Big names bring crowds to BUKU Music + Art Project despite cancellations

New Orleans as a city is well-known for its massive number of festivals and its wide variety of culture and music that flood the city every year, but few other events measure up to the spectacle that is the BUKU Music + Art with its signature flashing lights, earth-shaking bass and costumed shenanigans.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the annual two-day festival can be seen immediately after entering its gates: the mass of hip-hop and electronic dance music lovers. Walking from stage to stage, it’s impossible not to get swept up in the crowd of extraterrestrial metallic-colored clothing, copious amounts of body glitter and enough LED-imbued costumes to turn each attendee into a sort of living light show.


Day one’s lineup was comprised of several well-known artists such as Migos, SZA and MGMT, but also many up-and-coming names like Bishop Briggs and New Thousand, a locally-based band with its own unique blend of musical styles. Commonly found improvising on street corners in the French Quarter, New Thousand is experiencing a new platform by performing at music festivals.

“I’ll say that this is the second music festival we’ve ever played, so it’s not a familiar thing for us,” New Thousand violinist Adrian Jusdanis said. “But I like the atmosphere.”

As the night went on, bigger names in the world of EDM began to take the stage, and the wide color spectrum of strobing lights began to shine brighter and in a wider array of patterns. The Australian DJ Alison Wonderland gave an electrifying performance in the Float Den, sending waves of sound and bass into the crowd throughout an intense set.

Josh Jessiman | Photography Editor
SZA’s energetic, soulful set was one of the most memorable moments of day one, despite being cut short by an injury the singer sustained.

The most attention, however, was drawn to the Power Plant starting around 8 p.m., as crowds began to gather for SZA. Beginning with the soulful melody of her hit “Supermodel,” SZA leapt into an incredibly energetic performance, belting out soaring notes and inspiring the crowd to sing along to its favorite songs. Easily the pinnacle of the night, SZA gave a stunning performance in spite of her fighting against asthma through the duration of her set, which was tragically cut short when she twisted her ankle.

As fans waited for Migos to take the stage, their patience wore thin as the minutes passed. About 15 minutes after the set should have begun, festival-goers began receiving notifications that the trio had landed in New Orleans. They finally took the stage about half an hour late, but their short-lived set was nonetheless pretty lit.

Josh Jessiman | Photography Editor
Despite a late start to its set, Migos still managed to impress in a shorter timeframe.

Day one definitely gave a representative sample of what BUKU Music + Art tries to accomplish each year – creating an atmosphere of shock and awe that manifests itself in both the music and festival culture – and set the standard for the following day.


The second day of BUKU brought with it many promises, some which came to fruition and others that fell through.

Day two began virtually the same as the first, with even more colorful, LED-clad costumes and glitter. As the live graffiti artists began the final strokes of  their paintings, crowds started to gather at the various stages. Noname was the soundtrack of the midday hustle and bustle, performing at the main stage as hundreds of people made their way through the front gates.

Lil Uzi Vert was anticipated to be one of the highlights of day two, but the rapper never showed up to the festival. As his fans stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a crowd waiting for him, a message appeared on the screen announcing his absence.

“Lil Uzi is still in Philadelphia and decided not to come at the last minute,” read the message displayed on the screen. “There is no reason. He just cancelled on us with no advance notice.”

Fans were disappointed, but the festival promised to donate what would have been his fee for playing the festival to the Upbeat Academy Foundation.

Female-led acts Sylvan Esso and Little Dragon both rocked the Ballroom stage, each bringing a unique and energetic performance. Immediately following them was Isaiah Rashad. The Top Dog Entertainment-signed rapper played through a few of his lesser-known tracks before his hits.

“I’ma play my favorite songs before I play y’alls, is that alright?” Rashad said.

The rapper ended the night by descending the stage to meet and greet his fans before eventually being asked to leave by the security staff.

While the second day of BUKU may have been disappointing for a few festival-goers, it was still able to bring the same vibrant energy as the previous.

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