By John Hanley
When you enter the BUKU Music & Arts Festival, you’re immediately surrounded by nothing but bright colors. Everything and everyone is painted, colored, or lit up, and you can feel the energy in the air shift as your eyes take in all of the life and vibrancy. BUKU is characterized almost entirely by colorful, lively, youthful energy. A lot of youthful energy. Nonstop, youthful energy. An almost unsettling amount of youthful energy.
But it rubs off. Even when your legs are so tired you feel like they might collapse from underneath you, you can’t help but join in on the good energy. And it helps to have show after show of amazing artists to keep that energy up.
This past weekend, the festival came back for yet another year of music and art appreciation. And like the weather on Friday, things just kept getting better and better.
Friday started off with an afternoon performance from local New Orleans rapper Pell. He set the attitude of the festival off, passing cigarillos back and forth with the crowd and even jumping in the pit to dance with fans. The feeling encapsulated what BUKU is about – giving local artists a chance to shine, and allowing fans a chance to intimately connect with their favorite artists.
Yung Lean followed Pell in the Ballroom for an especially cartoonish performance. Outside of the fangirls trying to jump the barricade on the brink of tears, Lean took a hard fall, nearly busting his head open on a speaker. However, he wasn’t fazed and kept the party going to the diehard fans.
After Lean, Baton Rouge DJ/producer suicideyear ruled his set, standing atop of a throne-like, one-man stage in the Back Alley, overlooking the Mississippi River. Suicideyear has gained some major buzz over the past few years, and his deftness on the 1’s and 2’s made it clear why.
Suicideyear’s performance unfortunately overlapped with the popular rap duo Run The Jewels. Rappers Killer Mike and El-P really got the crowd pumping with high-energy, bass-heavy, head-nodding hits like “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” and the self-titled classic “Run The Jewels.”
Immediately following Run The Jewels was a huge show from A$AP Rocky, accompanied by A$AP Nast and A$AP Twelvyy, along with others of the A$AP Mob. The whole front half of the festival was packed for both new hits and classics.
Things calmed down a bit with Portugal. The Man, who, although energetic, had more of a balladic sound. Then, it was back to the massive stage at the Power Plant for Empire of the Sun. Empire definitely ruled the night, going all out with elaborate costumes, dancers, confetti, and good old, heart-pumping music.
Boosie Badazz came through for a short-lived set in the Ballroom, accompanied by about 50 friends onstage. He performed mostly classics like “Independent,” “Set It Off,” and “Wipe Me Down,” shouting out LSU, Tulane, and all his fans that have been with him since before he went to jail.
Closing out the night was a bizarre set from South African rap group Die Antwoord (as expected). The electricity spontaneously cut out twice, but Die Antwoord kept it going in typical Die Antwoord fashion, with rapper Ninja explaining that, “Sometimes the bass fucks it up, but fuck it, we’re fuckin’ back.”
The day was a long one, packed full of art and music, but Saturday wasn’t about to be outdone. As graffiti artists worked on a massive wall of paintings and the S.S. BLU-KU sat alighted on the river, another lineup of artists geared up for a big day of music.
XXYYXX geared up the crowd with an electronic set, briefly dropping a snippet of Drake’s new song “Know Yourself,” if only to hear the resounding chant from the crowd: “Runnin’ through the 6 with my woes.”
BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah kept the spirit of crowd participation going, inviting a Spider-Man from the crowd onstage and – after an awkward period of about 15 minutes – inviting another fan that could rap the entirety of ODB’s “Protect Ya Neck” verse onstage with him. Killah rapped several tribute covers of classics like Nas’ “The World Is Yours” and Wu-Tang’s “C.R.E.A.M.” and “Ain’t Nothin’ Ta Fuck Wit.” This seemed to symobolize another BUKU sentiment – these artists had inspirations for themselves and are now acting as inspiration for the fans that came to see them at BUKU.
Passion Pit hit the Power Plant for a high-energy (and high-pitched) show, creating some magical moments – complete with light effects and bubble machines – with the crowd chanting the lyrics. They closed with their classic, “Sleepyhead,” which left the crowd satisfied and happy.
Lil B showed love for New Orleans, shouting out New Orleans artists and bringing everyone together for a feel-good show. Back at the Power Plant, Bassnectar stood like a god on a throne of LED screens, shattering every window within a 10-mile radius with bass that rattled your eardrums and almost made it hard to breathe.
At the end of the night, the whole festival could hear “Club goin’ up…on a Tuesday” being chanted from the Float Den as ILoveMakonnen took the stage for one last blast of bass and energy.
Over the two days of BUKU, it was clear what the festival was about. It brought fans, local artists, and internationally famous names together on the same plane to have a genuinely good time together and spread culture and love because, as Flosstradamus put it at the end of his set, “All we need in this world is peace.”