About This Festival
BUKU—pronounced like the French word for “a lot”—is indeed a big deal, even if it’s a boutique event. Beginning in 2012, this annual two-day festival is a cool, eclectic tribute to New Orleans, and to today’s most progressive music genres and artists.
Progressive Performers & Crowds
Those who book tickets to BUKU are in for big performances put on by some of the leading names in EDM, hip-hop, and indie rock. Headliners in years past have included Avicii, David Guetta, Wiz Khalifa, Nas, Ellie Goulding, Explosions in the Sky, Kendrick Lamar, and the Flaming Lips. You’re as likely to see Primus performing in 3D as you are to enjoy the one-of-a-kind workings of lively local buskers.
The organizers, Winter Circle Productions, add stages each year, and the lineup always features loads of Grammy nominees in a variety of eclectic and forward-thinking genres, including New Orleans bounce music.
During its first year, BUKU did experience a few hiccups: long lines to get in, noise complaints from neighbors, and big-name deejays experiencing technical difficulties. But the crowds kept coming back, and the production values kept getting better.
These days, the crowd stays relatively intimate, since BUKU draws just about 14,000 attendees over its two days. Attendees are on the younger side—a fine mix of frat boys, hipsters, festival fans and music aficionados—who are all into having fun together and dancing quite a lot.
An Industrial Setting
Mardi Gras World, right on the Mississippi River in in New Orleans’ Warehouse District, is an ingenious location for a music festival: It’s where Mardi Gras floats are constructed, meaning that the music is set among bits and pieces of Carnival floats and props. The stages, too, have touches that bring elements of the city and space into the performances: There’s the dance party that goes on in the Back Alley. Along the railroad, there are trains whizzing by, and the Power Plant stage, so named for—you guessed it—a decrepit power plant providing the background scenery for the songs. As for the Ballroom, it’s a concert hall on the upscale side, where you can watch your favorite act from on high in the wraparound balcony. Yet another of the stages is right in the middle of a float-manufacturing warehouse. Not your typical fairgrounds, then.
The indoor and outdoor stages and the spaces in between all exude a party vibe that’s simultaneously industrial, artsy, and sassy.
Other elements providing atmospherics include an river barges floating busily by, the view of the skyline and the Crescent City Connection bridge, and the short stroll to the Big Easy’s legendary French Quarter.
The fact that BUKU is an art event is right in the name, even though people primarily think of it as a tunes fest. That being said, the art should not be missed. It’s a performance unto itself, with local and national artists of all stripes “doing” art right in front of you. Call it kinetic art or call it a live gallery, but it’s all up for the taking during silent auctions: Bid on a piece that you watched being created in real time, and don’t feel bad about the money you spend on it—it goes to charity.
Throughout the grounds, there are plenty of creative installations and exhibits, the signature one being the manic-looking and always-changing BUKU Graffiti Wall. You’ll also see sculptures, paintings, and pieces patched together out of a variety of other mediums, many of them interactive. In 2013, artists constructed “Fort BUKU” from reclaimed materials—it turned into a place for attendees to be while watching the musical performances.
The food at BUKU is classic NOLA fare and not at all what you’d typically find at a music fest—and we mean that in the best way possible. There’s everything you’d expect to eat along the Gulf Coast, from seafood to barbecue to Southwestern specialties to vegan offerings. Try the "womelettes" (a waffle-omelet combination) or the crepes, and for dessert, the cool, refreshing “snowballs." Bring your own Nalgene or Klean Kanteen: Free water stations let you fill up as often as you want.