Six years ago, the Buku Music + Art Project began as the ambitious, festival-sized holy grail for New Orleans-based concert promoters Winter Circle Productions. It has since attracted names including Kendrick Lamar, Run the Jewels and Nas, among others, at its annual two-day event at Mardi Gras World. Its lineups reflect an evolving hip-hop-centric and electronic zeitgeist, with room for buzzy indie rock and pop artists, creating a weekend snapshot of a young, simmering, just-below-ground pop culture.
Headliners at the festival's 2017 edition (March 10-11) include returning rap duo Run The Jewels and rappers Travis Scott, Young Thug, 21 Savage and Vince Staples, along with electronic powerhouses deadmau5 and Zeds Dead, and acclaimed Brainfeeder bassist Thundercat and 2016 rock darlings Car Seat Headrest.
While the events' headliners have gotten bigger, the festival also has offered up precious space and stage time to the local scenes that helped build it, from the latest iteration of the rave culture that laid the foundation for the city's electronic dance scenes to the independent, DIY artists carrying their torch. New Orleans artists AF THE NAYSAYER, Caddywhompus, ROAR! and Unicorn Fukr are among the New Orleans artists taking the mainstages and adjoining Back Alley booth, and six music collectives and locally based record labels host showcases on the festival's "front yard."
Javier Drada, a longtime Miami house and techno DJ, helped launch the Techno Club NOLA collective in 2015, with its first official event in May 2016. The collective hosts weekly "We Love Techno" events and radio broadcasts focused primarily on local electronic artists recreating a "pure techno" experience, similar to what you would find in Eastern European clubs, but "everybody involved is focused on the music, specifically for this city," Drada says.
"We're pretty picky on who plays and when they play," he adds. "It almost seems a bit snobbish, but I have to manage the sound — it's the only way for people to get the full experience."
Techno Club's showcase begins at 6:45 p.m. Saturday. Though focused exclusively on its New Orleans scene, its Buku spotlight "is able to showcase what we do to a greater local and national audience, which is huge for us," Drada says.
On Friday, New Orleans punk and experimental label Community Records hosts a showcase with largely analog electronic outfit Sharks' Teeth and punk bands All People and Gland. It's followed by Bayou International Soundsystem, led by New Orleans preeminent reggae dancehall authority and selector DJ T-Roy, with DJ Hooligan and DJ Silva, and a showcase from DOHM Collective, featuring electronic artists C-LAB, Klutch, Lo Meyn and Zupparty.
On Saturday, Solange's New Orleans-based Saint Heron label hosts a showcase with a DJ set from Like of rap trio Pac Div and performances from DJ Zo and electronic producer Kyle Woods. Upbeat Academy — which offers music production education to New Orleans area students — hosts a showcase with ZIGGMONSTER, ANSWRS, WXRXSHXP and current Upbeat Academy student artists.
Locals ascending to the mainstages include ROAR! (formerly Yojimbo), which released the genre-tripping indie pop album La-Di-Da in 2016, and Caddywhompus, the ecstatic drum-and-guitar duo whose 2017 album Odd Hours is due April 14.