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[Review] The Warm Return of BUKU Music + Arts Project as They Celebrate 10 Years

Despite some technical difficulties here and there, BUKU Music + Arts Project had a successful return as they celebrated their 10th anniversary. From Tyler the Creator to Rezz to Flo Milli to Taking Back Sunday, see what you missed!

It’s been a long three years but music festivals are officially back in New Orleans. Kicking off the return of festival season while celebrating their 10th year was none other than the BUKU Music + Arts Project! Located right along the Mississippi River, the festival took place at Mardi Gras World. With clear, blue skies, attendees had two perfect days of festing!

As you walked in, the first thing you notice is definitely the festival fashion – lots of leopard print, sparkles, glitter, tie-dye, and everything in between. Also spotted a lot of merchandise being repped by attendees – BUKU, Trippie Redd, Tyler the Creator and $uicideBoy$ and more!

In true New Orleans fashion, there was VERY good eats. Everything your lil foodie heart desires – cajun mac-n-cheese, fried oreos, gyro, snowballs, poboys, jambalaya, pizza, nawlins cauliflower, macarons, cold brew, crawfish beignets…and that’s just naming a few of the food options available onsite. Want to give a quick shoutout to Those Sugar Mamas because their snowballs hit the spot on Friday!

Before I get into the sets I caught at BUKU, let’s dive into the different activations, vendors and more featured onsite. 

  • Upbeat Academy
  • Glass Half Full
  • Monster Energy with a viewing area at one of the main stages
  • Faculty World with free nail lacquer and stickers
  • A designated safe space area
  • Live gallery auction where attendees can bid on their favorite pieces. All proceeds go to Upbeat Academy.
  • Pop-up performances 
  • and more!

And of course, after each day of BUKU, there were a plethora of after-fest shows at various local venues around the New Orleans metro area including performances by Alison Wonderland, Vince Staples, TroyBoi and GG Magree.

Day One: Friday, March 25

I arrived a few hours after the festival kicked off. After getting checked in, I headed over to the Bridge stage to catch New Orleans’ own, Rob49, take the stage. The 20-year-old rapper performed his recent hit “Vulture Island V2” which features Lil Baby. The two recently made headlines after filming the music video in various spots in New Orleans including on Oretha Castle Haley Blvd and near the Iberville projects. Before finishing his set, Rob49 brought a fan on stage – and he did not miss a beat! The superfan knew every word to the remaining songs the rapper performed.

After catching Rob49, I ran over to the Skyline stage to catch Taking Back Sunday. Talk about taking it back to the 99’s and the 2000s. The band rocked the stage while performing some of their classic hits ranging from their first studio album, ‘Tell All Your Friends’ to their most recent release ‘Tidal Wave’. While thanking New Orleans and expressing how excited they were to play, leadman Adam Lazzara joked,  “They said specifically not to say festival, it’s a project. And it looks like the project is going good.”

Next, I ran back to the Bridge stage to catch TroyBoi. During his second song, both his sound and visuals went out abruptly. The crowd began chanting his name while the tech team got to work behind the scenes. The British DJ and producer threw a heart up to the crowd to thank them for their patience. After about 10 minutes, the team had everything back up and running. TroyBoi told the crowd, “…that just means we [have to] go extra hard now” before jumping back into his set. His set featured remixes of popular songs along with some of his recent releases including “BUSS IT” and “Red Eye” (feat. Justin Bieber). Behind him, colorful visuals were displayed featuring a variety of images such as outlines of people, cars, octopus tentacles, mushrooms, and calculators!

A lot of back and forth…clearly. Ran back to the Skyline stage to see Trippie Redd. The highlight of his set was when he asked the crowd if someone could bum him a lighter. No exaggeration, about ten lighters were suddenly thrown on the stage from all angles. Redd joked about feeling like he was in the Matrix after dodging all of the lighters. During his performance, he gave a shoutout to Juice Wrld before performing their song “1400 / 999 Freestyle.” After a few minutes, I look over and see someone in the GA area crowd surfing. Before closing out, Trippie Redd showed New Orleans some love, “I love y’all, y’all had great energy.” Also I spotted Foushee in the crowd watching Trippie’s set. She performed earlier that day at the same stage!

