When the gates open this weekend, The Buku Music + Art Project will have passed a longevity test, outliving New Orleans' short-lived alt-festival predecessors with its fifth annual event.
It's tough to pin down what kind of festival it is. It evolves as much as the scenes it represents, drawing from disparate but complementary genres that all can fit under an aesthetic that's as much a Day-Glo fever dream as it is a real-life muted Instagram filter. It's not entirely the glow stick-branded, furry boot-wearing caricature that New Orleans skeptics have painted it — though some attendees in fully glittered regalia carve out dance floor space for their baton twirling. But it occupies a vacuum in New Orleans massive festival scene — one that's surreal, loud and overwhelmingly, unapologetically young.
Its bedrock is in electronic dance music and production heavies, and its 2016 lineup is no exception, anchored by Pretty Lights, performing with a full band. This year's lineup also draws from electronic pop (Crystal Castles, GIVERS, CHVRCHES, Purity Ring), hip-hop's rising stars (Anderson .Paak, Rae Sremmurd, Earl Sweatshirt, Casey Veggies) and, coincidentally, Kanye West's The Life of Pablo collaborators (Future, Kid Cudi, Post Malone). Its scheduling and proximity to Texas music magnet South By Southwest also helps boost its roster of rising, buzzed-about artists.
But for its fifth annual edition, Buku puts a large chunk of its programming into the hands of the scenes that made it, with locals-only showcases in its Front Yard, a smaller, more relaxed outdoor area that's grown into the festival's best kept secret, a weird oasis of snacks and intimate dance parties in a lower-key alleyway set apart from Buku's concrete rave.
KOMPRESSION (hosted by the masterminds of New Orleans' long-running house and techno series, Herb Christopher, Ryan Deffes and Unicorn Fukr) puts on a showcase at 6:15 p.m. Friday. KOMPRESSION also extends to after-hours Buku-approved showcases at Dragons Den (435 Esplanade Ave.) from 10 p.m.-7 a.m. Friday through Sunday.
New Orleans producer and scene maestro AF THE NAYSAYER also curates a three-hour Dolo Jazz Suite showcase at 9:30 p.m. Friday with rising Louisiana and Texas beatmakers and electronic artists FLCON FCKER, Metatron, HOP BOX, PRIME8 PIMPIN and Grimm Bleak. There also are Saturday showcases from DJ Musa from Obsession, artists on the Simple Play roster, and bounce artist Big Freedia, billed as "Chef Freedia," who hosts a showcase and serves yakamein ("twerk-a-mein") as a prelude to her upcoming cookbook.
Locals also make their Buku debut on the festival's bigger stages. Pop-punk band Donovan Wolfington combined melodic hooks, '90s alt-rock nostalgia and screaming journal entries on its 2015 album How to Treat the Ones You Love. The band performs at 3 p.m. Friday on the Power Plant stage. Rising Louisiana bedroom producer Fro-Yo Ma (aka Zack Villere) performs at 3 p.m. Saturday on the Back Alley stage. His 2015 EP, Pants, blends slow-motion cartoon atmospheres with neo-soul, jazz and sleepy, ambient flashes of color.
For a list of Gambit picks at Buku, click here.