With the recent resurgence of EDM (electronic dance music), most big music festivals have made sure to heavily feature acts of that genre in their lineups. But not too many festivals showcase EDM in a location befitting it: a warehouse along the Mississippi River housing trippy Mardi Gras floats. The BUKU Music + Art Project, now in its third year, does include EDM artists such as Bassnectar and Porter Robinson, but as in other years there’s hip-hop and indie rock mixed in: A$AP Rocky, Passion Pit, Run the Jewels and TV on the Radio are some of the other acts (see In Tune on pg. 36 for more). We talked to Dante DiPasquale, co-founder of BUKU and Winter Circle Productions, about this year’s festival, March 13-14 at Mardi Gras World, 1400 Port of New Orleans Place.
What’s new with BUKU this year? A few new things include more and larger art installations, a revamped “Front Yard” area with music, games, expanded seating and craft beverages, rentable lockers, new production elements and merch, some things we’re keeping a secret and, most importantly to a lot of us nerdy festival collectors, cloth wristbands. Besides tons of my favorite artists performing, I’m most excited about the return of the VIP riverboat and to see what surprise, pop-up street performances are in store this year.
Talk about how the festival has grown since its inception. It’s grown in its national recognition, it’s grown in its fruitful relationship with the city of New Orleans and it’s grown in its internal organization. But what we’re most proud of is that it hasn’t grown too much and has stayed true to its boutique roots. In an era of the mega festival, BUKU has consciously kept a scaled down, intimate approach that truly pays attention to its branding and the desires of its niche fanbase.
Looking at all the other music festivals in New Orleans, what do you think makes BUKU different? We’ve been inspired by the other New Orleans festivals for years, and Jazz Fest in particular is one of America’s greatest events, but I think BUKU fills a gap in three main regards. First, it feeds off of the creative, artistic, underground sub-culture of New Orleans, which is imperative to the city’s evolution, and marries it with internationally recognized street and pop culture. Secondly, it recognizes and celebrates a younger demographic who demand an extremely relevant lineup. And finally, BUKU provides a truly urban experience with its downtown location, concrete setting, views of the city skyline and Crescent City Connection, and its post-industrial train tracks/warehouse/river/power plant vibe.
Any insider’s tips on how to navigate the festival? BUKU is located at Mardi Gras World on a sliver in between the Mississippi River and Public Belt Railroad, which not only makes for the sickest festival grounds ever, but also makes it pretty easy to navigate. The stages are close to each other — but no sound bleed due to the indoor/outdoor facility — making it easy to bounce around and catch a little bit of every artists’ performance. I would just recommend keeping an eye out for the diversity that BUKU tends to attract and to just let the vibe of the day navigate you.