Festival Recap: Sunday @ BUKU Music & Art Project 3/18/12
Words by Wesley Hodges || Photo Gallery by Jimmy Grotting
The inaugural BUKU Music & Art Project at Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World appears to have been a resounding success and perhaps will become another big addition to the fast-growing electronic music festival circuit, a roving neon circus that has spawned a number of destination events, many of which have become yearly traditions. The landscape previously dominated by a handful of majors is quickly diversifying with the addition of these beats-intensive, multi-day events that continue to command space on the crowded festival calendar alongside many of the now-longstanding major and mid-major events that reinvigorated the U.S. circuit in the early-2000s.
When local BUKU organizers announced the initial lineup in late-December I arrived at two initial conclusions: (1) this thing is obviously going play extremely well with the college crowd (given the timing of the event – falling on many major southern university’s spring break schedules and sandwiched between South-by-Southwest and Ultra Music Festival XIV); and (2) personally I wasn’t all that taken by the initial lineup, being more of a fan of electronic music with elements of live instrumentation instead of full-throttle dubstep, house and techno – which is why a closer look was necessary to see that there was more than enough variety to fill a day bouncing between the main stage and Ballroom. After Sunday, consider conclusion 1 confirmed and conclusion 2 almost almost entirely debunked. The likes of Big K.R.I.T. and SBTRKT made the trek totally worthwhile, throw in some epic people-watching (even for New Orleans) and incredible weather and you’ve got yourself a total package.
With the recent explosion of the Electric Daisy Carnival from an LA-rooted single weekend fest into a nationwide touring summer-long bonanza, there’s definitely something happening here and after yesterday, it appears that most of the kids are alright (at least for now). Even the way festival organizers gave access to those of us seeking out press credentials to cover this year’s festival was quite different from past festival experiences. After playing sleuth for a bit yesterday, I was able to quickly track down the festival’s extremely helpful and accessible press contact person and after a few texts and a phone call, we were in for the long haul to cover a bunch of ground on a picture-of-perfection Sunday at Mardi Gras World down on the Mighty Mississipp. This simply would not have been possible to pull off for most other major events only an hour before the gates open. Continue on for a monster 100+ photo gallery from Sunday at BUKU, videos and some notable highlights from Day 2 at BUKU 2012.
Day 2 Highlights at 2012 BUKU Music & Arts Project
Home team live electronica outfit Gravity A kicked things off in the Bassik Ballroom with a chest cavity-rattling opening set in the Bassik Ballroom that got LOUD – not generally one too complain about sound generally and luckily packed the earplugs, but it seemed like the sound mix was way above generally acceptable levels in there (and notably during A-Trak’s set outside) before it leveled out). Regardless, Gravity A played a notably heavy set, doing an interesting, almost nu-disco sample on “Simple Man” and an cool drop-in by local guest rapper Matt Zarba. Check out video from their set here.
Walking up to the tail end of SpamM Kidd’s set, who was rather upset…here’s what he had to say on his facebook page (and you can see his look of dismay below):
wow, fuck skrillex’s tour manager. i’m opening at buku getting into a funny routine sampling 4 bars of two seperate skrillex drops (as a well played joke) seconds from my bare noiz drops and this fucking guy grabs me and threatens to “throw me off the stage”. i told him fuck you, you are not removing me from shit i’m leaving though cuz i will be damned if i am treated like that while i perform. i love winter circle productions and buku music fest. i even kinna like some of the innovations sunny moore has made in music production. That said as an artist i have a basic right to be treated with respect, same goes for my set. You do not touch me or my equipment while i’m performing. if you wanna shut off my audio or fucking sue me, go for it. the stage is a sacred place thats why i chased your ass off it, fuck you.
One of the beer vendors would later comment that SpamM Kid was his new favorite artist. I may have to concur, man has some cajones.
Rapper G-Eazy had an infectious energy about him that played really well in the crowd. Fresh off an insane-but-standard 10 shows-in-4-days run at SXSW, G-Eazy managed a more-than-serviceable mid-day set that had everyone smiling and bobbing along. Hoarse but happy as can be, G-Eazy threw in some interesting samples including Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks” and local indie act the Generationals “When They Fight, They Fight” into his set during “Make Up Sex“, earning some bonus points in my book. His positivist outlook had a notable effect on the crowd and he took every chance he could to engage with the rail riders at the main stage at arms length, offsetting some of the negativity set off by SpamM Kidd’s hilarious rant/run-in.
