Every city in America has its own music scene, but in New Orleans, music is a way of life – a cultural infrastructure as essential to the city as its freeways and French Quarter. Jazzfest attracts the best in rock, folk and jazz to NOLA each year, but for those of us who want more youthful, visceral music and a more colorful, fluid experience, BUKU Music and Arts Project goes down on March 10-11, 2016 for the sixth year straight.

BUKU stands out in a saturated music festival market both for its timing (arguably the first big event of “festival season”) and it’s consistently nuanced lineup. No one is reinventing the wheel by stacking their lineup with hip-hop, indie, and dance music, but whom are you booking specifically? It takes balls and creativity to craft a card of eclectic, forward-thinking and often experimental artists like what BUKU has assembled. Where else can you see Deadmau5 and Travis Scott? Clams Casino and Troyboi? Shiba San and Thundercat? If you’ve answered, “I can see them at Festival XYZ,” it doesn’t matter, because that’s not in New Orleans.

BUKU is set just outside the city’s French Quarter on a sprawling riverside esplanade. The Power Plant stage is adjacent to the river and sits in the shadow of an abandoned industrial colossus. Two indoor stages diversify the vibe with The Ballroom offering an intimate aesthetic, and the Float Den serving as a massive gathering spot lined with Mardi Gras floats and craft vendors. A fourth stage, the Back Alley, is tucked beneath the Crescent City Connection bridge and offers an unbroken stream of dance music all day and into the night.





BUKU is also one of the most colorful festival environments in America, and in the Front Yard one can enjoy the vibe created by dozens of local visual artists. The fest is filled with a seemingly endless amount of bold and bright street art and graffiti, some painted right in front of you in the Live Graffiti Gallery. BUKU break-dancing squads set up shop throughout the grounds to entertain and set off random dance parties. All in all, BUKU is an explosion of art, music, motion and vibes. According to the BUKU crew themselves, they “bring avant-garde art with a heavy industrial focus, creating a functional and interactive playground for everyone to participate, relax, and get #TOOBUKU”


The VIP experience is especially rewarding at BUKU, as you gain access to the S.S. BUKU. Aboard this steamboat docked off the esplanade, guests can get down to OG dubstep from Ganja White Night, fierce futuristic trap from Ekali, or new-age freeform pop from Stelouse among others.


It’s hard to overemphasize how fire this lineup is. Undercard names like AF The Naysayer or Opiuo will spin something you’ve never quite heard before. Space Jesus spinning back to back with Minnesota is sure to be a bass extravaganza, and Shiba San b2b with Justin Jay is a house lover’s dream. Always keeping the focus on the artists and not the spectacle, BUKU will host showcases for New York’s sultry R&B label Saint Heron, and New Orleans’ own dedicated artists the Dohm Collective. Suicide Boys, another group from NOLA, will shock your socks off with their hard-edged nihilist rap, or you can cool out with 21 Savage, Young Thug and Lil Yachty. A performance from the innovative hip-hop producer Clams Casino is rare and not to be missed. Tycho’s raw ethereal sound is well-suited for the Project’s grounds, and Zeds Dead is sure to hold it down for the EDM heads. As for the rest of the undercard, BUKU books creative, often low-key artists who’ve got serious sounds and style to offer.

Highlights from my own BUKU experience still seem fresh in my memory, from an extremely energetic Gramatik get-down in the warehouse, to Ghostface Killa performing Michael Jackson with a live band, and bumping into a plain-clothes Derek Vincent Smith aka Pretty Lights on the way to a bonkers Odesza performance in the Float Den. At the end of the weekend, I sprawled on a massive net hung between two shipping containers too spent to catch the closing sets. I was simply happy to take in the sounds and colors and cavort with lovely strangers who all seemed as satiated as I was.

If I could describe the best part of BUKU in a word, it would be “vibe”. The energy is unparalleled among non-camping festivals because as the organizers emphasize, this is a Project, something every attendee can actively contribute too. Check out some fresh sounds from BUKU’s lineup below, and purchase your tickets here. The Project also offers travel packages for a fully curated NOLA experience.

’Thundercat – ‘Them Changes”
’StéLouse & MYRNE – Call Me’
’Clams Casino – I’m God (San Holo Edit)’
’Young Thug Feat. Gucci Mane – Again’
’Alina Baraz & Galimatias – Can I (Ekali Remix)’
’Suicide Boys – Antarctica’
’Caddywhompus – Stuck’
’Car Seat Headrest – Beach Life
’deadmau5 – Snowcone (Original Mix)’
’4 – Liquid Stranger & Space Jesus – SPACE BOSS’
’Justin Jay – Mind’
’Malaa & Maximono – Arsenic’
’Clumpy Cider by Opiuo’
’Kaiydo – Reflections’
’Lil Yachty x Rich the Kid – Fresh Off A Boat’
’Troyboi Wonky’
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