Starting the day off with great weather, it was a perfect day in New Orleans to kick off this year’s BUKU Music & Art Project. People from all around came to the city for the festival, as it sold out over a week before the event. Unique in its diverse lineups and urban, industrial vibes, you won’t find any other festival like BUKU. In the heart of New Orleans, at Mardi Gras World and right next to the river, it captures the vibrant culture of New Orleans but also the culture of the music they inspire. BUKU celebrates diversity, inclusivity, and partying in freedom while celebrating everyone’s individuality and expression. Coog Radio contributors Parnia Razinobakht and Darshak Chudasama were were excited to get into the gates, explore the newly expanded festival grounds, make new friends, and of course jam out to some great music. Keep reading for the highlights of Day 1!
Toro y Moi
Chaz Bear has been producing the perfect leisure tunes for the past decade now but I was curious to see how the chillwave frontman would perform in a festival setting. It was remarkable to see how similar his demeanor was to his music – entirely cordial while slightly reclusive. As soon as he opened his set with “Ordinary Pleasure,” any doubts that I had in mind were gone. He mostly sang through songs from his most recent project Outer Peace, such as “Monte Carlo” and “Laws of the Universe.” The latter had a perfect crowd sing-along moment with the line, “I don’t give a f***!” The crowd grew closer and the vibes grew stronger. Alongside Chaz was a 4-piece band, featuring a keyboardist, multi-percussionist, bass guitarist, and a drummer. The supporting quartet added a live instrumentation aspect that would have otherwise been severely lacking had he performed alongside a recorded production. For example, “Girl Like You” would have been completely devoid of the compassion of Chaz if it weren’t for the oomph of the drumset or the groove from the multi-percussionist. He closed out his show with “New Beat.” From his early project Underneath the Pine, the track features quirky keyboards and a thumpy bassline. The entire set had the audience dancing and smiling, including through softer tracks like “50-50.” His performance was as blissful as it was fun. Imagine a live performance of peaceful dance tunes during an ideal Spring sunset. Yeah. I’d be jealous too.
As the sun began to set, Excision came on stage and was met with a roaring crowd of fans ready to headbang to his dubstep/hardstyle music. A Canadian DJ who has made his way into the American EDM scene, Excision has hit major success over the last few years after his album Virus in 2016. He now even has his own festival in Ohio every year. Everyone was ready at the rails, and Excision did not disappoint as he brought heavy drum & bass, getting heads bopping right away. With incredible build-ups, bright visuals, and a clear passion for what he’s doing, Excision played a good set to get the night going. I loved seeing his crowd up to the rail while I was taking photos, as everyone was smiling, having so much fun, and of course, headbanging. Although personally, I’ve always felt a little underwhelmed by Excision’s production, and his sets can be rather repetitive, I appreciated the energy it brought and I had fun at his set.
Denzel Curry is one of very few rappers that can guarantee a physically rattling show. The mere 24 year-old seemed inexhaustible while performing his heart out in a not-so surprising, filled-to-the-brim venue (including the second floor balcony). A digital curtain-sequence revealed the words “ACT ONE” on a giant screen, then slowly transitioned into a looped, creepy circus clown riding a unicycle. This is when I realized I wasn’t going to experience an ordinary rap show. Instead, it would be an unusual circus act; one that revolved around a rap machine instead of an acrobat or animal-tamer.