A-Trak played to the picturesque backdrop of the evening’s setting sun, a brilliant scene visually as a good majority of the day’s crowd began to roll into the Mardi Gras World grounds. The DJ repped his label Fool’S Gold on the back LED a fair bit and threw down his standout remix of ‘Heads Will Roll‘ by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (featured in new rager film Project X), breaking BUKU Sunday wide open and unleashing the pandemonious scene that resonated across the grounds for the remainder of the festival.
Next, came SBTRKT, who, along with Big K.R.I.T., stood out as the set of the day. Although not necessarily comparable to T.V. on the Radio, they were the only band I could liken them too, perhaps in light of the fact that TVOTR is equally unclassifiable and difficult to pin down. Each song was a total 180 stylistically from the one preceding it, and the 10-minute plus jam on “Pharoahs” was perhaps the musical apex of the day and was followed by an extended segment of dark and minimalist live improvisation. Elements of synth-laden downbeat oscillated (somehow) seamlessly with stylistic precision towards pulsating disco-punk rhythms that brought to mind mid-stride live LCD Soundsystem. Would pay good money to see these guys again and they’ll undoubtedly be making a huge impression this summer at mega fests like Coachella and Bonnaroo. Not a set to be missed if you get the chance on the summer festival circuit.
Big Gigantic slayed a huge crowd in the Bassik Ballroom, playing with the kind of panache one would expect from a festival headliner. It’s easy to see that the duo of Dominic Lalli [Producer/Saxophone] and Jeremy Salken [Drums] expend a lot of brain power, time and practice tweaking their live sound, crafting live and pre-recorded mixes, optimizing the bass sound, and putting a HUGE emphasis on making the drums hit hard and clean. There may not be a young live act out doing more to bridge the gap between live instrumentation and a more DJ-leaning production and they undoubtedly made a substantial impact on any first timers in the crowd. While taking a breather during the set on the riverside ship, peering back into the Ballroom the crowd on the floor of the ballroom sustained a level of explosive energy that may not have been rivaled until the crowd at Skrillex.
Big K.R.I.T.’s set started out hard and fast and by this point, the sound in the Bassik Ballroom was finally on-point and the mixtape master conquered a somewhat scattered crowd in the ballroom (looks like the majority of folks had already headed to stake out their spot for Skrillex – too bad for them). Yet another Southern rap success story, Big K.R.I.T. had the kind of commanding presence on-stage that had every set of eyeballs in the room darted towards the man onstage. Both brazenly honest and thoroughly celebratory, K.R.I.T.’s set was yet another left turn in a lineup filled with a whole lot more variety than met the eye initially when the lineup was released.
Alas, at the end of it all, the organizers had brought back SKRILLEX to close down the inaugural Buku Music Project, who, love him or hate him, may be the hardest working DJ in the business these days, jetsetting around the world in 2011 (300+ shows) and bouncing like a man with pogo sticks for legs throughout his show. Smoke, confetti and hand-drawn signs professing love for the DJ filled the air and Mr. Moore didn’t disappoint his legions of fans, many of whom I assume will be following him on the trail to this weekend’s Ultra Music Festival.
Overall, the festival organizers did an amazing job in the inaugural year and could not have picked a more idyllic spot and weekend to put on the festival. Moreover, the staff took great care of fans and press alike and had a very hands-off but wary policy towards crowd control that is generally seen at first-year festivals and the youthful crowd behaved respectfully. Hopefully this trend will continue as the festival grows. Also, didn’t see a single altercation or dark moment that tend to kill vibes at most music fests.
These are to be taken with a grain of salt because of my merely cursory appreciation and knowledge of the electronic festival landscape, but if I do have a couple recommendations for year 2 (which I assume will happen after a fairly sizable turnout) it would be to:
- Have a small tent/area dedicated to ambient DJ’s, chill wave, lounge and the like off to the side. After 6-7 straight hours of untz and hip-hop, it would’ve been excellent to chill (appreciated Skrillex playing Bob Marley on the PA before his set and SBTRKT playing a Bonobo selection. May even consider turning the really cool Grand Oak Mansion area into a chill spot for the weekend – how great would that be?
- SHPONGLE: A touch of Posford’s psy-trance weirdness never hurt anyone. Maybe in ’13….
- Sound control in the Bassik Ballroom.
- MORE Projections on the warehouse facade where the laser art was being shot.
Another banner festival Sunday in New Orleans.
About the author
Wesley grew up in coastal Georgia and is a former resident of The Music City and The Big Easy where he helped get LMB NOLA off-the-ground after launching in January 2011. Over the past few years, he has also contributed steadily to JamBase and Relix Magazine. Recently, Hodges moved on to L.A. where Abita Beer is hard to find, costs about $6 if located and impromptu parading in the streets will most likely get you arrested on the spot.
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