New Orleans loves to celebrate any and every holiday to the fullest extent possible. Last weekend was a testament to that, as the city went all out for St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday with a massive parade that weaved through most of the city, making it impossible to go anywhere. What began as an attempt to get brunch with friends in the Garden District turned into an aggravating and overly complicated drive through the smallest streets in the city all the way to the French Quarter for beignets before Day Two of the music festival began. This Sunday marked Super Sunday, a local holiday in the Crescent City that’s celebrated on the third Sunday of March and combines the weekly Second Line parade through the neighborhoods of the city with appearances by the Mardi Gras Indians. The entire city was in celebration mode this weekend, so even outside of BUKU, the people around were in an excited mood.
I arrived at Mardi Gras World still exhausted from the day before and was disappointed to find out that the venue didn’t sell coffee (assumingly because the festival was sponsored by Monster energy drinks) but was happy to discover the endless river of free Monster from the viewing deck to the left of the Power Plant stage. The first act I caught on the final day of the festival was the boys of SFAM at the Back Alley stage. Both members of the DJ duo looked to be about 12 or 13 years old but generated a big enough crowd and hype to be heard from afar, making the back-alley stage the place to be that afternoon. DJ Windows 98 (who is the lead singer of Arcade Fire) screamed, “Hello this is Calvin Harris,” as he entered the stage to Hudson Mohawke doing an iconic DJ set in the Ballroom. The final day of BUKU was one not to miss. Below are some recaps of my favorite sets throughout the day, as well as a very important discussion on the food.
Just a few hours later, XXYYXX (aka Marcel Everett) took the stage at the Float Den to an already massive crowd waiting to see the 19-year-old perform. Everett took the stage, quietly introduced himself and began his set right away. What blows me away about Everett’s music is not just the style—though it is some of the more eclectic and passionate types out there—but that he’s so artistically mature for his age (he began making music at age 11). His music is dreamy, often sounding like the perfect representation of that haze you’re in when just wake up. Friends of mine in their mid-20s aren’t even producing such emotionally driven music. I ran into Marcel on the festival grounds about an hour before his set began. He was leaning against a railing overlooking the Mississippi and humbly thanked me when I said I was a big fan of his music. His DJ set was as emotionally connected as his discography is—ranging in style from upbeat dance tracks to slower, more ethereal ones. Unfortunately, for the amount of people who attended his set, the sound system in the Float Den wasn’t as loud as it should have been and was obscured by the sound of the crowd talking. Stylistically similar to Odesza, his set was danceable but not as hyped up as an average EDM show. While he played, graphics of altered landscapes and geometric designs slowly flashed behind him while he focused completely on what he was doing at the DJ booth.
Around sunset, the producer duo from Seattle took the Float Den stage to a crowd so packed you could barely get into the building—which says something, because the warehouse is big enough to hold all of the Mardi Gras floats when they’re not being used. Onstage sat a table with trigger pads for each of their use as well as microphones, while two drum pads stood next to them on either side. The LED-fronted DJ booth had been replaced with a table covered in black fabric to create a silhouette effect on both the members of the group and the equipment when the back LED screen was lit. The duo performed a DJ set of music they enjoyed while mixing in elements of their latest album, In Return, while images of vivid sunsets in various colors flashed behind them on the screen. Odesza just finished their tour and will be stopping at various music festivals throughout the summer—with a stop in Salt Lake to play at Red Butte Garden with Chromeo on May 26.
“How are you, BUKU? This is our first show in awhile,” lead singer Michael Angelakos announced to the massive crowd at the Power Plant stage. The band headlined the festival two years ago in 2013, drawing a massive audience and seemingly were the most talked-about act on the lineup that year. To build anticipation for the release of their third studio album, Kindred, the group performed some of their bigger hits like “Sleepyhead,” “Take A Walk” and “Little Secrets,” as well as the newly released single for the new album, “Lifted Up (1985).” During the show, Angelakos ran around the stage with high energy, playing various instruments and interacting with the crowd to excite them and bringing attention to his other bandmates. The release date for the new album hasn’t been announced yet, but the group’s website says that fans can expect it to be released in 2015—here’s to hoping that a tour will come from that release as well.
Before the small rapper took the stage, the packed crowd in the ballroom was screaming “Based God” to get his attention, a name which he gave to himself on Twitter. A rapper first and motivational speaker second, Lil B took the stage wearing white pinstripe trousers and a moss-green paisley top—an outfit that gave me trouble when deciding whether it was stylish or hideous. I went with stylish, though this man isn’t exactly a fashion icon. The rapper performed a plethora of songs from his discography of many albums and mixtapes for nearly an hour, maintaining high energy the whole time.
“The bass heads have arrived—I can smell them,” I heard a spaced-out raver say robotically to his friend on the way to the Power Plant stage for Bassnectar’s show. The air smelled like a mix of sweat and burning sage, which wasn’t pleasant combined with the muggy, warm air of the South. Bassnectar took the stage with his long, dark hair covering much of his face in a way that was almost scary, but started thrashing around the booth as soon as he began his extremely bass-heavy set. The DJ mixed for over an hour, incorporating much of his older, more bass-heavy music and incorporating artists like Grimes in with it before dropping the sound into an apocalyptic amount of bass. Walking through the crowd during this show was terrifying, as it was hard to safely and successfully dodge the ravers who were thrashing back and forth and flailing their limbs around as if the music had induced some type of violent seizure in all of them. The music was cool, but the crowd was not—as is the case with most popular dance music acts.
