The forecast called for 75-degree weather, clouds, and rain, but it was BUKU weekend and the weather was not about to put a damper on a weekend of music and art. As I arrived on the first day, the sun peaked through the clouds—a positive sign of the weekend to come. The rain held off for most the weekend, save for a few light sprinkles, a far cry from the forecast of weekend showers.
As I made my way through security, my jitters gave way to excitement as the booming of the main stage, the Power Plant, intensified. BUKU Music + Art Project takes place at Mardi Gras World, overlooking the last stretch of the Mississippi River as it winds towards the Gulf of Mexico. Making my way towards the Float Den, I observed the adjacent Ballroom Stage, merchandise tent, and vendors, anxiously waiting for the sun to go down and the festival to light up. K?D was performing at the Float Den, essentially a large warehouse at the back of the festival, which would serve as the hub for bass music that weekend. After K?D wrapped things up, San Holo took the stage. At the same time, security guards drove through the crowd with two large industrial dehumidifiers towards the Float Den stage. The bass-heavy music of the Float Den got the crowd quite energetic. Combined with the large crowds that the Float Den attracted and the mediocre airflow of a mostly-enclosed space, the Float Den got hot and sweaty.
As the sun dipped lower in the sky, the Float Den turned up the energy. TroyBoi threw down a performance as gnarly as the air in the room—heavy bass combined with smooth transitions and seamless mixing. Looking for a reprieve from the heat, I found Opiuo at the Ballroom Stage, an indoor stage with much-needed air conditioning. The Ballroom was dimly lit with minimalist lighting and an electroluminescent wire chandelier that set the tone of room. The environment proved suitable for hula-hoopers looking for room to dance, and people just looking to soak in the sounds of the music without being distracted by the lights or crowds.
After Opiuo, I made a quick stop to see Whethan at the Back Alley stage, literally a back alley, tucked away from the madness of the rest of the festival. The Back Alley served as the home for House and Techno, with an illuminated gazebo viewing area for those wanting to escape the crowds. Friday night, the Back Alley saw performances from artists like Clams Casino, and a Shiba San B2B Justin Jay set. Unfortunately, Nora En Pure would miss the festival due to issues with her flight.
On the way back to the Power Plant, I stopped in to catch a bit of Slushii, who was throwing down some wonky beats at the Float Den. After a quick listen, I continued to one of the main attractions of the weekend—the funky and saxy Grizmatik, whose saxophone sounds complemented the local New Orleans music scene. After Grizmatik, I split my time between two of the closing performances: a packed Zeds Dead show at the Float Den and a more chill and groovy set by Shiba San & Justin Jay at the Back Alley.
The second day saw light precipitation and a drop in temperature, a welcome treat to cool down the crowd. The Float Den continued its bass theme with early performances by Minnesota B2B Space Jesus, the alien-esque Rezz, and the mystery man, Malaa.
Back at the Power Plant, Tycho (Live) put on an incredible melodic sunset performance, accompanied by the design and photographic visuals of Tycho’s primary composer, Scott Hansen, also known by his design alias, ISO50. The strong hues of magenta and red complemented the sky as the sun dipped below the horizon.
Jumping from stage to stage, I spent more time hanging out at the art carts. BUKU creatively utilizes art carts, which are smaller in size compared the larger art cars seen at bigger festivals. Pedicabs and shopping carts adorned with lights, speakers, and DJs made the rounds at the festival, giving attendants a chance to stop and take a quick dance break in between stages. Or, if the music caught your ear, a quick dance break would turn into quite a long one.
I jumped between performances of Lane 8, Cashmere Cat, and deadmau5, all masters at building musical tension, and then releasing it in a dance extravaganza. deadmau5 performed in his signature style—long build-ups in the beginning making way towards more intense music towards the end, often accompanied by some trolling on the mic. He apologized for not having his signature Cube stage display, and then made a plug for his afterparty, exclaiming “I hope you like techno.”
Back at the Float Den, the mysterious Zhu closed out the night. Starting with minimal lighting effects, his performance turned the Float Den into a dance hall as his set progressed, and with it, the lighting intensity. He jumped on the mic several times to perform vocals for his songs, a signature characteristic of his producing and DJing style. Zhu’s performance was a flawless way to end the weekend—an intense dance music experience that is simultaneously low-key, a perfect embodiment of BUKU Music + Art Project.