Evidently, Mother Nature raves for electronic dance music and hip-hop. BUKU Music + Art Project, now in its fifth year, welcomed 30,000 eclectic attendees this past Friday and Saturday for a sold-out, weird, wild, but for the most part, dry time. While many of the nation’s biggest music festivals, like Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza take place on 700 acres of grassy farmland, or in a beautiful desert valley in California, BUKU Music + Art Project, goes down in New Orleans’ Mardi Gras World with the murky Mississippi River on one side and a shutdown, graffiti-lined power plant on another; a perfect venue for this potent festival.
Walking in feels like entering a haunted, dream-like realm, one where Halloween and Mardi Gras trip together on beats, bass, lasers and LED screens. Some patrons dance in animal costumes, others groove with illuminated hula hoops around their waists, and a few wear, well, hardly anything at all. Technically, the entire festival features six stages, but really only three – Power Plant, Float Den and Ballroom – draw in the significant portions of the predominantly young-adult crowd.
Positioned outdoors in front of the 115-year-old abandoned Market Street Power Plant, the festival’s main stage named appropriately, Power Plant, hosted numerous acts Friday and Saturday from 3 p.m. until 11 p.m. including Chvrches, Kid Cudi, Lafayette, Louisiana’s own GIVERS, Pretty Lights (with a live band) and many more. Chvrches’ flawless set earned high praise from the crowd, and later thousands sang along with Kid Cudi when he performed popular tracks like “REVOFEV” and “Soundtrack 2 My Life.” However, while Power Plant’s sets ended at 11 p.m., BUKU’s other two main indoor stages, Ballroom and Float Den, kept the party going well into both nights with pulsating performances from artists like A$AP Ferg and Griz.
While the big names certainly brought in the sizeable crowds, some of the best moments of BUKU occurred not necessarily on the main stage but rather throughout random parts of the festival grounds. Giving off a very New Orleans’ street performer vibe, one band in particular by the name of New Thousand, fronted by violinist Adrian Jusdanis, put on quite a performance in an area where festivalgoers usually just walked in between stages. Their intriguing music sounded way ahead of its time and judging by their onlookers enthusiastic reactions, New Thousand should, and may very well in a few years, headline Buku’s Power Plant stage.
“What I saw this weekend was a ton of people from all over the country coming to this place and unleashing their spirits and really connecting in a deep way,” said Jusdanis. “I am so grateful to have had this opportunity and grateful to all of the people that were there and showed us all this love and allowed us to show them love in return.”
Other lovely things about BUKU included live mural spray painting outside of the Float Den, water only costing $3 a bottle and delicious food options including crawfish beignets, crawfish mac ‘n cheese and booty poppin’ potatoes.
No city better fits BUKU Music + Art Project than New Orleans, and no festival creates quite a unique world that BUKU does. Before you die, go and experience it.