Denzel’s junior project TA13OO is introduced with the self-titled track “Taboo,” a somber disclosure that also opened his performance. The black and white swirl on the screen trapped half of the audience in a trance, well that is until Denzel began to switch it up with tracks like “Black Balloon,” “Sumo,” and “ULT.” Around this point is when he began activating his inner Super Saiyan. Rapping at high velocities over trap-style beats is where Denzel thrives. It’s what all the elbow throwing and brute-like pushing predetermined. After the gruesome moshing during “Clout Cobain,” I had a feeling that would be the climax of the night. Denzel took a moment of silence for his recently passed friend, another Florida Native, rapper and former roommate XXXTentacion. And a few minutes later…we hear the iconic opening to the late rapper’s “Look At Me.” “Yuh! Aye! Yuh! Aye!” Remember that dumb feeling I had about the climax or whatever? Yeah, I was wrong. Sorry to those who had a shitty childhood, but to all my Dragon Ball Z fans out there, remember that feeling we all had after school, when Goku finally reached enough power to reach Super Saiyan for the first time during his battle with Frieza? Well, I saw that happen live. Denzel not only unleashed an absurd amount of force, he brought the crowd with him. If you haven’t seen this man perform live, do yourself a favor, and go.
Listen here. Death Grips is the only band that I will see every time they are in a 500 mile radius of me. One of the main reasons I decided to attend
BUKU was because of this trio. I even got a Death Grips related tattoo a week prior to the show out of pure excitement.
So let’s just say, I was pretty stoked to see them perform again. The moment the three mysterious weirdos walked on stage, the crowd (myself included) basically lost their minds. I went from “Act professional, I’m here for business purposes only,” to fanboying like a pubescent One Direction fangirl within a matter of seconds. After finishing up with soundcheck (which was honestly a performance in its own), Zach Hill and MC Ride obviously couldn’t perform with hoodies on, that wouldn’t be very Death Grips-like, so they went bare and jumped straight into “Lost Boys.” They forgo opportunity to acknowledge the crowd in any shape or form. As the industrial room went dark, and Zach shifted gear straight into sports mode, I felt a sense of deja-vu to the last time I had seen them. Through the entire set, from the pure chaos that is “Giving Bad People Good Ideas” to the track labeled as the song of the summer by Rolling Stones Magazine, “Black Paint,” Stefan screamed into the microphone like he took a few too many doses of C4. There were no breaks in between, no time for thinking. Seeing the group maneuver between “Get Got,” a vortex into the realms of The Money Store, and into the bizarre 22-minute mega-mix “Steroids,” is beyond me. I took a few seconds here to catch my breath while the three gleamed into the audience with death stares through every soul in the crowd. My little break was over when we got blasted into a paranoid frenzy. “Come Up and Get Me” and “No Love” are truly unrelenting. It’s easy to get lost in Zach’s drum licks or Ride’s manic episodes, but in these darker tracks we saw Andy’s performance become alive as well. Behind his keyboard, his moves were rigid and staccato. If he wasn’t looking down at his keyboard, he was staring down his prey, and I promise it’s a staring contest you won’t win. After ending with the banger, “The Fever (Aye Aye),” there wasn’t much left except a still-pissed off Stefan, a pool of sweat hovering over Zach’s drum kit, and an agile, ready-to-leave Andy. No hellos, no goodbyes, and no bullshit. Definitely the highlight of my BUKU experience, be sure to check these guys out if you have the opportunity.
As the day melted into evening, Ekali played a killer set at the updated Wharf 2.0 stage. Even though he is a fresh face in the EDM DJ world, Ekali goes way back with his talent for producing incredible music. You may be familiar with his beat that Drake sampled on his song “Preach.” He’s also released some incredible new music on his recent EP Crystal Eyes, which has many unique tracks and fresh collaborations. He played a great mix of his own music, from old to new, and I enjoyed the flow of his set as he had a great balance of heavier drops with ambient beats. Ekali has a really versatile sound, and I appreciate how perfectly he blended all his different styles together in this set. He even threw in a few songs by other artists, like Alison Wonderland, which definitely got the crowd dancing. Being an artist I’ve been wanting to check out live for a while, he did not disappoint and went hard for his entire set. I especially enjoyed hearing him play his newest single “R U I N,” a collaboration with another rising EDM artist, 1799-L. The crowd was heating up and vibrant, with hoopers and headbangers alike coming together for a night of exciting music at the Wharf.
Were you lucky to enough enjoy Day 1 of Buku? Tell us about your favorite moment in the comments below! Follow the site for the highlights of Day 2!