After hearing a ton about the BUKU Music + Art Project — and being a little bummed I'd missed its killer performances of the past — I finally made it to New Orleans to check it out in its third year.

BUKU impressed. It brought in top acts from all avenues of popular modern music — hip-hop + indie + EDM — then delivered them in a unique atmosphere for a decent price. Everything about the experience reflected the cultural repertoire of all that's hot, pairing it with the eclectic New Orleans atmosphere that brings multifaceted minds together in a special kind of way.

Was it worth the 36 hours of my life? Absolutely. Read on for a recap.

The BUKU Vibe

Bringing on industrial feels from an old, nearby power plant (hence the stage named "Power Plant") and set along the barge-carrying Mississippi River, BUKU was overlooked by the amber-lit Crescent City Connection Bridge (you know, that one you cross when you miss an exit and end up in Amite?) and lit with spectral hues. The festival's entryway had to shut down on occasion to let a cargo train pass (just so industrial), and even the blacklit phone-charging station looked good, especially when a musician or two showed up there to perform.

Steel. Paint. Painted people. Glowing things. The glowing moon. Color. The right kind of environment that accented the living-dead feel that is New Orleans. Just right.

NOLA Bounce!

Electronic, world fusion-y performance art act Beats Antique closed out Saturday night proper with a stellar performance that was topped off by a surprise appearance by NOLA bounce star Katey Red (a bomb way to close a set, followed up by Detroit rapper Danny Brown's 12:45 a.m. slot). She had the whole crowd chanting with heads down and booties bouncing. Baby, that's power.

But Katey wasn't the only bounce superstar to do her thing. Big Freedia's set in the Float Den (her second BUKU appearance was in an actual float-manufacturing warehouse) was enough to make South Louisiana proud. You can dance all you want to David Guetta or the Glitch Mob (also acts on the BUKU 2014 roster), but nowhere is the vibe as authentic and proud as a bounce crowd let loose in its New Orleans home.


A Winning Hip-Hop Lineup

Chance the Rapper. Danny Brown. ScHoolboy Q. Tyler the Creator. These dudes are killing it right now — ScHoolboy's album debuted at No. 1 this month — and BUKU, in good fashion, managed to deliver them all in a single weekend. Performances from legendary artists Pusha T, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Nas — who performed the entirety of his classic album 'Illmatic' 20 years after its debut — rounded out the hip-hop lineup in a totally complete way.


Sorta Secret Dance Party

It was all on for the hyped generation, with big names in EDM making the fur-booted kids #toobuku all weekend. (Who knew that Zedd and Zeds Dead were two different acts?). But tucked away in a colorful corner by the river was a tiny stage easy to overlook, yet hard to abandon. BUKU's description of the Back Alley lured me in with "sexy riverside vibe," and a quick scope of the area revealed just that: a chilled-out reprieve from the more crowded areas of the festival, with a bar, wooden deck and seating — not to mention great, nonstop dance music by a list of DJs you should get to know. BUKU's hidden gem, for sure.

But the Root Word of 'Festival' Means 'Happy'

Some people are turned off by the idea of a music festival. Crowds. Lines. Port-a-Potties. Not exclusive enough. (Maybe it's for this reason that BUKU instead branded itself as a "project.") But forget all that, you hater. Singing along with a crowd is like going to church, kinda like getting sweat on by strangers is the millennial's baptism: it's a sacred thing worth embracing.

The minds behind the BUKU Music + Art Project have clearly got their fingers on the pulse. They managed to successfully evoke good vibes in a cleverly executed fashion, and with how on-point the lineup was this year, I wonder — no, I'm truly curious — what's already planned for the next.

I have no idea. Except I'll put money on Boosie making the lineup.

Happy BUKU, y'all.


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