA, Illenium and Bassnectar. True to New Orleans temperamental weather, Illenium’s sunset set was unfortunately missing the sun. Half way through the first song, however, no one cared. He delivered on all the feels and bangers, ending the set with a soft instrumental version of Rush Over Me. SZA took full advantage of the impressive sound system and her vocals were spot on. She put so much into her performance she had to stop at one point to deal with her asthma. I was truly impressed with her talent and at moments had a flash to another great soul vocalist Aretha Franklin. Bassnectar dropped that bass on the Power Plant crowd as only he could. The vast open sky above the mainstage was transformed into a colored sea of rolling clouds and lasers that must be experienced to be believed. Bassnectar included his unique version of San Holo’s Light and the crowd was connected with a love and lightness which felt fresh and clean after the banging bass of his set.
A stage constructed by funky LED light dancing water jugs, precisely-placed wooden palettes, and huge aluminum tunnels extending toward the crowd that was dubbed the house and techno music hub of the event naturally stole our hearts. Alongside restrooms, a trail of food vendors, and the shimmering Mississippi River, this place was turned into home base between stage hopping without a doubt. Allowing artists including Green Velvet, Walker & Royce, and many more, to let your imagination wander and try to do these illuminating sets any justice! Walker & Royce, Dirtybird Records royalty, not only expectedly rounded up Dirtybird diehards from near and far, but reeled in those bearing golden hearts and hungry for an unforgettable time. With the most genuine and undeniable energy of all of Buku, endless props to all that these house music hounds stand for.
Mobile Dance Parties? HELL YEAH!
Although the iconic Float Den, Wharf, Ballroom, and Power Plant stages are set off back to back with unstoppable acts, this year, something surfaced that nobody was ready for… Traveling dance parties! Sure, we may be totally used to running from stage to stage, but when a pedi-cab strolls by you with beautiful bass in your face, what’re you to do? Join the dance party train of newfound friends and live in the moment!
Most importantly… THE VIBE!
Just as you expect from any visit to New Orleans, the mix of culture at Buku is felt everywhere you turn. This diversity and immediate acceptance of all things peculiar, strange, and unique is what makes everyone feel welcome and free to be themselves. This mixture extends well beyond the fellow revelers. Buku is the genuine exemplification of togetherness and social development. The music blends all the sounds of Nola into a giant stew of bass, lights, sweat and smiles. Just like the streets of the French Quarter, you will find as you wander the festival grounds a freedom and acceptance not experienced many other places. There is a true Southern hospitality felt from the moment you pass the entrance. The Mardi Gras vibe extends well beyond the Float Den, as beads and the openness of expression are welcomed and encouraged at Buku. The only thing strange here is that there are no strangers. All are welcome, and friends become family. Bottom line is— All hats off to Buku. It is an incredible honor to be a part of such a glorious festival family who is allowed to contribute to such a creative yet historic experience in its own. From our Bukrewe to yours— See you on the river next year!