Buku Music + Art Project: Exactly What A Festival Should Be (And More)

Well ladies and gents, this year’s Buku Fest has passed, and what a fest it was. Before Ultra gets underway and it fills up our feeds on every network out there (as if it already hasn’t), let’s reflect on the incredible experience Buku gave it’s attendees in the great city of New Orleans.

March 21st and 22nd were blessed with beautiful sunshine and warm weather, setting up each day with high spirits and good vibes all around. The locale couldn’t have been better placed; plopped down in the artistic warehouse district by Mardis Gras World made for a weekend that felt like Mardis Gras part 2. Being on the riverside while being surrounded by an abandoned power plant and industrial area was absolutely surreal. Listening to Nas throw down his classic hits , Chromeo swoon the entire crowd with , and the Flaming Lips rock the world all while freighting ships float by with the Crescent City Connection bridge in the back was like living in a totally separate world. The vibe was the selling point of this festival. Yes the line up is eclectic and pretty stacked, but what Buku wants you to come away with isn’t just a memory of a bangin’ mix or cool concert (which were bountiful) but instead the general feel that you lived life to the fullest for two full days of friends, music, art and a sense togetherness with thousands of strangers. The vibe is second to none.

Now to break it down into two days and some stand out shows.

Day 1:
2:00 p.m. and the line to get in was building fast. The doors were to open 20 minutes and the anticipation built up to the point where everyone looked like a child waiting to open gifts on Christmas morning. As soon as we gained entry everyone began to scout out the place looking for their favorite hang outs, favorite stages, and just out to get a general sense of the place (O and course the booze). Initially you could tell who’d been there before and who was just seeing the area for the first time, but within the first couple hours everyone looked like a Buku veteran.

The Power Plant was everything it promised to be as the main stage, with a stunning view of the river and abandoned old power plant. Nas brought it to life and packed in the main area for the first time that day. He had a dedicated following and went after the nostalgia factor, rapping out his first ever track and songs from his first ever album. With the sun setting, his show prepped the place to rage as Zedd came on. The german EDM maestro put together a set that surprised everyone. He has a real knack for developing a connection with the crowd. Heavy hitting remixes and mashups combined with a blindingly beautiful light show made this performance the biggest one of the night at the Power Plant.

Walking towards the middle of the festival grounds, the disco ball tent acted as ground for side acts and performers to showcase talents and was a nice social center. It was also the entrance to the second stage, The Ballroom. This stage had the feel of a small club at night and was the place to hear Treasure Fingers, a live performance by Classixx, and Pusha T. Treasure fingers put together a disco house mix with a Daft Punk-esque vibe; it was a great early day set. Classixx performed their tracks live with a set up the would remind you of Disclosure but had their own little unique tweaks. The television integration into the set was a nice low key way of substituting for a massive LED screen. The Ballroom did host some solid performances, and the Power Plant may have been the main stage, but the real action was at the Float Den.

Just past the 3 level graffiti disply, the Float Den is a functioning Mardis Gras warehouse that went off like a bomb during every single performance. During the day it had a light and colorful vibe, with Mardis Gras festive theme. Conspirator went back  to their roots and played a funk inspired set, and Paper Diamond came on stage raving while controlling part of his set with an iPad. Carnage came on later to prove that the Float Den was the loudest stage of them all, literally blowing earplugs out of photographers’ ears. The real highlight of the first day in the Float Den came late at night. After everyone was high on the vibes from Zedd and Ellie Goulding, Kaskade took to the stage as a glorious silhouette. Seriously he was only visible during a serious of white strobes.

Kaskade played a set filled with throwback tracks and Fire & Ice goodness. A few hits from the Atmosphere album were of course in there, but they felt overrun by the modern takes on his old tracks. The San Franciscan performed as he always does, bring out the freak of nature in all of us. There was something about the Float Den and his music style that just meshed beautifully; the colors and floats,  the music and the surrealness of it all was a helluva sight. O yes, and confetti. Would it be a Kaskade show without confetti?
Making your way all the way back past the Den, people found themselves in the Back Alley. Which was literally what you would expect: an alley. The Back Alley was the place for more down key and niche sets. New Orleans local Dxxxy had a decent crowd that had plenty of room to dance their way into the midday. The Alley was always great to get away from the masses of people and huge tunes, and just sorta groove for a while. Until the night time when Dusky hit the stage.
Dusky’s crowd was packed but not uncomfortably so. Enough room to dance and get into the groove of an hour and half of deep deep magic. The bridge was lit in the background, their stage was really just a small tented platform, and the fans packed in the venue like a shotgunned bar. If Zedd has knack for connecting himself with the crowd, Dusky has a knack for acting as the conduit between the people and the music. The fans were into the music like no other performance during the festival. You could tell the fans knew their music too, every time a Dusky hit came on we cheered in excitement, bringing the deep mix some energy.

