Since emerging onto the festival circuit in 2012, Winter Circle Production’s The Buku Music + Art Project has solidified itself as one of the most current and attractive music events in the country. Spanning over two days at Mardi Gras World in New Orleans, The Buku Project packed the premises with sold out crowds of over 12,000 fans each day. It is clear how such ticket sales incur positive effects like bringing in loads of business and tourism to the city of New Orleans as well as preserving the continuity of the festival for years to come. However, what is truly special about this festival is the story of how thoughtfulness and careful planning can create a memorable experience for fans, artists, and New Orleanians alike.
As discussed in OurVinyl’s preview to the event, organizers for the Buku Project had a clear vision before booking the lineup for the festival. Through observing current trends in music today, Winter Circle Productions attempted to create an event that merged hip-hop, electronic, and indie rock music into one fluid festival. Although distinct within their own respective sounds, many of the featured artists take influences from each genre to create the ever-changing landscape that is music. As technology and social trends begin to evolve, so must the culture represented by these communities within their musical expressions. By drawing these separate fan bases together through new trending sounds, The Buku Project was not just an opportunity to catch your favorite acts, but to be introduced to new music that is emulated through its composition. Whereas other festivals simply book acts that are similar or variety for the sake of drawing different crowds, The Buku Project is creating a new community and experience.
Part of this forward thinking planning can be seen through the interactive applications and services provided by the festival. For example, the Buku App for smart phones had state-of-the-art features that went outside the typical layout of a map and schedule. Fans were able to check in, comment, post photos and meet people through each artist. There was also an ongoing competition with prizes during the festival for people who used the application and checked in with their wristbands at stages. Buku used social media to give away tickets, VIP packages, merchandise and more, listening to each comment made.
Along with communicative advantages, this year’s festival expanded from two to five stages. In addition to the Power Plant stage, which is featured with the backdrop of an abandoned power plant, local DJs and other talent provided set break entertainment on the Riverfront Stage, which sat adjacent to the main stage. The Ballroom stage returned and provided an intimate and bumping indoor party. The Buku Project added a stage within the actual warehouse that all the Mardi Gras floats are stored in. Thousands of fans were dancing surrounded by cartoonish and incredibly captivating floats and characters. Along with the posh amenities provided for VIP patrons, an additional stage was set on the VIP Riverboat that hosted exclusive talent.
Flying Lotus’ “Lullaby”
The VIP section was comparatively superior to most other festival’s VIP experiences that usually features roped off sections. The Buku Project provided an entire boat that was conveniently located within perfect sight and earshot of the main stage. The on-board amenities that included exclusive performances also boasted an open bar and food options outside of the festival fare.
The revamped Art program for this year’s Buku Project also impressed as the live graffiti gallery expanded its artists to feature twelve different painters. Throughout the weekend, there would be people constantly admiring not only the art itself, but also the craftsmanship that it takes to comprise such pieces. There also featured a unique viewing area, one that is an artistic piece in itself. Built from shipping containers, yes, shipping containers, The Buku Project created an inclined hammock that could fit dozens of people in perfect view of the main stage.
Musically, there was much to impress. With such a potent bill, at times it could feel like one may be missing out on something, but the effect is the opposite. Wherever you were at that given time is good enough. Most notably, there were a few acts that stood out to this writer.
Icona Pop was the sleeper of the festival. The Swedish duo was thrilled to be in New Orleans as they reiterated their admiration for the city as bookends to each song. Their sound varied from deep heavy bass tracks to more poppy danceable ones, all to enhance their poignant vocals.
Flying Lotus crafted a DJ set that was set behind a giant screen, syncing visuals to each tune. His selection spanned across all hip-hop influences in a sultry way. An intimate performance, no doubt, FlyLo was joined on stage in collaboration with Earl Sweatshirt for a memorable experience.
dAnother notable collaboration featured the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Alt-J. Although their set started late, the UK band impressed with precision.
Closing out the first night of the festival, Aeroplane catered an outdoor dance party. His upbeat set of remixes and disco tunes had the crowd boogieing, gaining new fans along the way. Within electronic music there are many subgenres, most popular in recent years has been the Americanized version of dubstep. It was nice to have the contrast of a positive motif to many of the other bass heavy acts featured in the festival.
Maybe the MVP of the weekend, Wesley Pentz (Diplo) provided an unforgettable concert experience and party. Twice. Pentz is part of the electronic duo Major Lazer, which undeniably had the most spectacular performance of the weekend with a crowd that was erupting over and over again. Let’s not forget about the human hamster balls traversing across the crowd or The Painted Ladies shaking their booties on stage. The shenanigans continued late into the night, er- morning. The after party headlined by Diplo himself went raging until the sun came up around 7 a.m.
Overall, the festival was a huge success not just in ticket sales, but also in the mood of the average patron. Seldom did one see an unhappy face or hear a bad review outside of there being too much talent to debate over watching. The Buku Project has cemented itself in the festival circuit in New Orleans, becoming not just a highly anticipated event, but also the starting point for the festival season. With the thoughtfulness of its production, variety of talent, and interactive art installations, The Buku Project has quickly become an event not to be missed.
Until next year. . .
Written by Danny Goodman
OurVinyl | Senior Writer
Photography by Maxwell Rasche