The BUKU Music + Art Project, the swarm of nighttime shows, plus Bassik, the electronic dance music series that’s been throbbing in New Orleans since 2010—all are brought to this city by Winter Circle Productions.
Founded in 2009 by music fans Dante DiPasquale and Reeves Price, Winter Circle Productions was ready to take the plunge into festival production by 2011. The next year, the two Tulane University graduates staged their first BUKU festival.
Not long after, DiPasquale, Reeves and Winter Circle Productions made a major move, by entering into partnership with AEG, the international sports and live entertainment company that’s also a partner of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
“Our end game was never to join an AEG or Live Nation,” DiPasquale says of the AEG-WCP partnership, “but after we met the AEG team, it just felt right. The partnership happened naturally. With AEG having one of their largest festivals, Jazz Fest, in our market, it made sense for them to have an office in New Orleans. They saw BUKU’s potential and we’d just signed a deal with the Joy Theater, which is a great 1,200-capacity room. It fit their plan.”
“By that time,” DiPasquale says, “we’d identified a niche—contemporary music, EDM, and hip-hop. We thought there was room for a more contemporary festival here in New Orleans and in the region.”
The fledging BUKU grew rapidly between 2012 and 2015. “And we started taking things really seriously,” DiPasquale says. “Our relationships with the venues changed. We were booking a lot more shows at Republic, and then the Joy Theater came online.”
Winter Circle Productions today produces shows at the recently upgraded Joy Theater on Canal Street and other local venues. WCP’s 2019 Jazz Fest-timed events include Phil Lesh and the Terrapin Family Band (April 25 and 26 at the Joy), Gov’t Mule (April 27 and May 4 at the Orpheum Theater), the Word featuring John Medeski, Robert Randolph, and Luther Dickinson (April 28 at the Joy), the String Cheese Incident (May 3 and 4 at Mardi Gras World), and My Morning Jacket front man Jim James (May 5 at the Joy).
“We thought the preservation of New Orleans music was in good hands,” Price says, “with the great things the Jazz and Heritage Festival Foundation and Tipitina’s were doing. So, for us, it was about the next step. We brought new flavors to the gumbo.”