BUKU Festival by Waylon O’Day

Coverage by Waylon O’Day and Parnia Razi

 

Noname 

Noname by Waylon O’Day

As fans trickled in on another beautiful day for the second day of BUKU, Noname’s voice filled the air as she began performing at the Power Plant main stage. She came onstage and before she even began her presence and energy shifted the audience’s as well, which her bright smile and uplifting voice, she sang a handful of songs from her album, Telefone, released in 2016. She has a very similar style as her mentor and friend, Chance the Rapper, having a cheerful and happy vibe, but still having interesting and powerful lyrics. On every song, she nailed the notes perfectly and she showed her true talent as a rapper. Noname is also known for having a vibrant feminine energy, and maintaining her personal integrity by not falling into the stereotype of becoming a ‘tough’ or ‘hard’ rapper. Personally, she reminds me of a cross between Solange and Chance, having a beautiful flowing afro, dressing casually, being able to hit incredible notes but also drop some insane bars. Her background in spoken word poetry also comes through in her music, and the fans were definitely vibing with her and loving her personal and down to earth energy. She was very humble and kind, thanking her fans and giving them her absolute best performance. Her set started the day off on a positive note, and left me feeling so happy to be able to see such diverse artists all at one festival. If you enjoy spoken word poetry, or the work of artists like Solange or Chance, I would definitely recommend checking out Noname. She was beautiful, humble, energetic, and the girl can SING. – Parnia Razi

 

Smino

Smino by Waylon O’Day

The St. Louis native brought his unique blend of hip-hop and R&B to the crowd that gathered at the Ballroom stage early (relatively) Saturday afternoon. Having been a fan of Smino’s music ever since I had first heard his 2017 single “Anita,” I was interested in seeing how he would transpose his complex delivery style and seamless transition from dropping verses to singing in his higher register, in a live setting. As is the not the case for many of his contemporaries, Smino did not disappoint. Whereas so many artists like him get lost in “studio magic,” Smino is a true performer in every sense of the word, his ability to get a crowd that was clearly still nursing hangovers from the night before to get up and move is uncanny. Relying on tracks from his freshman project, last year’s blkswn, Smino performed some of the fan favorites including the aforementioned “Anita,” as well as “Wild Irish Roses,” “Father Son Holy Smoke,” “Maraca,” “Spitshine,””blkswn,” and personal favorite, “Netflix & Dusse,” which features this Afro-Caribbean style percussion that is sure to make you move your hips. “Netflix” certainly achieved this goal, including getting frequent collaborator and fellow BUKU performer, Noname, to move along to the infectious groove. Coming almost directly after her set at the Powerplant main stage I was sure Noname would jump up and perform one of the duo’s colloborations, such as Smino’s “Amphetamine,” or Noname’s “Shadow Man,” both of which are in heavy rotation in my personal playlists, but alas, no such performance occurred. Despite this slight let-down, the set was fantastic, it was honestly pretty hard not to get lost in the music and Smino’s acumen for performance. If you have never heard of Smino, you need to check this guy out, and if you have, and still haven’t caught his live show, you are, in the words of DJ Khaled “playing yourself.” -Waylon O’Day

 

Jai Wolf 

Jai Wolf by Waylon O’Day

Taking over the Float Den stage, Jai Wolf definitely carried on the happy and positive vibes for day 2. Again, I felt so appreciative to be seeing diverse artists and glad that BUKU recognizes how important diversity in music is. Jai Wolf was born in Bangladesh before his family moved to New York when he was young, and much of his music reflects his past and celebrates diversity. His set started off slow, but built up as he played a mix of old and new, EDM and pop, even throwing some rap in there. There was something for everyone during his set, and when I looked around I saw how diverse, beautiful, and happy the crowd was, too. His sound was very uplifting, Porter Robinson being one of his biggest influence, his sound definitely carried the same vibrant, happy, euphoric feeling. He even remixed “Shelter” and the audience went wild dancing to it. He also played a few of his more popular songs off his EP Kindred Spirits, as well of some of his most popular remixes, like Weekend by Mocki. My personal favorite from his set was near the end, when he played his song “The World is Ours.” His set flowed perfectly, and this was the perfect song to play near the end because it really embodies his style and energy, and also the vibe of the festival itself. With really cool visuals of the words “the world is ours” in various different languages on the screens, the audience happily dancing and smiling, and confetti being releasing, this moment was one of those that makes traveling a long distance and being on my feet all day well worth it. It felt inspiring, euphoric, and incredibly beautiful. I could feel the energy of everyone else in the room on this same level, too, as he closed out the set with everyone cheering loudly for him. Despite being a younger and relatively new DJ, Jai Wolf has definitely got some talent and added an amazing set to day 2. – Parnia Razi

 

