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FEST RECAP: BUKU Music + Art Project 2015

Portugal. The Man

Portugal. The Man

The fourth edition of The BUKU Music + Art Project once again featured some of the biggest names in hip hop, EDM, and rock at the totally unique setting of Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World. This festival keeps getting bigger every year, selling out weeks in advance and featuring an increasingly diverse lineup. After a week of rain and clouds, the sun came out Friday afternoon to welcome the neon-colored crowds to the fest and made for perfect festival weather all weekend. Local promoters Winter Circle Productions and HUKA Entertainment capped attendance at 15,000 in order to provide an experience that felt like a huge party without ever getting overcrowded.

From the massive S.S. BLUKU to the tiny Front Yard stage, there was never a dull moment at BUKU. Amidst all the controlled chaos, here are some of our favorite performances we caught this weekend:

Run the Jewels

Run the Jewels

Run The Jewels

Run The Jewels is a truly original hip hop group: a mixed race duo that features Atlanta’s Killer Mike and New York’s El-P with an anarchist bent and arena-ready EDM beats.  Walking onstage to Queen’s “We are the Champions,” the duo wasted no time tearing into “Run the Jewels” as the crowd went wild to the berserk beats and machine-gun rapping.  Songs like “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” and “Banana Clipper” were simply explosive and proved why these guys have topped every blog’s “Best Albums” list for the past two years. With graciousness and humility to go with their incredible talent, Killer Mike and El-P are pushing aside the bloated braggadocio of their contemporaries and leading the charge for a new breed of MC.

Ghostface Killah and BADBADNOTGOOD

Most rappers perform with a DJ in order to keep the focus on the lyrical dexterity of the MC and eliminate the complications of a live band.When rappers are backed by actual musicians, though, the resulting product becomes something entirely different.  Wu-Tang Clan alumnus Ghostface Killah has spent the past year collaborating with jazz-fusion band BADBADNOTGOOD on both an album and tour that sound like nothing else in modern hip hop. The incredibly tight band can drop into classic soul and weave in and out of Ghostface’s complex raps without breaking a sweat, and then veer off into dark, cinematic excursions at the drop of a hat. On stage the band showed incredible chemistry, grooving their way through their original songs and throwing in some classic Wu-Tang tracks for good measure.

TV on the Radio

TV on the Radio

TV on the Radio

New York art-rock band TV on the Radio were one of the tightest live bands to play all weekend, showing off the confidence they have developed from 10 years of playing together. The band played a good number of tracks from their recent album, 2014's Seeds, and threw in a healthy dose of classic tracks for the diehard fans in the crowd. With such an excellent discography, TV on the Radio would be excused for putting on a sub-par live show; the fact that they're just as comfortable on stage as in the studio solidifies their place as one of the best bands in modern rock.

STS9

Electronic jam band STS9 returned to BUKU for a late afternoon set that showed off the band’s impressive ability to build hypnotic rhythms through live improvisation. Since their last appearance at BUKU 2013, STS9 has evolved into a funkier, more dance-friendly outfit thanks to the addition of bassist Alana Rocklin. The band’s entrancing sound flowed effortlessly from ambient to upbeat as hardcore fans and casual listeners alike soaked in the many musical flavors.  A late-night show at The Joy Theater the following evening saw the band delve into deeper, darker jams, but it delivered a perfectly paced set on Friday to ease the dancing masses into the weekend as the sun went down over the Mississippi.

See below for Steven Hatley's shots from BUKU 2015, and click here for an extended gallery.

Shane Colman writes about music for NolaVie. Email him at [email protected] Follow him on [email protected] and on Instagram at shawncoolman.