Editorials Festivals

Buku Music & Arts Festival 2014: Review



May 27th, 2014

by

Not long after returning from Basslights in January, I realized how far away festival season really was and I was soon craving another festival. As a result, I ended up deciding to attend Buku. Fast forward three months later, I was making the journey more than 1,400 miles and 20 hours away to Louisiana with high expectations. I made it to New Orleans on Thursday afternoon, passing through Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi as we traveled. Soon after arriving, I made our way down to the famous Bourbon Street – no open container laws meant plenty of party was going around. The following morning, after a groggy wake up, I was ready to enter festival mode.
After a short cab ride from our hotel, I entered Mardi Gras World, home of Buku. I was eager to get inside – music was already blasting and the Power Plant stage was in our sights. Entering the festival grounds was quick, non-invasive, and safe. Staff and security were polite and I got inside in minutes despite what looked like a long line when I arrived.

buku music festival 2014

Upon entering, my first impression was that the production of this festival was spectacular. To the left was a very artistically painted shipping container with a gigantic hammock labeled “Fort Buku”. To the right was the main stage of the festival, named the Power Plant due to the huge New Orleans-esque abandoned factory in the background. Directly ahead, I could see the S.S. Blu-ku, a VIP only zone that was an old Louisiana steamboat turned party boat. As I continued around the festival grounds, it was impossible not to stare at the view – the whole far side of the festival bordered the Mississippi river; Buku could not have been in a better location. I walked through the Bukulture Tent, located in the center of the festival grounds, and entered the Ballroom Stage. This two-floor enclosure had the best acoustics and stage setup at the festival by far. Although it was much smaller than the other main stages, it still featured two full bars and plenty of room to dance.

Float den buku music festival 2014

Once exiting the Ballroom stage, I grabbed a bite to eat and hung out right on the water, one the many places Buku provided for relaxing and recharging. After passing the merch booth, I was right in front of the Float Den, which had twenty graffiti artists live-painting before my eyes. I ran into a few friendly faces and then entered the giant warehouse; instantly the colors and visuals were everywhere, with colossal floats and artwork littering the building. The stage had three sections so there was plenty of room to dance, get drinks, and socialize, but the middle section had the best visuals and sound. The right exit lead to the Back Alley stage, the smallest stage of the festival; this outdoor area had places to sit and relax, but also contained an intimate dance floor with DJs playing at an arm’s length away. To the left of the Float Den was a teeny area called the Buku Bazaar, featuring several food and hippie vendors in a shaded grassy area, where I ended up hanging out for most of the down time during the weekend.

The #BukuBazaar at Buku 2014.

The wide variety of music provided a different experience between sets. In the early afternoon on day one, synth pop outfit Classixx put on a spectacular set and surprisingly, a lot of people seemed to recognize most of the songs played. At the same time, Bone Thugs N Harmony were performing at the Power Plant stage, soon followed by Nas, who was celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release Illmatic (his most popular album) – these two sets were the largest hip hop presentation of the weekend. Once the night began, Zedd played a very memorable set, but the volume seemed to be only about half of what it should have been. After Zedd finished, Ellie Goulding closed out the Power Plant stage; she put on a tremendous show with her vocal talents and brought a very unique sound to the festival. Kaskade played immediately afterwards in the Float Den, also putting on an awesome show. To close out the Ballroom Stage on day one was Lotus, whose set was one their most electronic heavy and spectacular I have ever witnessed to date. There were also random shenanigans going on in the festival grounds, such as a few secrets sets, musicians, and dancers; much of it in the Bukulture tent.

buku music arts festival 2014

At this point, it became clear what perhaps was Buku’s only flaw: a noise curfew. Unless you were standing directly in front of the speakers, you could hear everyone around you and there was no way to get lost in the music. It was nearly impossible to dance on the outskirts of a stage without noticing how terribly low the volume was. During the day this wasn’t a problem – the sound quality was great and there was almost zero sound bleed between stages, a big issue at a few previous festivals I have attended. But at night, the music never got quite loud enough. Fortunately, the Ballroom Stage seemed the least affected by the noise curfew.

Buku music and arts festival 2014 stages

Saturday proved to be just as satisfying as Friday, with many big names on the bill, and also seemed to have many more attendees (though the grounds never felt too crowded by any means). It couldn’t have been a more perfect day out in combination of the beauty of the festival grounds and artwork. One of the main highlights was Chromeo, which everyone seemed to flock to and enjoy. Later that night, Baauer and RL Grime played a B2B set, which was certainly the best trap set of the weekend. As always Beats Antique played a gorgeous set and The Glitch Mob put on a marvelous show to close out the festival.
Overall, Buku was an incredible and one-of-a-kind experience that any avid festival-goer should try to attend. There isn’t much I would change about this festival, but sometimes the lack of volume became unbearable – festival organizers should change-up their sound setup to provide a fuller experience for festival goers. At a music festival this diverse, with plenty of unusual artists, you would expect the crowd to be as diverse as the music, but attendees seemed to be mostly electronic music lovers who loved to rave, or at least, people who just came for the party. Everything from being right on the water to the variety of music to the chaos of the weekend reminded me of Starscape 2012 in Baltimore, my first festival experience. The thing that makes Buku stand out is the impact of the surrounding city. It is not just a festival hosted in the city of New Orleans, it is much more than that. New Orleans is everywhere inside the venue, and it would not be the same anywhere else. From the art, to the vibe, to the party it sticks true to it’s cajun roots.

buku music and art festival 2014

It was sad to have to leave Buku and New Orleans. But $1,000 poorer, I was ready to make what would be a nearly 30 hour trek home. Did Buku satisfy my craving for a festival? Absolutely. Am I still ready to begin what could be one of the most jam-packed festival seasons on record? I think that goes without saying.

Written by guest contributor Tyler Harris.