After a two-year hiatus from music events and parties in a city where jazz was invented and Mardi Gras takes precedence over daily responsibilities, the city of New Orleans seemed to finally be able to breathe again. The spark of life returned to the French Quarter this spring when our creole neighbors fostered a festival full of voodoo magic and cajun culture.
BUKU Music and Arts Festival returned to the banks of the southern Mississippi River for its 10th anniversary on March 25th and 26th. It contained a diverse lineup of 67 total artists ranging from EDM to indie rock and everything in between. With perfect 75-degree weather that rained sunshine and headliners like Tyler the Creator and Tame Impala, this weekend was destined for success.
Day one of the festival was full of excitement as the fields of Mardi Gras World were once again filled with music and art lovers. The festival grounds contained five stages, local food vendors, bars, numerous art installations, and even a general store in case you forgot any necessities.
A variety of acts displayed tremendous enthusiasm such as Trippie Redd, Rezz, Porter Robinson, and of course the hometown heroes $uicideboy$. The community of fans and festival enthusiasts here are coined the “bukrewe”, and they brought heavy energy with welcoming smiles. Being a 17+ event, the crowd was more mature but that didn’t hinder the experience.
Tame Impala closed on day one and stole the show with an explosion of color blended with sound. It was more than a concert; it was an immersive experience into the ambient world of The Slow Rush. Continuing the theme of their most recent album the show opened with a short clip introducing the audience to “rushium” an experimental time therapy treatment that improves the perception of time and transcends this dimension to a place where music is alive and breathing.
Serenity overcame the field as Kevin Parker led the band through two hours of masterful music including most of their discography such as “Borderline”, “Eventually”, “Elephant”, “Let It happen”, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”, and “The Less I Know the Better”.
Watching the performance of these world-renowned records was like watching the songs dance as if the light fixtures and visuals were an extension of the instruments. With every smokescreen, laser, or flash of light, a simultaneous strum of a guitar or beat of a drum would occur in sync. Each song seemed to have its own personality being showcased by this visual display. It was all intertwined by a massive circle suspended above the stage, moving in all directions integrated with hundreds of light features.
Day two returned with several big-name artists such as Flo Milli, Vince Staples, Alison Wonderland, Sullivan King, Glass Animals, Kali Uchis, and Houston’s very own Maxo Kream. The EDM music on the wharf vibrated waves that carry the nearby ferries. Outside of music, local artists create pieces for all to see, so many stop and stare as a feeling of peace is born in the middle of crowded feet. Graffiti sprays and disco balls sway through the day and past dusk, the art here is a must.
Additionally, days before winning his first-ever Grammy, the emerging hip-hop superstar, Baby Keem, took the twilight set as the sun sank over the southern Mississippi River. Coming right out of the gates Keem blasted banger after banger with ultimate energy and a powerful vibe.
Spotlighted moments included the performance of songs “trademark usa“, “Honest“, “booman“, “Orange Soda“, and his most famous song “Family Ties” featuring his cousin Kendrick Lamar. His mere stage presence caused the crowd to bounce and mosh like waves from a tugboat. At times the crowd chanting his lyrics was louder than every speaker and subwoofer on stage, and there was nothing else for Keem to do but smile. Even in a city where he’s never been before, the city surely knew him.
The exclamation mark of the festival was Tyler the Creator’s Call Me If You Get Lost tour making a necessary pit stop in NOLA. Which would turn out to be his last festival performance before the album would win a Grammy the following week for “Best Rap Album of the Year”. It was another set that opened with a short clip, this time showing the beautiful Italian landscapes that promoted the theme of his album, inviting listeners to travel and embrace new experiences.
The stage design even paid homage to the city of New Orleans. There was a house behind him on stage that resembled a traditional New Orleans home with iron railings on the balconies and ivy twisted around the structure, also the silhouettes of jazz musicians could be seen playing in the windows. He began his show loud and proud with hit songs from his album Call Me If You Get Lost like “Sir Baudelaire”, “Corso”, “WusYaName“, and “Lumberjack” before diving deeper into his discography. After establishing high energy and demonstrating master lyricism, his authentic personality stepped into the spotlight through humor and an honest perspective.
Tyler is known for connecting with each city he steps on stage in with these traits, so he paused the music to speak on his local endeavors with the crowd saying, “the food is crazy, I had some jambalaya pasta I didn’t even know that existed, y’all put fish in every single thing, for real someone offered me turtle soup earlier like what is that”.
This dialogue produced a welcoming ambiance full of warm winds and smiles, he even went off stage to dance with and include the sign language translator. Stunningly, he then performed his new song “Come On, Let’s Go” which was released only a day before. He proceeded to have a remarkable showing of his long list of masterful records including platinum hits “EARFQUAKE” and “See You Again”.
CMIYGL is quoted by Tyler as the importance of “encouraging exploration, experiences, traveling, and just the idea of newness, but taking a pause and going home to digest it all also holds some weight… I hope you can join me on this excursion”
Take some advice from Tyler and be a creator. I’m thankful you can step into my mind and experience a piece of these performances. Similar to Tyler’s closing act, I encourage you to not be afraid to get lost; in music, in traveling, in love, in your dreams – immerse yourself into experiences of all sorts. Call me when you get lost.