Lil Uzi Vert 

Message from BUKU regarding Lil Uzi Vert’s no show by Waylon O’Day

So, as you may or may not know already, Lil Uzi decided he didn’t want to perform at BUKU, opting instead to stay in his hometown of Philadelphia. The festival made the announcement just before the MC was scheduled to perform at the Powerplant stage, misspelling the name of Uzi’s hometown, as well as announcing that a portion of Uzi’s money he would’ve received for his performance to charity. As if the Migos debacle the night before wasn’t ridiculous enough, Uzi gave no reason for his absence and as of this writing, has been silent on all social media regarding his absence. Many fans that I talked to complained about the lack of forward notice on the part of the festival, but this really doesn’t fall on them. If you are going to be a musician and you set a date for a performance, you should be in that city that day, or the day before depending on the time you’re set to perform. There should never be instances where musicians are cancelling or being late to performances unless their is some sort of dire circumstances. In my mind, that’s just being professional and responsible. Not only that, but it’s disrespectful to the fans that have traveled from long distances, like myself (although I wouldn’t call myself a fan, more or less I am tolerant of his music), if you want to keep your fan base strong, doing things like this is not the way to go about it. Although I’m not a huge fan of his music, his set was one of the more anticipated for me, I know the guy brings a tremendous amount of energy, and that was something I really wanted to see. I have to say after this catastrophe in PR, Lil Uzi has lost whatever chance he may have had in winning me over, as I’m sure is the same for many of the other people that were hoping to catch him live. – Waylon O’Day

 

Princess Nokia 

Princess Nokia by Waylon O’Day

Since the last time I had seen Princess Nokia at Day for Night last December, I had really started to vibe with her music, actually going out of my way to listen to her music in my free time; something I would not have done prior. The crowd that gathered at the small Wharf stage was larger than that of some of the other much larger stages, and the electricity being created amongst  the audience was tangible. Everyone was getting hyped up, including photographers gathered in the photo pit. Once Nokia finally hit the stage, it was like a bomb had gone off, the crowd exploded into screams as Nokia ran around the stage shouting the words to “Brujas,” standing on monitors to get closer to the crowd. After her first song, Nokia seemed to towel off the stage, explaining that if she didn’t she’d “have a lawsuit,” before immediately moving into “Kitana.” After the song, Nokia asked all of the press who had been rapidly trying to gather shots from her set to move to the side so her fans could see her, because they “paid a lot of money to see (her).” A move that I had a tremendous amount of respect for, despite being one of those members of the press in the photo pit. Then the beat to my personal favorite “Tomboy” came on and almost simultaneously Nokia began to climb into the audience, riding the waves of phones for what seemed like an eternity before finally putting her feet on the ground near the end of the track. Throughout the set Nokia made remarks regarding self-confidence and feminist ideology, all of which she exudes not only in her music, but her personality. Of all the female rappers that are out there, she seems to be the most aware of her place in the industry and the sort of pulpit that she is in control of. Nokia might have been a little abrasive when I had seen her in December, but after slowly subjecting myself to her art, I realized the beauty in it, and how what she stands for is so important in this day and age, where despite major impasses in society, women still lag behind in the opportunities afforded to men, regardless of merit orstature. – Waylon O’Day

 

Bassnectar

Bassheads enjoying Bassnectar by Waylon O’Day

 From miles around, bassheads of the South gathered around the Power Plant stage to see the ‘king of sound’ take the stage. With a loyal and massive fanbase, the crowd was packed more than any of other set at the festival, some people had even been posted up at the stage all day waiting to be at the rail for Bassnectar. As soon as he came on, everyone began cheering and dancing, as the bass blasted so loudly I’m sure the entire city of New Orleans could hear it. Surprisingly, he played and remixed a lot of his older music, mostly from his 2014 album Noise vs. Beauty (which is popular fan favorite). Playing hits like “Lost in the Crowd,” everyone was dancing and singing together under the lights and lasers. Having played at BUKU back in 2016, the festival definitely drew a lot of fans in by having him play again this year. No one can help sell out a festival like Bassnectar can, his sound is so vibrant, and his fanbase is focused around unity, love, and community. There’s even a group of Bassnectar fans who are Ambassadors for ‘Bass Network,’ who facilitate meetups at all Bassnectar events, set fans up with pen pals, and make sure all fans always have someone to go to the show with. As he shook the ground, he also played a few remixes and songs from his newest album, Reflective, like “Disrupt the System” and “Chromatek,” which both have deeper techno sound that fans seem to be liking. BUKU had a really great setup with high-quality sound a TON of lasers, which made the performance even more exciting. During the last song, there was even some fireworks to end the set with a bang as everyone cheered and danced to the deep bass one last time. Bassnectar also has the tradition of taking a ‘family photo’ at the end of every set, and as everyone put their hands up and cheered for the photo, there was definitely a beautiful and overwhelming sense of community. Nectar shows, and festivals like BUKU are a place where people from all walks of life and all over the world are welcome, accepted, and loved – and that was by far my favorite thing about the set. Everyone was jamming, smiling at each other, and having a great time with their friends. Life is made of small moments like these. – Parnia Razi

