A short drive from the bustle of Bourbon Street, past the smell of Café Du Monde beignets and over south Canal Street, you can find a festival for music, art and traditional Louisiana cuisine known as BUKU Music + Art Project. The festival brings in major musical talents from various genres like hip-hop, indie, and electronic, but the most impressive aspect of BUKU is the amount and variety of art. BUKU encompasses the art-rich history of the Big Easy by showcasing multiple artists and art forms like roving musical troupes, acrobats, and dancers, while also creating fun backdrops like graffitied walls, revolving projection mapped spectacles, and Mardi Gras floats. Whether walking to another set or exploring the venue, you are always surrounded by art.
A crowd favorite was New Thousand with Adrian Jusdanis, who would wow passersby with an animated performance on his electric violin accompanied by Nick Haven, performing on five gallon buckets, used as drums. You couldn’t help but be drawn into the crowd that encircled Adrian and watch with eager eyes as he fervently plucked notes with his teeth while dancing around. The roving musical troupes added an essence of surprise to the BUKU experience by turning up unannounced with a group of dancing festival goers in tow as they moved to various stages as if the troupe was the Festival Pied Pipers.
Aside from the pop-up musical acts, BUKU hosted some major musical talent that undoubtedly helped them expand the venue and boast record numbers for their eighth year. Established artists like Lana Del Ray, RL Grime, A$AP Rocky, and Griz headlined the festival; all the musical acts big and small delivered. The Slander B2B NGHTMRE performance Friday night really set the bar for the weekend as the trio played a bass heavy set that got the whole crowd head-banging and sporting dirty bass faces. Yaeji performed her signature sound, hip hop house with mellow Korean and English lyrics, to a packed Float Den stage Saturday evening. Oliver Tree also graced the Float Den and despite starting 45 minutes later than scheduled, was greeted by cheering fans as he rode in on his Razor scooter while emulating the 80’s by sporting a brightly colored puffy track suit.
Oliver Tree wasn’t the only BUKU attendee dressed to impress. The entire festival was flooded with outlandish and expressive fashions that one could only find in New Orleans. Everything from rhinestone cowboy hats to Carnival style bras and feather headdresses were seen cutting through the crowd or standing in line for water. You could also visit one of the many “style booths” and get glittered, colorful hair extensions, or body painted.
BUKU also incorporated the Big Easy’s foodie scene into the festival by allowing attendees the option to try traditional Louisiana food like shrimp po’boys, boudin Cajun sausage, and spicy gumbo. Those with VIP wristbands were invited to the Crawfish Boil Saturday afternoon where they could enjoy fresh crawfish paired with all the fixins like corn on the cob, potatoes, and Cajun spiced onions. Having access to these traditional Louisiana foods really brought the whole BUKU experience together.
The eclectic blend of music, art, fashion and food should put BUKU on your list as a must see festival. The culture of New Orleans flows through the venue and brings an exciting edge to the music and arts festival. As the locals would say, “Pass a good time” and come check out BUKU!