The festival season is under way, and this year marks the 5th anniversary of the BUKU Music and Arts Project. Just calling it BUKU Fest is really an injustice, as there so many more aspects that go along with the project. The two day event was back at its home; Blain Kern’s Mardi Gras World. For all intents and purposes, it felt like an extension of last year’s event and the year before. The main difference with this go around was the addition of the Front Yard.
The nice thing about the festival is its familiarity. For the first timer the grounds are easy to access and the seasoned veterans find their spots early. The threat of rain could have easily been a big problem.
The puddles thoughout were few and far between. The flooring covering the Front Yard area was a welcome change to the mud of years past.
Friday the 11th
With the realistic threat of rain, I had my doubts on what the day would bring. Lucky for me and the rest of the goers, Thursday proved to be the major rain day. With overcast skies, one couldn’t help but look over their shoulder, to see if they were going to need to take cover. It was just a minor inconvenience, but by no way a crushing blow to the day.
CHVRCHES – Power Plant
Formed in 2011, the Scottish electronic trio consisting of Lauren Mayberry (lead vocals, additional synthesizers, samplers), Iain Cook (synthesizers, guitar, bass, vocals), and Martin Doherty (synthesizers, samplers, vocals) took to the Power Plant Stage to great fanfare. Mayberry’s excitement was beyond containable as she made the huge stage her race track, taking her wired mike and using the XLR cable as an impromptu whip. The band had been through the city several times, but this was the first time they played New Orleans. The audience was gracious and seemed to know most all the material and not just the two hit singles.
TOKiMONSTA – Back Alley
If ever there was a name that fit an experienced DJ, Tokimansta is just that. Jennifer Lee’s alter-ego is often stylized as TOKiMONSTA . The Los Angeles native was by far one of the nicest surprises of the weekend. Nestled alongside the river and the Float Den, the Back Alley stage served as the closest thing to a small club and a continual dance party. Beckoning back to the days of pop-up raves, the Back Alley was a spot for true DJs to spin their magic. TOKiMONSTA captivated the crowd all evening and showed the command of a well experienced DJ.
Above & Beyond – Power Plant
The London based trio lean heavily toward the trance side of electronic and could have easily played the Float Den. The Power Plant stage was where they brought their vision to life. Electronica in that big form really can’t exist without a grand light show. Their set, set the stage for the big hitters to come.
Crystal Castles – The Ballroom
Alice Glass left the band in 2014 and was replaced by Edith Frances. Founding member Ethan Kath has a vision of dark terror and aggression in his music and is amplified on stage by the live drums of Christopher Chartrand. Frances is almost a carbon copy of Glass and during the set one would wonder if she was channeling her as they music and vocal styling were almost dead on as well as the performance itself. The set left me wanting more, but the festival circuit can only do so much. The new material plays well live, and I can only imagine what the new album will sound like.
AlunaGeorge – The Ballroom
AlunaGeorge formed in England in 2012. The band consists of Aluna Francis (vocals) and George Reid (production and instrumentation). The band was a pleasant surprise and Francis seemed to really enjoy herself on stage – proclaiming this was their first time in New Orleans. The audience was nothing but kind and in turn made Aluna love her performance even more. There’s an odd childlike quality to her speaking and singing, perhaps a grander outlook on life. Either way AlunaGeorge was a nice diversion from all the heavy bass. They embraced the notions of funk, R&B, and UK Garage, placing themselves on the outside of the DJ culture that was surrounding them.
GRiZ – Float Den
Finishing up the night was feature-funk artist/DJ/saxophonist Grant Kwiecinski (aka GRiZ). The Float Den was the perfect spot for GRiZ’s set, as the feel of the Float Den is that of a giant carnival warehouse. Of course that is what it is, but the venue doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t. GRiZ was energetic and his guests were on par with that energy. The lights and visuals help support the funk that GRiZ was putting forward. The audience in turn gave back every ounce of energy.
