BUKU Day 1 Review

BUKU Festival by Waylon O’Day

 

Coverage by Waylon O’Day and Parnia Razi

 

Bishop Briggs

Bishop Briggs by Parnia Razi

Bishop Briggs kicked off day 1 of BUKU Music & Arts Festival with a bang, as fans began to pour into the gates, enjoying the beautiful weather and art all around. She had a good crowd gathered, and everyone was smiling, energetic, and feeding off her bright energy and smiles. Briggs, also known by her name Sarah McLaughlin is an English singer – so it’s given American fans are already head over heels for her. Hitting the stage with a big smile and so much love for what she does, the audience definitely reflected that positive energy. Playing her more popular songs, fans sang along and her voice was strong and even better than I had imagined live. The set was going well, but at one point in towards the end her drummer’s pack went out and the music stopped. Briggs told the audience and said they were going to play an acoustic cover in the meantime while they fixed it, so she began to sing with only her guitarist playing music, and this allowed us to hear her powerful voice even more. Hitting every note, it was hard not to fall in love with her charisma, energy, and beautiful voice. The set ended with her most popular song, “River,” which fans went wild for and was the perfect ending to her exciting set. Not being a particular listener of her music and not knowing too much about Briggs, I really enjoyed the set and was impressed by her voice and her brilliant smile and energy. It started off the festival on a great note, as the afternoon crept into the sunset. – Parnia Razi

 

MGMT

MGMT by Waylon O’Day

Well, I had no idea how awful New Orleans traffic was prior to arriving in the city right before rush hour. Despite missing HOMESHAKE, one of the few groups that was a “must see” for me, I got inside the gates just as MGMT was starting their set at the Powerplant stage. The set reeked of nostalgia in the best way possible. The group, which has been near and dear to my heart since I first discovered how amazing music could be without being on the radio, leaned heavily on tracks from their most recent project, Little Dark Age. However, they still managed to pepper in the classics, like “Kids,” which they closed with, as well as “Electric Feel,” and “Time to Pretend,” which were both played early in the set. Although I have not kept up with the band as much as I did as a precocious 12-year-old wannabe music snob, the set was nothing short of spectacular. The visual screens that stood behind the band seemed to directly correlate with the subject matter of the music, such as a large iPhone that appeared as the band sang about societies seemingly inability to pry themselves away from their little black mirrors. Yes, that was a Black Mirror reference. The band also played “James,” a new favorite of mine from their latest album. All in all, it was a bittersweet experience to finally see MGMT after nearly a decade of being a fan of them. Bitter because it had taken me so long, and I wish I could’ve seen them when they were supporting their freshman album, Oracular Spectacular. Sweet because for a short time I could forget about the world and transport myself back to a time where my biggest concern was my middle school geometry test. – Waylon O’Day

 

Lil Xan

Lil Xan by Waylon O’Day

Let me preface this review by saying, I am not a huge fan of the mumble-rap culture, and it’s closeness to drug culture. Lil Xan is the epitome of the intersection of these two worlds, I mean the guys name refers to Xanax, an addictive barbiturate that has taken the lives of many, including Lil Peep, whom some would see as Xan’s contemporary. Now that that’s out of the way, does anyone else think Lil Xan looks like Carl Gallagher from Shamless? I mean if Carl continued down his drug-dealing story arc that was prevalent around season 5-7, before he decided to go to military school. Anyways, Lil Xan came to the stage about 15 minutes late, considering his set only lasted 30 minutes, this delay was pretty noticeable. Once he finally made it to the stage, he brought a tremendous amount of energy, that I haven’t seen matched by any of his contemporaries. Xan premiered the unreleased, Diplo produced, “Colorblind,” performing it for the first time for the BUKU audience that gathered at the brand new Wharf stage. Towards the end of the set, he played his more popular tracks “Slingshot,” and “Betrayed,” both of which brought the crowds energy to new heights, matching the energy of those long-gone Odd Future concerts, where the whole crew was there. Although the set was enjoyable, I don’t think I will go out of my way to catch Lil Xan live again, once is enough for me, but who knows, I might have to slide through his SXSW showcase just to see if I’m playing myself. – Waylon O’Day

 

