BUKU 2014 Day 1 Recap
The BUKU Music + Art Project is easily one of the coolest festivals we’ve ever experienced. As the locals are quick to tell you, New Orleans is like no place else in the world. Except maybe a little bit of Las Vegas rolled into Disneyland.
New Orleans makes for one incredible host city. Everywhere we went, the people were incredibly friendly and eager to point you in the right direction. Not enough can be said about the people that make this city what it is, but so many other working parts make BUKU a force to be reckoned with. Of course, the amazing talent is a major factor.
Walking into BUKU we were immediately greeted with a picturesque view of the Power Plant stage, framed by those iconic dual smoke stacks in the background. Smallpools was kicking off festivities in the area with a tightly sounding set, a small crowd of early birds hugging the stage.
The weather was nothing short of perfect, a light breeze came in across the river with a billowing blue sky overhead. This was New Orleans on a 10. Everyone around us was grinning like little kids.
Venture past the eye popping live art gallery outside the Float Den and you’ll discover the greatest ‘hidden’ treasure BUKU has tucked away, the Back Alley stage.
This was by far the most intimate experience available to GA attendees, a private stage sandwiched between a lit up rustic wooden hideaway with tons of seating on one side and the Mississippi River’s beautiful bridge on the other.
The Back Alley stage offered an alternative experience to being immersed in the massive festival crowd, functioning more like a DJ block party. It offered a low key experience where audience members could chill out with a beer and and nod their heads as boats drifted through the picturesque view — even prettier at night with the bridge lit up.
Still, despite the more low key vibe of things here, exceptional production skills from DXXXY and Jesse Slaytor, who both dropped massive mixed, had everyone in the crowd dancing.
Any self-respecting hip hop head considered Nas to be the highlight of the Power Plant stage on day 1. Nas, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Illmatic, played the album in near entirety — electing to load up his set with a few more contemporary tracks as well. While it was slightly underwhelming to see this legendary MC perform so early in the day, listening to ‘Halftime’ in the Louisiana sunset was almost poetic.
By far the most surreal thing that happened on the first day of festivities was climbing aboard the SS BUKU, a VIP exclusive riverboat docked along the Mississippi River within direct view of the Power Plant stage.
Early evening, a handful of media members were ushered below deck in an orderly fashion, stark contrast to conditions below. New Orleans own Big Fredia’s, self-proclaimed ‘Queen Diva’, would direct a 30-minute intimate twerking lesson in what can only be described as a frenzied house party with enough assquaking insanity it threatened to sink our vessel to the murky depths of the Mississippi.
As our temporary shipmates waited for the show, the open bar at the back of the room was busy slanging out top shelf booze. Many of these clear plastic cups were tragically fated to be knocked over by a sea of media people clamoring for a shot of Fredia twerking in the middle of a crowd, a sea of people grabbing the floor and bouncing their asses with a certain violence behind it as deafening bass filled the long room.
The raw stadium jarring sounds of Sleigh Bells were practically built for the industrial setting of the Float Den, a gigantic open warehouse that housed thousands of fans. We had the luxury of sharing the VIP view overlooking an endless sea of audience members. Seeing crowd reactions to classic tracks like ‘Rill Rill’ and ‘Infinite Guitars’ would immediately induce chills.
We ended our night in the ballroom with emerging hip hop artist Chance The Rapper who put on one of most electric shows of the day. Chance is a kinetic frontman who spends an equal time spitting barbs into the mic as he does channeling the flashy footwork of early Michael Jackson. This dude has a serious battery.
Chance also has the fortune to be backed by a supremely talented live band, a partnership that brings his music to life in a live setting. As anyone who’s seen a hip hop show or two can attest to, rarely does a live performance achieve the same effect as the recorded material. Chance was that rare experience where the artist is capable of reaching new heights.