Throughout the past few years, Coog Radio has sent me to several festivals. They have sent me to Fun Fun Fun Fest, Austin City Limits, Day for Night and several more. None of those festivals come close to anything I experienced at Buku.
Buku is more than just your typical music festival; it has established its own identity and culture. Most festivals focus on the acts they bring and the quality of the festival depends on all the performances. Buku booked some solid performers, but focused more on the festival itself. Wherever I went, there was something to do. It was almost impossible to sit down and relax.
We wanted to experience the festival to the fullest extent. The first act I wanted to see did not go on until six, so I decided to explore the festival and see what was going on.
As I was walking around I heard some crazy bass-heavy music coming from the Float Den, so I decided to go check it out. The Float Den was a giant warehouse filled with huge Mardi Gras floats. In the middle of this warehouse was a huge stage where the liveliest acts performed. The artist that was on was a producer named Rezz. I had never heard of her before, but the crowd absolutely loved her. I don’t think I saw a single person standing during the short time I was at her set. Everyone was dancing and getting lost to the music. I joined in as soon as she played a remix of One Step Closer by Linkin Park. The thirteen-year-old in me came out and I couldn’t contain myself.
After doing some more exploring, I finally decided to head to the main stage to see Tycho. While the band was setting up, they were playing tons of Bassnectar and other bass-heavy artists. As the music was bumping, tons of people starting to head to the stage, which created an interesting situation. If you haven’t listened to Tycho, they are the complete opposite of bass-heavy. They are an atmospheric rock band that is very calm and progressive. Once the band started, I knew the crowd was going to get caught off guard. I spent a good amount of time listening to the music and people watching. Everyone wanted to get into the music and dance, but they couldn’t. It was just too slow for them. If you were to rate Tycho’s crowd by the amount of balloons that were thrown, it would be one sad balloon that made its way to only an eighth of the crowd. Tycho’s performance was great, but the crowd wasn’t.
Run the Jewels followed up Tycho on the main stage and picked up the energy. This was my third time seeing them. Each time I see them perform, they just get better. Killer Mike and El-P have a natural stage presence, which keeps the crowd energized. They know how to bounce off each other’s energy, and you can truly see how much they love performing. I loved seeing them perform new material off of Run the Jewels 3, but the highlight was seeing them perform “Run the Jewels” and “Close Your Eyes.”
After Run the Jewels, I headed to the Ballroom. I managed to catch a little bit of Vince Staples’ set, but couldn’t get into it. Several people had their phones out and spent majority of the time recording the set rather than enjoying it. This really took away from the performance, and you could even see Staples himself struggling to get into the performance.
The last performance I saw at the festival was $uicideboy$ back at the Float Den. Honestly, I originally planned on going to see $uicicdeboy$ as just a joke. I just couldn’t get into their music and get into what they were trying to accomplish as artists. Seeing them at the festival changed my mind completely. Before they performed, a fellow festival-goer decided to climb up one of the poles. Everyone cheered him on as he made it to the top and jammed out. As soon as security came, he decided to come down. Once he reached the bottom, security violently grabbed him by the neck and handcuffed him. Everyone that was cheering them on started to become enranged and boo security aggressively. This was only a taste of what was to come from the $uicideboy$ set.
When $uicideboy$ finally got on stage, they brought an entourage of people with them. They then informed the crowd that this is their first hometown show in a very long time, which made people lose their minds. The crowd started off really rowdy, but as the show proceeded, the crowd just got angrier. As the duo was performing, they had a series of controversial visuals playing in the background. They had clips of OJ Simpson in court playing as they played a song about being a killer, and for part of the set, had the video of Budd Dwyer shooting himself on repeat. I don’t know if it was the controversial imagery, or the actual music itself, but something caused the crowd to go absolutely crazy. The barrier was being pushed and security scattered as they were trying to catch crowd surfers. I’ve been to several shows in my lifetime, including countless hardcore and metal shows, and I have never seen anything like the anger and rage that was evoked during that set. Even being outside of the crowd, I felt a sense of fear and danger that was oddly exhilarating. After seeing that, I finally understood what the $uicideboy$ are trying to do. Even though they are somewhat repulsive, they are provoking people, which an artist hasn’t truly done in a long time, except perhaps Tyler, the Creator. In this current political climate where everyone is told they are not allowed to have certain problems and beliefs, we are forced to censor ourselves in our every day lives. $uicideboy$ take this concept and use the anger and rage the censorship causes and projects it to their audience. Even though it can be controversial, it is sometimes necessary to have these figures in music. They truly capture what is going on in the world and illustrate the culture that is present within this time period.
The most impactful moment of Buku to me occurred after Vince Staples performed. Outside of the ballroom was a boardwalk area where people would sit and hang out. I regrouped with all of my friends and we spent some time recapping everything that we saw. As we were mid conversation, a bicycle with a box of lights and blaring music appeared out of nowhere. The bicyclist said “hi” to me and parked his bike right in front of us. He then proceeded to crank up the tunes and dance. He would pull random people out of the crowd and got them so dance with him. I watched the sitting crowd slowly transform into a small club scene. The bike played a variety of different music and had a diverse group of people dancing in several different ways. He played everything from random dance music to Nirvana to some classic Biggie. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen at a music festival. It really captured the essence of what Buku is all about. It attracts a large, diverse group of people into one area and encourages them to forget about the stresses of life. It doesn’t matter where you are from or what you believe, but we were all there for the same reason, to have fun.
Buku was one of the best festival experiences I have had. There is a culture present that is unlike anything I have ever seen. I think other music festivals can learn from Buku, and spend some time focusing on the festival itself, rather than the performers that will be there. If you really want to experience what festival culture is truly like, I highly encourage going to Buku. It will be an experience you never forget.
Photos taken by Hunter Lewis