“Be healthy, drink water and stay in love,” said one of the opening performers, A Hundred Drums.
The 10th BUKU Festival returned to New Orleans for the first time in three years on Friday and Saturday, giving festival-goers and performers a space to thrive.
Baton Rouge-born artist Lango was thrilled to join the 2022 festival lineup, which included many artists from Louisiana, and gave them the opportunity to perform in front of large audiences while staying close to home.
“I know this year they brought in a lot of local talent,” Lango said.
He stressed the importance of his own presence, as BUKU doesn’t often have talent from Baton Rouge.
“I’m the only Baton Rouge artist in the line-up, the first since Kevin Gates,” Lango said. “I grew up around College Drive and Perkins Road. This is all for my town and my niggas. All my friends are here and they be in.”
Performing at the New Orleans festival has been the highlight of her career so far.
“It’s come full circle, what’s bigger than BUKU here? This is the pinnacle of my opportunities.”
Festival headliners included Tyler The Creator, Tame Impala and $uicideboy$.
Not only was the festival important for fans and artists, but also for vendors.
New York-based modern grooming company Faculty was also on hand and offered free nail painting services to attendees.
“We sent a sticker sheet to everyone who received the wristband in the mail. BUKU did it for us for free,” said faculty founder Umar Elbably. “The audience is expressive and accepting and that’s who we want to speak to.”
Unlike Faculty, which paid for its booth, New Orleans-based recycled glass company Glass Half Full was invited to the festival for free, in an effort to raise awareness of the organization dedicated to state cleanup and coastal restoration.
“We partnered with BUKU for the action project,” said Carissa Hibbert, mentioning the project which gave away free tickets in exchange for community improvement actions.
Hibbert, who works with Glass Half Full, enjoyed the festival atmosphere.
“BUKU is a celebration of arts, culture and community, and this year it’s welcome,” Hibbert said.
With three large outdoor sections and an indoor ballroom section to boot, festival-goers had plenty of room to move around and also separate themselves a little from each other.
Excited to see Tame Impala live, the unwavering smile on LSU Alumnus Alex Rodriguez’s face captured what BUKU meant to him.
“I’ve been coming since high school. They killed it for COVID, but I’m glad to see everyone again,” Rodriguez said.
The New Orleans native considers it the perfect location for a major music festival.
“You know what it means to let the good times roll, we take care of each other here,” he said.
A festival group has been charged with the sole purpose of caring for others: BUKU Budz. This group operated in a tent labeled “Safe Space” and focused on harm reduction and comfort without the presence of police or doctors, which may deter some from seeking help.
“Harm reduction is very popular at most festivals, but the South is catching up. It’s hard to approach the police or even medical staff because they’re afraid of getting in trouble, so it’s more accessible everyone,” a New Orleans resident and BUKU said. Budz worker Hampton Callais said.
Callais understands that most festival-goers aren’t sober, and the sheer number of those people makes his job necessary.
“It is 100% essential for the festival experience because unfortunately people die at these events, and our main mission is to bring people home safely. [Astroworld 2021] was a national travesty and it shook me to my core because of the work I do at festivals. It’s good to be back here to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Doctors and police were present in other areas for those in need.
BUKU was also a welcome space for the visual arts. The live paint wall featured spray paint artists with their own location on the rafters creating art in real time during the festival.
“It was really cool to watch people paint and vibrate to the music,” said Baton Rouge resident Cameryn Lucas. “Music inspired them in a way to create something beautiful.”
Slidell resident Hester Rito is the brainchild of Any O’Cajun, a Cajun catering company that made headlines during the festival.
“We started after the BP oil spill when my family lost all of our jobs,” Rito said when discussing Any O’Cajun’s birth. “I buy it, I prepare it, I cook it.”
As for the weekend’s most popular meal, Rito referenced “Saucy B,” a gravy-dipped crawfish fritter, a dish that represents southern Louisiana like no other.
“It’s our flagship; that’s what we started the business with,” Rito said.
Other popular items on the menu were crawfish mac and cheese and crab sliders with jambalaya.
BUKU provided a festival-hungry audience with exactly what they wanted, with New Orleans and the state of Louisiana in mind.