I like musical events which take over a city. There’s something extra special about having a weekend party held within walking distance of the host city’s hotels, restaurants, shops, and bars. The BUKU Project lands next weekend alongside the Mississippi River at Port of New Orleans place, walking distance from the New Orleans Convention Center. This two-day event brings together the New Orleans community in celebration of the city and with a diverse mix of music. Headliners are Tame Impala on Friday night, and Tyler, The Creator on Saturday.
BUKU has a distinct post hurricane Katrina New Orleans flavor to it and carries the city’s cultural tradition forward. Also, the event is scheduled to end at 11pm each night, allowing the revelers to move back into and interact with the city after the festival. This “at the town, in the town” aspect creates its own impact. The revelers at BUKU are not isolated there, they move from the city to the event site and then back. As such there is no “us and them” tension within the city. Some people are on the town, some are over at the event, but ultimately, they all wind up at the same place, blending into that great indoor/outdoor rolling party which is New Orleans. The BUKU Project also places its artists in late shows outside the site and in theaters open to anyone who purchases a ticket.
BUKU Music + Art Project was co-founded by Reeves Price who explained to me its vision and origin. Reeves is passionate about both New Orleans culture and how the project interacts with the city. BUKU was early putting dance music and hip hop on the same bill. Now it’s commonplace, but arguably it comes from the team’s early recognition this is a viable lineup.
Also, the BUKU organizers recognized the need to support local talent, so beyond bringing hometown acts to the event, they created Upbeat academy, a free after school music program for New Orleans youth. A portion of the ticket sales support Upbeat’s work along with other fundraising done within the event, and some of the Upbeat students are invited to perform.
One other differentiator of the BUKU project is they have a minimum age of 17 for all attendees. This is a truly obvious standard which other events should consider. It’s horrifying to see parents pushing strollers or carrying infants into a crowd where sound is pulsing at high decibels. At the very least you would hope these parents would provide ear protection for the children, although it seems to be in place less than 25% of the time. Here’s a thought: adult events are for adults. Leave your small children at home.
Reeve’s favorite part of the event is how excited, diverse, and amped up the crowd gets. The attendees are collectively the BUKREWE, a play on Mardi Gras which takes place approximately a month prior to BUKU. He believes this group is cohesive, creating a community with good vibes. He also likes the fact that BUKU changes the footprint every year, so the design contemplates new elements annually. You will not see the same event from year to year, its always being modified from the art to where the stages are constructed.
My conversation with Reeves Price was interesting and instructive. It is below in video and audio podcast format:
New Orleans has a strong musical tradition. The same can be said for its food culture and the hospitality of its people. BUKU Music + Art Project sets out a template of how the heart of a city can be opened to both local people and visitors drawn by the artists who will play. The people on the grounds at BUKU may enter as a disparate crowd from across the country. They leave as a family joined by their common love of music, food and the ways in which their hosts ingrain them into the local community and culture.