Ten p.m. at Mardi Gras World Saturday was rowdy. St. Patrick’s Day was a contributing factor, but the music and scene at Buku were bigger ones. Buku combined the best of electronic dance music (EDM), hip-hop, and places where the lines blur together for a party that started just before dusk and went late into the night. The later the hour, the more people that appeared.
The main draw was rapper Wiz Khalifa, who was sipping tea on stage to nurse a bad throat. But being a little sick did not affect the show, which was a hit. Most of the gigantic crowd stood outside in the cool night breeze along the Mississippi River and sang along while there was still a significant gathering inside the ballroom for Holy Fuck’s psychedelic space rock. Avicii dropped heavy beats before Wiz Khalifa’s performance and showed an impressive range, remixing everything from classical music to Red Hot Chili Peppers. He also provided a mesmerizing light show that was partially drowned by the setting sun.
Diplo was the star DJ of the day, closing the show and playing until after one in the morning. People in green St. Patrick’s Day costumes that had been up since that morning at the parade were still dancing like fools, and many stuck around for the after party. Overall, Buku drew in a lot of viewers for its big names but also introduced people to artists that they may not have been familiar with before. Gramatik, Rockie Fresh, Yelle DJs, and Cities Aviv were all first listens for me, and I’ll bet they were firsts for a lot of others as well.
In its second day of life, Mother Nature sent Buku her blessings in the form of ample sunlight moderated by a refreshing breeze that swirled in off the river. Bay Area-bred Loyola graduate G-Eazy was first to rock the main outdoor stage, and his tunes, complete with soulful choruses and vicious rhyming attack, did wonders to complement the sunny weather conditions. “The kids that come to the music festivals really care about the music,” he said after the set. “If you’re going to pay this much to come see this many acts, you really give a shit about the music, and that’s great to see.”
A-Trak was next outside, and he cranked the BPM dial way up, and the bass hungry crowd flocked to the stage to jump around and get wild. In the middle of the crowd, I was convinced the decibels could be felt and heard all the way downriver. Experimental dance DJ/percussionist SBTRKT took over next, and the crowd sang along to the smooth, sultry voice of his partner in crime, Sampha. Both performers wore bright, feathered masks as they played in front of a screen with matching neon reds, oranges, yellows, and blues, adding to the vibrancy of Buku.
After SBTRKT, crowd favorite Big Gigantic tore up the ballroom stage. The sax and drum duo kept the crowd hopping—literally—as they presented their distinct fusion of electro, hip-hop and dubstep. The duo set the stage for the ballroom closer, Mississippi rapper Big K.R.I.T., who was not short on energy.
The closing slot for the outdoor stage was reserved for dubstep golden boy, Skrillex. The weather continued to cooperate late into the night as he put on the show of a lifetime for lovers of dubstep. Standing behind a DJ booth that looked as though it came straight from the set of Star Trek, he rocked out to the fullest, and the whole place went ape every time smoke machines sent blasts of white clouds into the air. He proved to be the perfect finale for the droves of tempestuous 16-25 year olds that provided Buku with all-day energy.