Now in its fourth year running, the team behind the Buku Music & Arts Project were set for the festival's biggest and best year to date. A mixture of perfectly placed stages, a stellar lineup with something for everyone, and a breezy riverfront view of the Mississippi river made this landscape a hard one for other festivals to top. Other unique amenities included were the Monster viewing decks, Fort Buku, which had a web you could lay in, and the infamous Graffiti wall. After getting the lay of the land, fans were treated to a return visit from STS9, the well-known jamtronica rock band, which previously performed at Buku in 2013. The party was in full motion come 6PM.

STS9 opened their set with a bass heavy “Moon Socket” led by Alana Rocklin to let the crowd know they are still the tribe we love. Alana was recruited in March 2014 as the new bassist, just two months after David Murphy, one of the founding members, parted ways with the group on January 14, 2014. The highlight of their set was the lowlight ending of orange, pink and streaks of purple. The sun began to set around 7 o’clock, just to the back right of the stage. The timing was impeccable, and Sound Tribe Sector 9 planned accordingly, finishing the last 25 minutes or so of their set with “Only Light Remains>Golden Gate>Rent” to further illuminate the beauty that was the setting of the southern sun. The “sunset-set” truly established the mood for the entire weekend, masterfully instilling the sense of the magic of music that musicians strive to capture with their live performances.

As the light turned into night on Friday the 13th, a flurry of hip-hop acts such as Run The Jewels and A$AP Rocky & A$AP Mob took the stage. Killer Mike and El-P (Run The Jewels) brought the heavy hitting beats and raunchy attitude and splattered them all over the Ballroom with crowd favorites such as “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck).” Immediately after, the Power Plant stage unveiled A$AP Rocky and his Mob. Shockingly, Rocky stuck around after his set to catch the following act, Empire of the Sun.

Empire of the Sun’s theatrically themed aspects within their stage environment was cohesive with Buku one-of-a-kind setting. Their visuals were made up of not only lights and digitalized images but also live dancers and creative costumes. Appearing as synchronized white birds, the dancers added a sense of flight to the mystical image of Luke Steele, the lead singer, who wore a gold and black robe with a golden helmet, creating an exquisite environment to marvel at throughout the entire performance.

At this point of the evening, it was appropriate to take a breather in the smaller vicinity known as the Back Alley. The official website of Buku describes the Back Alley as an “underground dance party” with “a sexy riverside vibe.” The Back Alley doesn’t tend to boast big names, but that’s the point. Whether the sun is high in the sky or below the horizon, the Back Alley hooligans are partying like it’s 2AM. Over the weekend, acts like Thomas Jack, Carneyval and Justin Martin b2b Eats Everything brought impressive sets that gave the stage its underground dance party feel. Scheduled to end at 12:30AM, but playing until 1AM anyway, Justin Martin closed out the Back Alley Saturday night. One highlight of the weekend came immediately after his set ended. A DJ cart designed to look like a mystical bull led the dance party to the exit. Giving homage to New Orleans while still keeping true to its electronic feel, Buku sent us off with an electrofunkadelic second line parade.

Closing out the festival grounds on Friday night was the hip-hop and electronic fusionist Denis Jasarevic, better known as Gramatik. With support from Russ Liquid on keyboard and saxophone and Andrew Block, one of New Orleans’ most in demand guitar players, it was a packed house in the ballroom for his set.

For about a thousand people, the night was far from being over — we were in New Orleans after all. Right around the corner, GRiZ and Preservation Hall Jazz Band were rehearsing for a collaborative show at the Joy Theater that could only appropriately be witnessed in a city like this. The show started off strong with tunes off GRiZ's soon to be released album Say It Loud as the New Orleans legends provided support on brass and percussion. The set then rolled into a solo performance by GRiZ that kept everyone dancing the night away into the early hours of Saturday.

While returning to the grounds on Saturday afternoon, I was greeted by sets from XXYYXX, who mellowed out a Float Den crowd, and Carneyval, a local music producer who performed in the Back Alley. He is a current student at Tulane University and has been making headlines and growing his fan base locally from day one.

I was still fatigued from the night before, which had entailed GRiZ’s late night after-show as well as the infamous Frenchmen Street. However, the start of Bassnectar's energetic set quickly aided my weariness. His live performances are so distinctly different from any other artists' because of their entire experience — heavy hitting music, insane visuals paired with perfectly timed lighting, all of which puts every member of the audience into a combination of a trance and a literal frenzy. The standout track from the performance was “Noise," which was coupled with the images of a cat and a dog trading their electric hysteria back and forth through laser vision.

The passing of the torch to STS9 to close out the weekend in fashion with a delectable two set after party at the Joy Theater was more than fitting, as it seemed evident they were the reigning champs of the weekend. With the high expectations of a worn out crowd, it was surprising to see the energy still pulsating throughout the packed room.

This year marked a wildly successful event for Buku, proving why it is becoming one of the most anticipated events every year. From its unique setting to its diverse, star-studded lineup, you can expect Buku to continue to establish itself as one of the hottest festivals in the U.S. moving forward. We, along with many other fans, will be anxiously awaiting the festival's return next March.

Written by: Ryan Suder
Photos by: Austin Carriere