Saturday the 12th
GIVERS – Power Plant
The Art Project has managed to – much like Voodoo – put a local band in the first slot of the day on the main stage. This year the stage hosted Lafayette, LA’s GIVERS, a multi-instrumental, multi-genera, and multi-influenced band which formed out of being displaced by Katrina. If you haven’t seen them live, you’re in for a treat. The huge stage could have been daunting to the most seasoned veterans, but the GIVERS didn’t even blink an eye. Instead they tool their earthly mentality and literally put it on the stage. Tiffany and Taylor just seem at home on the stage.
Future – Power Plant
Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn is the man behind the persona Future. The Atlanta native has been around since 2009 and has steadily been making a name for himself. With four albums under his belt, the set was focused on his latest release EVOL. Like CHVRCHES, Future didn’t let the large stage become a crutch, but rather embraced it. His energy kept the crowd going and in turn the crowd poured that same energy back at him.
Miike Snow and Pretty Lights – Power Plant
Both Snow and Pretty Lights (Derek Vincent Smith) took their solo notions of electronica and moved them up a notch having live bands back them up. Snow (Andrew Wyatt) was out front and all over the stage, but Smith found a home behind his production kit. Miike Snow had an amazing light show but as one might assume and expect from the name, Pretty Lights. were just that pretty and unbelievable. Pictures will never give either of their sets justice.
Purity Ring – The Ballroom
The Canadian duo made their second BUKU, as they were at the first one in 2011. The stage set up was close to that of their Republic show from last year. Megan James (vocals) and Corin Roddick (instrumentals) have created a well-oiled machine. While it is true, Roddick could have easily phoned it in and hit play, James on the other hand was having a ball singing and entertaining the audience.
Yellow Claw – Float Den
Yellow Claw is a DJ trio from Amsterdam, Netherlands. The group consists of Bizzey (Leo Roelandschap), Jim Aasgier (Jim Taihuttu) and Nizzle (Nils Rondhuis). Their music is a well-crafted mix of genres that often incorporates elements from trap music, hip hop, and dubstep. To say the band was energetic would be a massive understatement. The light show and random C02 blasting off only set the audience into a further frenzy. The energy each gave realistically couldn’t even be duplicated outside the den. It has a way of totally encapsulating everything, even though the space is wide open. It was one of the best sets of the two days.
Motel Radio – Front Yard
One of these things isn’t like the other, or for that part, any of them. The Front Yard was dedicated to those things off the beaten path and/or just waiting to be discovered. The “Front Yard” included a bounce showcase curated by “Chef” Big Freedia that coordinated with the release of his cookbook; AF The Naysayer’s brainchild Dolo Jazz Suite; underground dance tastemakers Kompression and Obsession; and performances by students of the Upbeat Academy Foundation, and a SimplePlay showcase of which Motel Radio have recently been added to. The band includes Ian Wellman (Guitar, Vocals), Winston Triolo (Guitar, Vocals), Eric Lloyd (Drums, Vocals), Andrew Pancamo (Bass, Vocals), and David Hart (Keys, Vocals). The band could easily be described as roots rock or alt-country, channeling the likes of Wilco and the Old 97s. They are fun live and really enjoy playing. The Front Yard was basically an open small club that served to showcase parts of New Orleans that one may not typically go out and hunt for. You can see a video of their “Streetlights” performance here:
Day two was just as amazing as day one. One note that can’t go unnoticed, and the Art Project seamlessly tackled it, is the fact that each of the five performance areas have their own identity and tend to cater to specific genera’s. The Power Plant stage being the exception, as it explored many types of music. Five years in and the BUKU Music and Arts Project has really set its stride. The ticket sales were capped at 30,000 and could have easily reached 50,000 had the space allowed it. The river and bridge backdrop, Power Plant’s dual smoke stacks, SS BUKU, and even the train with its horn that rivals any dance beat or bass drop are all landmarks that make BUKU, BUKU. The grounds could have easily felt overwhelming, but the layout and openness of the space helps out greatly. You can see my full album here: http://jalbum.net/a/1704916