For the second year in a row, SLUG attended The BUKU Music and Art Project in New Orleans. After last year’s lineup—which featured acts like The Flaming Lips, Ellie Goulding Chromeo, Nas and The Glitch Mob, this year would be hard-pressed to beat it. Buku showcases the rich culture of New Orleans by hosting the festival at Mardi Gras World—the site, which lies along the Mississippi, that holds the floats for the world-famous parade year round. The floats and Mardi Gras paraphernalia decorate the festival with their vivid colors and wild shapes while the music and food show you the rest of what New Orleans has to offer. From Cajun po-boys and Dat Dog to jazz and bounce music, BUKU is the next best thing in comparison to Mardi Gras itself, plus some of the best live acts in the music world. I fell in love with this city three years ago when I attended BUKU for the first time, where the people, culture and history stole my heart and Cajun fried it before spitting it out through a saxophone.
Below are some of the highlights from day one of BUKU 2015:
For anyone who may have attended one of the many Big Freedia shows at Urban Lounge over the course of the last few years, you’ll believe me when I say she’s a good time. Opening the festival on Friday, the Queen Diva herself strutted onto the Power Plant stage in an angelic white-on-white-on-white look, followed by a small army of twerk divas and daddies. “When I say Big, y’all say Freedia. When I say Queen, ya’ll say Diva!” she screamed into the quickly growing crowd. Performing some of her bigger, better-known songs such as “Explode” and “Mo Azz,” the Queen Diva gave everyone at BUKU a good dose of NOLA Bounce. Freedia finished her set just after shrieking at the crowd to watch her show Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce, which airs on Fuse. Just after that, she headed to the VIP steamboat, S.S. BUKU, to give twerking lessons.
Having never seen Robert DeLong myself, despite his numerous trips to Salt Lake already, I was amazed at the performance he gave to the crowd at the Power Plant stage Friday evening. Buzzing back and forth between his drum kit and a cluster of synthesizers and various types of sound equipment, DeLong performed with a type of passion and intimacy that felt as if you were watching him from behind a fourth wall while he’s alone in his bedroom. Making very little eye contact with the crowd, or anything but his instruments for that matter, DeLong showed that his alternative electronic drumbeats are far from average or unoriginal as he focused solely on making the perfect song while singing live in between. Behind him, the massive LED screen showed a live streaming video of the artist’s face as he played his instruments, adding to the intimacy between DeLong and his music. Robert DeLong will return to Salt Lake just next week where he’ll play at Kilby Court on Sunday, March 29.
With two inflatable 40s nestled on each side of the stage and one inflatable river raft floating atop the crowd (empty), A$AP Rocky delivered a high energy set with the aid of a few other members of A$AP Mob. Unlike the other hip-hop acts on Friday, A$AP spent most of his show interacting with the crowd and jumping around. Performing many of the songs from his latest album, Long Live A$AP, and other well-known hits, the crowd screamed along with him and his cronies. A$AP performed for well over an hour and kept the same flow of energy throughout.
With the Float Den stage in full swing, RL Grime (a.k.a. Henry Steinway, a.k.a Clockwork) spun a high-energy raver set. The sun had set and the neon lights were bouncing on and off of the Mardi Gras floats, adding more color to the room than before. RL Grime is known for his wild trap sets, characterized by an emphasis on a snare drum over a heavy bass hip-hop beat with a dash of rave. RL Grime played at Buku in 2014 during a back to back set with the popular trap artist Baauer, who gained recognition for his song “Harlem Shake.” So, in other words—this year was much less exciting for RL Grime at Buku.
Empire Of The Sun:
Finishing the night on the Power Plant main stage, Empire of the Sun gave a memorable performance full of their signature overuse of strobes, confetti and a highly interactive mix of dancers in superhero costumes, animal costumes, and inflatable costumes of creatures I can’t even begin to describe. At this point most of the festival was at the Power Plant, turning the otherwise massive loading dock on the Mississippi into a sea of people. The group closed their set with their popular song “Alive,” while shooting gallons of white confetti into the crowd.
In August of 2013, I saw Bob Moses play on the Robot Heart art car at Burning Man, and have been listening to that set regularly ever since—it really is that good. I was excited to see the Canadian DJ on the lineup for Buku this year for two reasons—one, I don’t feel like deep house gets enough credit, and two, it was going to be really nice to take a break from the hype going on at the other stages and listen to something down-tempo. As I got to the back alley stage, a wave of various thoughts and emotions came over me as I realized that I was listening to the same set Bob Moses played at Burning Man two years ago—the same exact set, note for note, the same. I understand having a similar set list for every show while on the same tour, but after two years, there should be some progress or variation.
Stepping into the Float Den to catch the popular Bay Area hyphy rave duo perform was, for lack of a better term, overwhelming. Thousands of people dressed in tutus, muscle tees and glow sticks thrashed back and forth under a thick layer of fog illuminated by strobe lights. “Everybody give it up for Waka Flocka Flame,” a member of the group screamed into the crowd, which prompted such uproar that I felt my eardrums shake. I began running to the front to get a picture, tripping over my feet twice, only to discover that the duo was simply premiering a new collaboration with the rapper—who was not actually there. Despite that, the set was extremely high-energy and as one member of the group DJ’d, the other danced onstage, yelling at the crowd and rapping little bits of spoken word here and there.
My jaw hit the floor. Out of every show thus far this was the only one where I was not only entertained, but also excited, from start to finish. The South African duo took the stage wearing neon orange sweat suits that covered them from head to toe. Within two minutes, however, the speakers in the Float Den were blown and the power went out. After fixing it, the group came back onstage with a dancer dressed in a white latex body suit that had been spray painted with various symbols and words (like “fuk”) and began thrashing around as the duo performed the hits from their latest two albums, Ten$ion and Donker Mag. Yo Landi—who had been screeching tiny, imp-like shrieks into the microphone between verses—only strengthened my theory that she is, in fact, an alien. The show, which was DJ’d by their personal DJ, DJ Hi-Tek, showcased more of their techno side than their rap side—though when the speakers blew a second time, Yo Landi entertained the crowd with a freestyle (she killed it). The duo closed the show and the night with a live version of “Never Le Nkemise 2,” the final track on their album, “Ten$ion,” which will make day one of the festival hard to beat.