 

Rezz

Rezz by Waylon O’Day

Young and fresh on the scene, Rezz surprisingly was the artist to close out an incredible festival on Saturday night. This was definitely an important milestone in her career, just last year at the same festival she had an early set time during the day and a pretty small crowd. This year, she was closing with a packed crowd of nearly 5,000 fans. Her album Mass Manipulation, released last year, was definitely a game changer for her and she’s been on the come up ever since. The Float Den was totally packed, with fans outside even jamming, too. Turing it up as loud as possible and going HARD, she played an insane set. I saw her only a few months ago playing an early set during Day for Night in Houston, and this was a world of difference from that set. BUKU’s stage, lights, and sound, as well as the time she was playing made a huge difference, but she’s also an artist who’s learning and improving with literally every set she plays. She mixed a lot of different songs, playing some of her rock-influences (which an EDM twist of course) as well as some songs from her electronic influences, like Bassnectar. The set flowed brilliantly, as she also transitioned from those into her into her own hits from Mass Manipulation. I was blown away by how exciting and hard her set was, especially considering she has only been playing at festivals for about 3 years. It took artists like Excision and Bassnectar far longer to build up the fan base and the skills to play a set like this, so Rezz is insanely talented for her young age and minimum experience. It’s also exciting and really important to see female DJs coming up in the EDM scene, because it’s been such a male-dominated genre for so long. It was so refreshing to see such talented women doing what they do best at BUKU. Rezz’s trippy visuals, the bright lights and lasers, and of course the classic light-up glasses she wears made the set visually exciting as well. Fans were headbanging and going hard to the set, despite it being the last set on the last day, the energy was so high and everyone still had a lot of dancing left in them. Feeling her set, fans were wild, and someone even climbed up on of the poles in the warehouse-style building and was headbanging at the very top over the crowd. I could not have imagined a better way to end an incredible festival, or a better way to kick off my spring break. BUKU definitely did it right by having Rezz close the fest, and they overall did an excellent job. From quick lines getting in, to easy access to food and water, to the stages and production, the festival totally nailed it. Expanding their site this year and having a brilliant and diverse lineup, it’s no wonder they sold out this year. This is easily one of the overall best festivals I have ever been to, and I look forward to going back again next year. If you’re a music fan – from indie pop to EDM to rap – BUKU is the festival for you. – Parnia Razi

 

Isaiah Rashad

Isaiah Rashad by Waylon O’Day

I have been a fan of the Chattanooga native ever since I first heard that opening verse from “Shot You Down,” off his 2014 Cilvia Demo, which was nothing like most demos. It was polished to the point that the hazy production featured throughout shined like a lump of coal that had been pressed into a diamond. Opening with the Kendrick Lamar supported “Wat’s Wrong,” off his latest project The Sun’s Tirade, the smell of marijuana instantly filled the air as Rashad jumped from monitor to monitor with his Gucci sweater and purse. Of all of the high energy rappers featured at BUKU this year, Rashad topped them all, despite having rather slow production under most of his music. Dropping acapella verse left and right like they were pocket change in between songs. The set leaned heavily on songs from his last album, performing songs such as “Free Lunch,” “4r Da Squaw,” and “Smile.” However, Rashad managed to squeeze in a few tracks for day one fans, such as my personal favorite “Heavenly Father,” which features one of the most poignant lines in modern hip-hop history, “They don’t know my issues as a child/and hanging from the playground wasn’t wrong, until you got a rope around your neck.” He also threw it back with “R.I.P Kevin Miller,” which features one of the smartest choruses I have heard, and alludes to artists that aren’t really serious about their art, which Rashad is obviously serious about. Near the end of the set, Rashad would perform that same song that drew me in four years ago, creating a perfect end to what was in my opinion one of the better hip-hop performances I have ever seen. If there I had to put together a list of rappers to see live before you die, Kendrick would be there, as would Kanye, and Tyler, the Creator, and MF DOOM, but I think the one that would surprise most people is Isaiah Rashad. Quite frankly I didn’t think he’d be that exciting to watch, mostly because people had hyped up his live show to me prior to the set, so I had high expectations. Those expectations were met, and surpassed. A must-see for any self-professed hip-hop head. – Waylon O’Day

 

Thank you for reading our coverage of the BUKU Music and Art Project, it was a great experience seeing some amazing acts and meeting some fantastic people in the process. If you made it all the way to NOLA for this festival, we want to hear about your experience! Tell us what sets you caught? What were your favorites? Which sets fell flat? Let us know in the comment section and check the website for our gallery of photos from the weekend!

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