The inaugural BUKU Music & Art Project at Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World appears to have been a resounding success and perhaps will become another big addition to the fast-growing electronic music festival circuit, a roving neon circus that has spawned a number of destination events, many of which have become yearly traditions.
The landscape previously dominated by a handful of majors is quickly diversifying with the addition of these beats-intensive, multi-day events that continue to command space on the crowded festival calendar alongside many of the now-longstanding major and mid-major events that reinvigorated the U.S. circuit in the early-2000s.
When local BUKU organizers announced the initial lineup in late-December, I arrived at two initial conclusions: (1) this thing is going to play extremely well with the college crowd (given the timing of the event, falling on many major Southern universities’ spring break schedules and sandwiched between South-by-Southwest and Ultra Music Festival XIV); and (2) despite the variety, I wasn’t all that taken by the initial lineup, being more of a fan of electronic music with elements of live instrumentation instead of full-throttle dubstep, house and techno.
After Sunday, consider conclusion 1 confirmed and conclusion 2 almost entirely debunked. The likes of Big K.R.I.T. and SBTRKT made the trek worthwhile. Throw in some epic people-watching (even for New Orleans) and incredible weather and you’ve got yourself a total package.
With the recent explosion of the Electric Daisy Carnival from an L.A.-rooted single weekend fest into a nationwide touring summer-long bonanza, there’s definitely something happening in the electronic festival world. After yesterday at BUKU, it appears that the kids are alright (at least for now).
Continue on for a photos by photographer Jimmy Grotting from a picture-perfect Sunday at BUKU, videos and some notable highlights from Day 2 at BUKU 2012.
Day 2 Highlights at 2012 BUKU Music & Arts Project
Home team live electronica outfit Gravity A kicked things off in the Bassik Ballroom with a chest cavity-rattling opening set in the Bassik Ballroom that got LOUD — not generally one to complain about sound generally and luckily packed the earplugs, but it seemed like the sound mix was way above generally acceptable (and notably during A-Trak’s set outside) before it leveled out). Regardless, Gravity A played a notably heavy set, doing an interesting, almost nu-disco sample on “Simple Man” and a cool drop-in by local guest rapper Matt Zarba. Check out video from their set here.
Rapper G-Eazy had an infectious energy that played well with the crowd. Fresh off an insane-but-standard 10-shows-in-4-days run at SXSW, G-Eazy managed a more-than-serviceable mid-day set that had everyone smiling and bobbing along. Hoarse but happy as can be, G-Eazy threw in some interesting samples, including Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks” and local indie act the Generationals’ “When They Fight, They Fight” into his set during “Make Up Sex,” earning bonus points in my book. His positive outlook had a notable effect on the crowd and he took every available chance to engage with the rail riders at the main stage at arms length, offsetting some of the negativity sparked by SpamM Kidd’s hilarious rant/run-in.
A-Trak played to the picturesque backdrop of the evening’s setting sun, a brilliant scene visually, as a majority of the day’s crowd began to roll into the Mardi Gras World grounds. The DJ repped his label Fool’S Gold on the back LED a fair bit and threw down his standout remix of “Heads Will Roll” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (featured in new rager film Project X), breaking BUKU Sunday wide open and unleashing the pandemonious scene that resonated across the grounds for the remainder of the festival.
Next came SBTRKT, who, along with Big K.R.I.T., stood out as the set of the day. Although not necessarily comparable to T.V. on the Radio, that was the only band I could liken them to, perhaps in light of the fact that TVOTR is equally unclassifiable and difficult to pin down. Each song was a total 180-turn stylistically from the one preceding it, and the 10-minute-plus jam on “Pharoahs” was perhaps the musical apex of the day, and was followed by an extended segment of dark and minimalist live improvisation. Elements of synth-laden downbeat oscillated (somehow) seamlessly with stylistic precision toward pulsating disco-punk rhythms that brought to mind mid-stride live LCD Soundsystem. Would pay good money to see these guys again and they’ll undoubtedly be making a huge impression this summer at mega fests like Coachella and Bonnaroo. Not a set to be missed if you get the chance on the summer festival circuit.
Big Gigantic slayed a huge crowd in the Bassik Ballroom, playing with the kind of panache one would expect from a festival headliner. It’s easy to see that the duo of Dominic Lalli [Producer/Saxophone] and Jeremy Salken [Drums] expend a lot of brain power, time and practice tweaking their live sound, crafting live and pre-recorded mixes, optimizing the bass sound, and putting a huge emphasis on making the drums hit hard and clean. There may not be a young live act out there doing more to bridge the gap between live instrumentation and a more DJ-leaning production, and they undoubtedly made a substantial impact on any first-timers in the crowd. While taking a breather during the set on the riverside ship, peering back into the Ballroom the crowd on the floor of the ballroom sustained a level of explosive energy that may not have been rivaled until the crowd at Skrillex.
Big K.R.I.T.’s set started out hard and fast and, by this point, the sound in the Bassik Ballroom was finally on-point and the mixtape master conquered a somewhat scattered crowd (the majority of folks had obviously already headed to stake out their spot for Skrillex; too bad for them). Yet another Southern rap success story, Big K.R.I.T. had the kind of commanding presence onstage that had every set of eyeballs in the room pinned on him. Both brazenly honest and thoroughly celebratory, K.R.I.T.’s set was yet another left turn in a lineup filled with a lot more variety than met the eye when the lineup was released.
At the end of it all, the organizers brought back SKRILLEX to close down the inaugural BUKU Music Project, who, love him or hate him, may be the hardest working DJ in the business these days, jetsetting around the world in 2011 (300+ shows) and bouncing like a man with pogo sticks for legs throughout his show. Smoke, confetti and hand-drawn signs professing love for the DJ filled the air and Mr. Moore didn’t disappoint his legions of fans, many of whom I assume will be following him on the trail to this weekend’s Ultra Music Festival.
Overall, the BUKU organizers did an amazing job for an inaugural year and could not have picked a more idyllic spot and weekend to put on the event. Moreover, the staff took great care of fans and press alike and had a very hands-off but wary policy toward crowd control that is generally seen at first-year festivals, and the youthful crowd behaved respectfully. Hopefully this trend will continue as the festival grows. Also, I didn’t see a single altercation or dark moment of the kind that tends to kill vibes at music fests.
Here are a few last thoughts about considerations for year two (which I assume will happen after a fairly sizable turnout):
Another banner festival Sunday in New Orleans.