I don’t understand how this person is popular. Looking like “a cross between Winnie The Pooh and a red gummy bear,” as my friend Christina put it, the young, Atlanta-based rapper took the stage and began singing along here and there to a prerecorded set while his DJ mixed mediocre hip hop beats in the background. Looking like he couldn’t walk without tripping on his own feet, Makonnen stumbled around onstage, pulling up his pants every now and again, while instructing the crowd with his hands to act excited. “Can you pick up my joint!?” a young girl screamed at me while I was photographing the rapper in front of the crowd. Looking down, I saw a small rolled joint that had fallen into a puddle of something and winced as the girl seemed so thankful I had handed her now soaking wet joint back to her. “I cannot handle any more of this talentless idiot,” my friend screamed into my ear. We walked out of the building as Makonnen stood onstage yelling “fuck” into a microphone to make it look like he was rapping along with the pre recorded set his DJ was playing. He ended the show with his hit “Tuesday,” which I overheard as I walked by the Float Den on my way to the Back Alley, still questioning why people like his music.
Bringing his Worlds tour to New Orleans for the first time, the 23-year-old prodigy took the stage to a heavily packed room at the Float Den to close out the festival on its last day. He opened the set with his cutesy Japanese beat, “Flicker,” before adding some heavier drum beats from the drum pad next to him onstage, and then a piano melody from the keyboard on the other side. During his show, he said very little to the audience, barely noticing they were there but looking like every sound he put into his show was the greatest sound he had ever heard, as he danced around in excitement. To beat the crowd, I left a few minutes early, but stopped as soon as I heard Robinson beginning the tune to my favorite track off of his most recent album, Worlds. The song, titled “Fellow Feeling,” is a commentary on popular dance music—weaving in and out of a heavy, terrifying mess of bass-heavy drum beats and electro sound elements you would hear in his older music to a dreamy, ethereal soundscape that sounds like the soundtrack to a post-apocalyptic world where plants grow in excess and humans are no longer alive. During the song, a robotic voice reads off a poem Robinson wrote for the song. “This ugliness, this cruelty, it will all die out. Now please, hear what I hear,” the voice says before Porter cuts the music to what he described as “the worst combination of sounds I have ever made,” on purpose, to comment on the unoriginality and general terribleness of popular EDM. Robinson finished the set with his popular track, “Language,” which was used in the 2012 promotional video for the Electric Daisy Carnival: Las Vegas. Robinson has already taken his tour to Salt Lake, but if you’ve never heard or seen of the artist, he’s well worth checking out.
It’s true. New Orleans has the best food. Every time I come here, upon arrival, I command my friends to take me to find some good gumbo or a po-boy (“a po-boy is a better version of a hoagie, of a hoagie, of a hoagie” – Beyonce, Diva). BUKU showcases the famous Cajun food of the city in its wide array of food vendors, as well as some other good picks like artisan pizza or gyros. This year, the famous local restaurant Dat Dog brought their flare to the festival, serving Alligator hot dogs topped with Crawfish Etouffe (or more traditional dishes for the less adventurous) to the spectators at the festival. I easily could and probably have gained 10 pounds from eating in this city just because the food is THAT good. “Once you have a gulf oyster, nowhere else will really do it for you,” another photographer said, agreeing with my statement that the food in New Orleans is not to be overlooked. He showed me a photo of his meal the previous evening—a massive pile of crawfish from a local Cajun restaurant. If you visit New Orleans and don’t eat as much food as you possibly can, you’re committing a crime.
BUKU Late with Goldfish, Porter Robinson @ Republic New Orleans
Because BUKU ended around 1 a.m. every night, the company hosted after parties around the city from Thursday all the way through Sunday for those with enough energy to stay out that much. Not only did the festival sell out completely, but all of the after parties did too, and the massive line to get into Republic New Orleans on Saturday night showed for it. I arrived at the venue about an hour before Porter Robinson was to take the stage for a DJ set of his favorite music, but wasn’t able to get into the building until just a few minutes before—missing all of one opening act and much of Goldfish, who spun a bass-heavy house set with beats that were a little bit too repetitive for my taste. Robinson took the stage just before 3 a.m. to a packed crowd on both levels of the venue, beginning his show with a remix he made of a Japanese-style electronic song. Judging by the way he jumped around onstage and smiled, Robinson had a lot of fun showing his fans the music he likes to listen to. As he jumped around, his graphic artist was busy at work showing visual landscapes that were altered in color on the LED screen behind him. Throughout the show, Robinson mixed songs from artists like Gessafelstein, Kanye West, Purity Ring, Odesza and other similar artists whom he hasn’t been shy about liking on his social media pages. Robinson’s energy onstage kept the crowd alive into the wee hours of the morning and made me forget, for just a second, that I wanted to remove my feet from my body and replace them with new ones after walking around for nearly 12 hours straight.