There’s just something about New Orleans. I think it might be the Cajun spice in the Gumbo, but the city just exuberates this attitude that I can’t explain. In a conversation with a local cab driver on my way to the BUKU Music & Arts Project, I mentioned that the city almost feels like a separate country. “Oh yeah baby, we got it goin’ on down here,” he replied before yelling at the car in front of him completely in N’awlins slang as the queen diva herself, Big Freedia, was filling the car with the sweet sound of New Orleans Bounce music on the radio. A lot of the cabs there also keep a pamphlet containing the definition and pronunciation of the most used New Orleans slang terms, which I found both useful and hilarious.

I first attended BUKU last year, partly because I couldn’t afford the whole shebang that was Ultra Music Festival, but mostly because I was just really in love with the idea of attending a festival in a city with so much culture. What brought me back to New Orleans as a spring break destination for the second year in a row was the festival itself. Like the previous year, a trip to Miami plus hotel costs plus the price of a ticket to Ultra (you people paid how much to go to a rave?!) was out of the question. Additionally, I’m not super keen on all EDM festivals, I like being able to sit and watch a live band while I stuff my face with food or just cater to my other music tastes.

BUKU, incepted with the idea that there wasn’t a festival strictly for a younger audience in the area, provides the perfect blend of genres in a beautiful location⎯Mardi Gras World (the warehouse and grounds downtown that houses the world famous Mardi Gras floats) is open year round for tours, while the floats decorate the event around the stages during the annual festival. Among the hundred or so artists that performed at the festival, these were a few of my favorite and most memorable.

Dan Deacon:
The Baltimore-based DJ set up his booth on the dance floor just in front of the crowd barriers. The Boiler Room-style setup created intimacy between the crowd and the artist, yet Deacon created such an entertaining show that no one was lingering at the DJ booth trying to get as close as they could, which seems to be the case in a lot of Boiler Room shows. Just before starting his set at the Ballroom stage, Deacon announced into the microphone, “Alright, enjoy my concert. What’s a concert?” before beginning an experimental electronic song and then stopping the music once again to tell the crowd to make a circle in the middle of the room for a dance contest. Of all of the shows at BUKU so far, Deacon’s was the most entertaining and interactive, making it one of the most memorable.

Tyler The Creator:
Following the week of his arrest at SXSW for starting a riot, the LA-born rapper took the stage in The Float Den and finished his opening song before screaming at the photographers in the photo pit to leave immediately, yelling profanities and telling the crowd to call them scum on their way out. I left the photo pit, laughing at how angry the people in the crowd actually got simply because Tyler had told them to. While his antics were entertaining and kept people talking well into the next day, they distracted from his actual performance, which was quite good, though I didn’t hear many people talking about the music itself. If you need to act like a diva onstage to get people to remember you, maybe start questioning how great of a performer you are in the first place. Tyler performed the majority of his discography and insulted more than just the members of the press in between songs while the crowd screamed the lyrics throughout. “Where’s VIP at? Ya’ll really paid extra for that area? You’re a bunch of fucking idiots,” Tyler yelled into the microphone as I was entering VIP to take more pictures. He’s an artist that really appreciates his fans, but only his fans. I would see him again, just because I really enjoy a good story⎯which is something you’ll get out of seeing Tyler The Creator live.

I had never heard of this band, but was hearing good things from others and decided to check them out. Just before the band took the stage, a photographer next to me was raving all about how great they were and that she had seen them before in her hometown of Brooklyn. “Of course you know about them, you’re from Brooklyn,” someone in the front of the crowd said to her, pointing out that apparently if you’re from Brooklyn you know every single new band out there. The duo took the stage, standing on opposite sides of a giant, old-fashioned flickering TV screen. They began their set with a deep house–influenced electronic song, and I immediately thought about telling my burner friends to check them out. They’re the perfect electronic hipster group and put so much passion into their performance that they hardly acknowledged the quickly growing crowd in front of them at the Ballroom stage. This is the sort of group I can see selling out in Salt Lake, and when they do make it⎯don’t miss the show.

Big Freedia (aka THE QUEEEEEEN DIVA):
Like our own Princess Kennedy is to Salt Lake, Big Freedia is the queen of New Orleans. If you think you can twerk, try telling that to Big Freedia before she goes onstage so she and her crew can show you how it’s really done. Just a few hours after hosting a twerk lesson on the VIP SS. BUKU, she took the stage at The Float Den to show the crowd a taste of New Orleans bounce music. “I’m the queen diva,” she screamed into the microphone as the entire room cheered. Bounce shows are among the most fun of any concert you can attend—not only are they interactive, but it’s just impossible to not have an amazing time when everyone is trying to shake their asses like the queen, but end up looking like Miley. Big Freedia just made a stop in Salt Lake this last fall, but I’m sure she’ll be back.

For the 20th anniversary of his debut album, Illmatic, Nas took the main stage at BUKU to perform the album in its entirety as well as some of his other music throughout the years. In between songs, the rapper humbly thanked the crowd repeatedly for being what got him to where he is today. He took the stage shortly after his DJ as the massive LED screen behind him showed footage of the streets of New York, his hometown, while the screen on the DJ booth showed his logo. I haven’t seen Nas since his performance at the 2012 Twilight Concert Series, and I can honestly say that he puts an equal amount of effort and passion into every performance. Currently, Nas is set to perform at this year’s Coachella festival, but no tour dates have been announced.