SZA

SZA by Waylon O’Day

Since the release of her album CTRL last year, fans have been going crazy for SZA and her soulful voice. After going on a sold out nation-wide tour this past fall, SZA has been on a few festival lineups for this spring, something new for her since she began gaining popularity. Used to playing at smaller, indoor venues, there were definitely some growing pains in her performance and her vocals weren’t quite as strong as they were when I saw her during her CTRL tour in Houston. Nonetheless, she brought that vibrant energy she’s known for, dancing, connecting with her fans, and being the humble girl-next-door just like us. She sang some of her hits from CTRL, like “Broken Clocks” and “Go Gina,” and then hit us with some throwbacks to her older music. Playing “Ur” and “Child’s Play” for her day 1 fans, she took the set to her older, chill R&B style we first knew and loved her for. Slowing it down and playing older music made the set so much better in my opinion, and it really allowed her voice to come out stronger than when she was trying to sing over the loud bass and drums in some of her other songs.She continued playing some of her songs off CTRL, and fans went wild when they heard the first beat of “The Weekend.” Dancing and going crazy with a massive, energetic crowd, SZA gave it her all and towards the end of the set she actually twisted and broke her ankle. She tweeted about this later on, but during the set, she kept going through the set to finish the set for us. A true champ, great performer, and genuinely caring about her fans, SZA delivered her best despite all the bumps, challenges, and pressure this huge performance brought her. She’s definitely still new at performing at large festivals like this, and I know this set didn’t do her justice, but it’s always refreshing to see an artist who cares so much. Unlike many rappers who don’t care enough to show up on time (or at all) for their fans, SZA is always humble, and brings her absolute best energy to her performances and sets. – Parnia Razi

 

Alison Wonderland

Alison Wonderland by Waylon O’Day

Making her much-anticipated return to the U.S. after spending some time back home in Australia and New Zealand working on her new album, Alison Wonderland hit the stage hard at the BUKU Float Den Friday night. Her fans packed the warehouse-like building, and everyone went crazy as soon as she played the first beat. Giving us a long, dramatic, and beautiful buildup to the first song, I already knew this set would be fire. Wonderland never fails to show her raw talent and skill at DJing in her live sets, she mixes everything effortlessly and it flows incredibly well as she mixes her own songs, popular trap and rap songs, and other electro-pop songs. Crossing many genres and types of music, she does it all with her own style and sound added in. She also played her most popular remix, of “New Rules” by Dua Lipa, and the crowd went insane to her heavy drops and blasting bass. Wonderland connects with her fans in such a genuine way, and it was clear at this set that she has a really solid and devoted fanbase.When she played “Happy Place” and “Church,” two of her singles off her new album Awake, which is set to be released next month, fans knew every word.  She played the perfect, dirty, hard, energetic rave music everyone needed, and everyone was smiling, dancing, and having so much fun at her set. Her visuals and the lights were brilliant and exciting as well, and she got the real party finally going on BUKU. I’ve seen her play on a few other occasions, and she delivers brilliantly every time. She also always switches things up and plays different songs, remixes, and even some unreleased songs she’s working on. Her fans are always ready to party and she definitely delivers for us. Alison Wonderland is one of the best, most professional, and most talented live DJs I have ever experienced. Never a dull or boring moment, she kills it from beginning to end. I am so glad BUKU booked so much brilliant female talent this year, and it definitely made me appreciate the festival more, being able to see such talented and beautiful women perform their art. Wonderland is one of the artists I could see over and over and wouldn’t get tired of because she always delivers fresh and exciting sounds, and I would definitely recommend anyone who likes electronic music to see her live at some point. – Parnia Razi

 

Migos

Quavo by Waylon O’Day
Takeoff by Waylon O’Day
Offset by Waylon O’Day

As I alluded to earlier, I’m not a fan of mumble-rap, but I will not lie to you and say I wasn’t excited to see the innovators of the style, Migos, live for the first time. However, I would have to wait patiently, as about 15 minutes after their set was scheduled to start, an unknown voice came over the speakers at the Powerplant stage, announcing that Migos had just arrived in New Orleans. Wait, what? Did they not schedule these dates months in advance? Why are these types of occurrences so commonplace, especially at festivals? Regardless, I stayed, and waited for another 30 minutes as the trio traveled to the venue at what seemed like a slug’s pace. Finally, the time arrived, as a DJ Khaled cyborg, a la Johnny Depp in Transendence, asked the crowd if he “could bring out the Migos.” The crowd, already in an impatient frenzy roared with approval as the trio of Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff made their way to the stage. Quavo and Offset instantly turned on that performing energy, while Takeoff seemed to kick at the ground making himself seem more like a prop than an actual member of one of the most successful hip-hop groups since Wu-Tang. Despite what Takeoff says, he was indubitably left off of “Bad and Boujee.” I say this because while group performed the track, Takeoff seldom put the mic to his mouth to even mutter an ad-lib. It was very odd noticing the dynamic between the trio onstage, Quavo and Offset seem to have some of the best chemistry in the game right now, but Takeoff seems to be lagging behind in that department.He is essentially the red-headed stepchild of the group. The group’s set leaned heavily on their latest album Culture II, but they did perform nearly every fan favorite from the oldies like “Hannah Montana,” which was the soundtrack to my senior year of high school, to tracks like “T-Shirt,” which has been an inescapable staple of college bars and clubs around the country since it’s release. This was probably my favorite set of the day, there was just so much energy and action being thrown around for the entirety of their set, that I couldn’t imagine how they managed to catch their breath, I know I certainly didn’t. Despite my prior sentiments regarding the group, I could see why they are heralded as the Beatles of hip-hop, they are deft songwriters that know how to make a catchy hook that worms it’s way into your subconscious to the point you will wake up singing the chorus to “Slippery,” a song that, before this experience, was on my short-list for “never play around me.” – Waylon O’Day