During Rezz’s set, I hopped over to the Autograph activation while I listened to space mom do her thing on the Bridge stage. The Autograph activation featured art by local New Orleans graffiti artists – MK ULTRA, Ceaux, Monica Rose Kelly, Paws, The Reader, Fat Kids, Dvote, and Hugo Gyrl. Attendees had the opportunity to bring home a piece of this year’s festival by making their very own NFT onsite or bid on a one-of-one work of art from one of the eight artists. 

After getting a glimpse into the future of festing, I ran over to the Wharf to see Bas take the stage. “This is one of my favorite cities on the motherfucking planet,” the New York rapper shared with the crowd. He also mentioned that he hadn’t been on stage in New Orleans since 2018. In fact, BUKU Music + Arts Project is the first major music festival to return to New Orleans since the pandemic!

Ran back over to the Bridge stage to see New Orleans’s own, $uicideboy$. “We in our mother-fucking hometown, you know what the fuck it is. This is our city,” the duo told the crowd. The energy was indescribable as locals and out-of-towners showed them love. The fired up audience opened up a few pits as per request of the duo. $uicideboy$ was definitely in their element playing in the Big Easy as they owned the stage.

Closed out day one of BUKU with none other than Tame Impala at the Skyline Stage. The Australian psychedelic rock group brought all the vibes, naturally. The set started with an informational video from a representative of AionWell, the fictional company that created the band’s new mock pharmaceutical drug, “Rushium.” As the rep’s demonstration goes on, her face becomes distorted while her speech also slows down before Tame Impala takes the stage to perform “One More Year.” The crowd packed in to catch a glimpse of their greatness. Fans could be seen dancing atop the massive shipping containers during “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” and of course, “The Less I Know The Better.” With their colorful, trippy visuals and to their mesmerizing sounds, couldn’t think of a better way to end off day one.

Day Two: Saturday, March 26

After a very eventful day one, I was ready for the second day of BUKU. Started off the day by seeing local New Orleans EDM duo, sfam, at the Wharf stage. They had slight technical difficulties but kept the show rolling and the energy flowing! 

After sfam’s set, I headed to the Riverside stage to see Odd the Artist and DJ PJ. Odd utilized the boxing ring stage to her full potential – keeping the crowd engaged while killing her set! She brought a variety of fest goers to the Riverside stage as she performed new music from her EP – ‘Surprised Yet?’. 

Ran over to the Skyline stage to see Alabama native, Flo Milli. It was her first time performing at BUKU and she killed it. Though her production was basic, her infectious energy and catchy flow kept the crowd hype. She also jumped down from the stage to be closer to the crowd. She grabbed a fan’s phone and rapped into the camera before heading to the other side to give one super fan a hug. It was a wholesome moment to watch – the fan fell to the ground in complete happiness after Flo Milli gave her a hug and thanked her for being a fan.

The next couple sets were kind of a blur. I caught Stone Cold Jzzle in the Ballroom followed by Vince Staples then Baby Keem at the Bridge Stage before heading to the Skyline Stage to see Glass Animals. Glass Animals are a British indie rock group. The first time I saw and heard about the group was back in 2017 at Austin City Limits. They made an unforgettable impression on me with their electric energy, visuals and beautiful sound. No doubt they brought the same energy to BUKU. “We’ve been here the past couple days and I have to say, this is the best city in the world…everyone’s so damn nice,” lead vocalist Dave Bayley shared with the crowd. 

After Glass Animals, I caught Kali Uchis at the Bridge stage. The American-Colombian R&B singer was joined by four black-clad dancers as she entranced the crowd for an hour with coordinated dance moves, a dazzling outfit and effortless confidence. Although her set was amazing, I don’t think she’s a festival artist. I personally think I would have enjoyed her set more in an arena.

Lastly, I ended off BUKU seeing Tyler, the Creator close out the Skyline stage. He drew quite the crowd and did not disappoint. I saw Tyler live in October at Austin City Limits. Unlike that set, he didn’t have his boat, luggage cart, car or other props on stage but for some reason this set was ten times better than that one even without all the extra-ness. He captivated the audience with his vibrant energy, pyrotechnics and unique sound. He also took a moment to talk to the crowd like we were old friends, “Y’all put fish in every damn thing…some bitch offered me turtle fucking soup earlier,” Tyler joked as he discussed how much he loved New Orleans. He also mentioned that he has a friend from here aka Frank Ocean before performing one of their collaborations for the crowd. He, like Flo Milli, jumped off the stage to get closer to the crowd. Plus, he also joined the sign language interpreters on the side for a couple songs and made sure to give them a shoutout for the incredible work they do! Tyler’s a class act.


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