Day 2:
Day 1 ended with a slew of power performances, leaving everyone amped for the second. People returned the festival grounds ready to go. The bars were struggling to have enough drinks for everyone after only 1 day and there was no shortage in demand. Everyone knew this was only going to be a two day ride, and they made the most of it. From beginning to end, Day 2 was a party.

Mr. Miserable spun vinyl in the Back Alley with a disco inspired theme, similar to Treasure fingers but with a little less punch. The only real hiccup of the day, and the festival really, was DJ Snake’s 30 minute “small technical issue” that putthe Float Den a little behind schedule. It didn’t seem to matter though as the place kept packing in. He told fans he didn’t like this anymore than them since he had to wait too, he clearly wanted to get the party started was getting anxious. To make up for lost time he cranked the volume to the max and gave the big sets from Day 1 a run for their money. Clockwork came on stage, for the first of two times, right after. His set was good enough that the even the photographers in the photo pit were dancing while trying to take pictures.

Back at the Ballroom, Dan Deacon gave a unique performance and had the venue form a giant dance circle for a small competition that eventually turned into a massive dance party while he twiddled away on his custom gear, singing into the mic and creating music as he went. He even integrated a story into his set which was something to see. Having Dan Deacon play at Buku proved that this fest intends on delivering an experience like no other, without being absolutely massive. It’s all about the uniqueness of it all.

Traveling outside as the sun began to set again with a golden hue, Chromeo took the stage with a set keyboards supported by sexy legs and got the whole crowd feeling a little hot. David Macklovitch sported a red leather jacket that would’ve given Michael Jackson a run for his money and rocked around the stage with utter confidence. From here on the night was full of performances that were must sees. Luckily the location isn’t so big that you feel like you’re running a marathon going from one stage to another.

GRiZ did his thing playing the saxophone while standing on the decks, and dropping hits like bombs. Smash the Funk was probably the highlight of the set, but the remix he played of “Talk Dirty to Me” sent the crowd into a dirty dance filled rave.

Cashmere Cat packed in the Back Alley tighter than anybody and played with a fervor that spread through the crowd like a wildfire. Throwing in tunes that one could consider baby makin’ music, to high tempo tripped out funk beats which nothing short of inspiring.
Baauer and RL Grime took the Float Den later that night and came on knowing they were going to kill it. Complete and utter confidence would be the words used to describe their set. Henry Steingway even changed outfits for his RLG performance. The played this fest like it was Ultra or EDC, there was no holding back.

David Guetta was the last performance for the Power Plant and did a standard Guetta mix. Lots of remixes and mashups. Even an Animals mix got thrown in. He anointed himself on a massive LED screen and stood above anyone else that played before him. For some this may have been a bit of a disconnect. For others it was simply grandiose. There’s no denying it was a party though.

These crowd didn’t know what the word fatigue meant though. They packed the Den for Tyler the Creator, stuffed the Ballroom for the sexy show from Beats Antique, and kept the Alley grooving with Soul Clap and Skream. Food stands begin closing, the bars are out of everything and the night is closing. Now, by this point you can probably tell where this is going? Yep. the Float Den is back for one more massive show. While Danny Brown kept the Ballroom going, The Glitch Mob was setting up to send Buku off with a bang. 12:30 rolls around and the tarp is taken off their set. It’s pitch black and all you can see are red touch pads. Next thing ya know, the mob is playing their custom made set like it a heavy metal band shreds their instruments. What they do on stage is nothing short of spectacular. The attention to detail, the live aspect of it, the energy, everything is well done. A fitting parallel to the Buku environment as a whole.

At the end of it all, everyone came away with the experience they wanted. Hours and hours of incredible music played live, a passionate crowd with nothing but smiles all around, an environment that felt like its own small world (that none of us wanted to leave) and a general sense that everything in life was perfect except that there wont be another Buku until this time 2015. The crew behind Buku did an exceptional job putting this show on. The staff was immensely helpful and friendly, the amenities were everything a festival veteran could want and the festival fell short of nothing. VIP goers enjoyed a beautiful view from the S.S. Blu-Ku, and the Monster Energy Drink stand was a god send for those looking for a bit of a kick. Size isn’t everything in the festival game, and they proved it here. EDMTunes eagerly awaits for Buku 2015, but until then we’ll just have to reminisce on the memories (or…watch the highlights live stream!)