 

Virtual Self

Virtual Self by Parnia Razi

Making his highly-anticipated festival debut at BUKU for his new project Virtual Self, Porter Robinson fans from far and wide gathered to see what magic he would bring us with this new project. Known and loved for his album Worlds, co-produced with Madeon, Robinson gained thousands of fans all around the world with his vibrant, happy, and modern sound. However, Robinson took his work to a whole different level with Virtual Self, taking us into a darker part of his mind. Channeling the early 2000’s rave scene, combined with a modern, glitchy, underground electronic sound, and of course his own classic Porter twist on it all, this project caught the attention of all his fans when he released the EP a few months ago.Many electronic artists’ side projects never gain as much attention or popularity as their own work, but Porter fans are among the most loyal, addicted to the brilliant production he delivers with everything that he does. Porter came on stage in a dark coat, channeling the Virtual Self persona and alter-ego, he took us to another dimension with this intense set. Building up slowly, he played an incredible mix of “Ghost Voices” that left the audience mind-blown. After the first part of the set, as it was building up, the music suddenly cut off. Not sure if it was intentional or not at first, everyone waited. And waited…and waited. After about 15 minutes, he got back up again and got right back into it. No one even considered leaving the set despite this long wait, and once it got going again, entering “phase 2” of the Virtual Self program, it went even harder with insane beats going harder than the hardest hardstyle sets I’ve seen. He mind-f**ked everyone with his builds, drops, and incredible visuals. An insane amount of lasers, flashing lights, and a mix of classic Porter style, anime-visuals and new, Virtual Self images of technic angel gave us so much to see and feel in addition to the soul and mind-shattering music he played. This set was definitely beyond a typical DJ set or rave, as Porter revealed his incredible talent and skill as an artist, visionary, and DJ. Jokingly being called the Kanye of EDM, Porter is always hitting us with some next-level sh*t. I honestly have still not fully comprehended how mind-blowing the set was, as he made a 5-song EP into an hour and half-long set. It was not just music, it was a full sensory experience that stimulated your mind, eyes, and soul. Feeling every drop in your entire body – Virtual Self took us to another dimension, and closed out the first night of BUKU with a bang. Both as Porter and Virtual Self, Robinson’s artistry is on a whole other level and he is definitely one of the trendsetters and leaders in electronic music, his level of artistry unmatched in the genre. He forces us to listen and feel his music in a different way, beyond just dancing and partying, to see it as a fully-immersive art experience. – Parnia Razi

 

Bonobo

Bonobo by Waylon O’Day

Last year at Austin City Limits, I was able to finally catch the enigmatic Bonobo live, and although it wasn’t the experience I expected it to be, it was still one of those sets that I will probably remember until my dying breath.However, that experience was blown the f*** out of the water by the hour-plus long DJ set I had the pleasure of catching late last night. Unlike his set at ACL, I could actually recognize the songs that Bonobo threw down for the wide-eyed (pupiled) crowd gathered at the tiny Wharf stage. Unlike the previous acts that had played the stage that day, Bonobo’s music was more jazzy, less abrasive, and in my opinion far more beautiful of a sound than the scraping metallic stylings of acts like Green Velvet, who relinquished the turntables to Bonobo at the end of his set. I have seen my fair share of DJs in my day, but I don’t think I have every seen one transition between songs as seamlessly as Bonobo does with the exception of pre-Jack U Diplo. The chill vibes that British genius exuded was the perfect way to end a day that, for me, involved a ten-hour car drive from Houston to New Orleans.Yes, I know it’s supposed to be a six hour drive, tell that to the people that drive in Louisiana. There aren’t many times where I could imagine a DJ set being better than actual music being played by live instruments, however this was one of those times. In the future, if given the choice between catching Bonobo live, and catching him DJ, I’ll take the turntables every time. Even if he is performing in what looks like sewer drain, and sort of smells like it too. – Waylon O’Day

 

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