Taking the Power Plant main stage just after sunset, the German producer showed me and a few thousand other festival attendees just how great he is live. More recently, I find myself bored at EDM shows. There’s only so many times you can hear a DJ set before you’ve seen it all, but every now and then you get the treat of hearing a really great live set. What attracted me to seeing Zedd this year at BUKU was his recent Grammy win (I’m also obsessed with his song, “Clarity”). If you’ve won one of the most coveted awards in music, you must be really fucking great. To give you an idea of how great Zedd is live, his performance at BUKU last year was postponed due to technical difficulties and he, in turn, had to wing his DJ set from someone’s iTunes account, and it was still really fucking great. This year he was similar, not because he played every remix of the biggest EDM bangers that he possibly could and made it fun, but he played a variety of music in different genres as well as his biggest songs from his debut album and his most recent singles in a way that blended perfectly.

David Guetta:
I wasn’t particularly excited to see David Guetta live. Like I said before, once you’ve been to enough EDM shows they kind of start to lost their magic, and that seemed to be the general opinion of others in the crowd. This show, however, made me feel like I was at my first show all over again. The energy in the crowd as well as onstage had so much life in it that I didn’t want to leave the main stage until it was over. The French producer took the stage atop a massive LED screen with an even bigger one behind him. Throughout the night, the screen displayed various graphic arts that looked as if Guetta was inside a spaceship. As the closer of the main stage on the last night of BUKU, Guetta ended the festival on a great note.

Beats Antique:
Because Beats Antique are known for their over-the-top, theatrical performances, I was expecting a lot more from the San Francisco band. Instead of their usual style of performance, which includes a lot of masks, costumes and visual art⎯the band was simply set up in front of a few sets of lights at The Ballroom stage while their dancer and third member, Zoe Jakes, only came out to perform during one or two songs. Despite their mediocre performance this weekend at BUKU, that wouldn’t stop me from attending their upcoming tour. Beats Antique will be stopping in Park City for their spring tour and tickets are available on their website and at

Danny Brown:
Around 12:45 a.m., Danny Brown took The Ballroom stage and performed his latest album, Old. The massive crowd screamed as he ran onstage in a long, quilt-printed suit jacket while his blue-tipped Mohawk glowed in the stage lights. Brown’s exciting and energetic stage presence was much more laidback than the antics of Tyler The Creator, who was finishing up his set just across the festival in The Float Den. The rapper seemed so nonchalant about his performance that he seemed like he was born to be onstage. I popped in and out of the performance so I could catch the start of The Glitch Mob’s show, but was able to hear all of his more popular songs and catch enough of the show to know I want to see him again. Danny Brown takes his tour to The Complex on May 13 and you can buy tickets online here.

Cashmere Cat:
There’s this new wave of experimental electronic music that’s becoming really popular, and I love it. In the very back of the festival, there was a small DJ booth set up right in front of the crowd, similar to a Boiler Room set. The small DJ booth was under a tent settled right on the port of the Mississippi River with the bridge lit up in the background to provide ambience in the setting sun. Cashmere Cat took the stage in front of a crowd packed so tight, I couldn’t get close enough to take a picture. It was clear the artist didn’t belong on such a small stage, as a good portion of the festival attendees were with me trying to listen to his DJ set. The set started out very slow, and his sound is almost similar to XXYYXX in that you can’t really put the slow, haunting beats in with any other genre. Hear Cashmere Cat for yourself here. Cashmere Cat is the kind of artist I could see doing a summer set at Kilby Court, or just being really popular in Salt Lake in general.

Chromeo is one of those bands that everyone knows and no one dislikes, despite the fact that they haven’t released a full album in a few years. Around sunset, the two-man band took the stage, which was set up exactly how it always is, with two keyboards set atop mannequins of women’s legs and other instruments set up around. Both members of the band had great stage presence, as the guitarist danced around the stage during his solos and threw his guitar in the air after each one while the keyboardist sang into a synthesizer and danced behind the keyboard. The entire crowd was singing along to each song, and I never heard anyone say something bad about the performance. Chromeo performed their most popular songs, including a bunch from their album, Famous Footwork, before closing their set with the title track

Among other big artists who performed at the festival were EDM sensations Kaskade and Zeds Dead, with a special duo DJ set between Baauer and RL Grime, a main stage diva-like performance from The Flaming Lips, as well as Chance The Rapper and Sleigh Bells. The full lineup included over 100 acts from various genres, which is what made BUKU such a great experience. The festival occurs annually and is usually scheduled the week before Ultra Music Festival in Miami, making it a great alternative, or pre-stop for those that can afford it. I know a lot of people who are willing to travel far for a music festival; so if you’re one of those people, don’t forget to add BUKU to your bucketlist of events. You can find information on The BUKU Project on their website, and the lineup is usually released just a few months before.

Check out in depth reviews of The Glitch Mob and Ellie Goulding from the 2014 BUKU Music & Arts Project.