2022 BUKU festival wrapped up with strong sets from Glass Animals, Tyler, the Creator | Louisiana Festivals

Before the sun set Saturday on the 2022 BUKU Music + Art Project, Australian electronic dance music deejay Alison Wonderland essentially spoke for her fellow performers.

“It’s so nice to be back playing shows!” she gushed during her late afternoon set on the festival’s main Skyline Stage. “It’s so nice to be back in real life! I thought I couldn’t have a job anymore.”

The first major music festival in New Orleans since the start of the coronavirus pandemic picked up where it left off three years ago, with the added benefit of near-perfect weather. The decade-old BUKU, with its preponderance of electronic dance music and hip-hop, skews decidedly younger than the city’s other big springtime festivals.







Festival-goers roam between stages during the first day of the 2022 BUKU Music + Art Project in New Orleans, Friday, March 25, 2022. BUKU is the first major festival in New Orleans since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Sophia Germer, NOLA.com, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




Whatever the level of pent-up demand, it wasn’t sufficient to sell out all 20,000 tickets available each day. All VIP-level tickets sold out, but general admission tickets were still available at the box off after gates opened.

What did fans see and hear after they arrived?

Bigger footprint, food prices

Unlike previous years, the festival didn’t use a Mardi Gras World float den. The only indoor space for general admission attendees was the Ballroom Stage.

But the site expanded south all the way to Tchoupitoulas Street, filling most of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center’s Lot J. The rocky surface was tough on certain types of footwear, but the added space opened up the site considerably.

It also allowed for dramatic stage backdrops. The downtown skyline served as the backdrop for the aptly named Skyline Stage, BUKU’s biggest, at the corner of Tchoupitoulas and Henderson Street. The backdrop for the Bridge stage was the Crescent City Connection.







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A large crowd watches Tyler, the Creator perform on the main Skyline stage of the 2022 BUKU Music + Art Project in New Orleans on Saturday, March 26, 2022.



Unlike years past when BUKU concessions were entirely cash-less, several vendors offered the option of paying with cash. Maybe they realized folks might need to pool cash and credit to afford anything. A gyro sandwich – a sandwich, not a platter – was $18. An order of fries was $10. Many food items were $20.

Glass Animals’ techno-joy

British indie-rock band Glass Animals was one of two acts at BUKU who will compete for Best New Artist at this weekend’s Grammy Awards. The other was rapper Baby Keem, who played before Glass Animals on a different stage.

Was anyone more excited to be at BUKU, or in New Orleans, than Glass Animals singer/guitarist Dave Bayley? During the band’s penultimate set at the Skyline stage on Saturday, he repeatedly gushed about the city, the crowd and being at BUKU.

Even without his verbal odes, his joy was apparent. Rocking geek-chic eyeglasses, a sleeveless sweater depicting a six-eyed kitten and slacks cut off above his ankles, he was hyperkinetic. He traveled across a stage set meant to mimic a motel’s exterior; he spent a lot of time bouncing on a faux-diving board.

He and his three bandmates dialed up full-bodied versions of Glass Animals’ synthesizer-heavy songs. Bayley and Drew MacFarlane augmented the synths with subtle electric guitar riffs. But mostly the synthesizers worked in tandem with Edmund Irwin-Singer’s bass guitar and Joe Seaward’s combined acoustic and electric drums.

Stage projections that resembled old-school video games – including a faithful reproduction of a Pac-Man screen – fit the skittering beats and space-rock vibe of “Space Ghost Coast to Coast.” The fuzz-tone guitar and whispered vocals of the slow-crawl “Take A Slice” took an unsettling turn in the chorus.

By contrast, an uptempo “I Don’t Wanna Talk (I Just Wanna Dance)” came across as pure pop escapism. Bayley, using a borderline falsetto, sang, “You taste like cigarettes and hurricanes” (an accidental Pat O’Brien’s reference, perhaps?).







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Festival-goers roam the festival grounds during the first day of the 2022 BUKU Music + Art Project in New Orleans, Friday, March 25, 2022. BUKU is the first major festival in New Orleans since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Sophia Germer, NOLA.com, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




His falsetto was at full strength as he worked hard to sell “Gooey,” with his dreamy synth blooms. Glass Animals concluded with “Heat Waves,” the song that took a record-setting 59 weeks to finally reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on March 12. Many fans of “Heat Waves” cite its calming effect. But Bayley’s enthusiasm at BUKU elevated it into something that demanded a listener’s attention.

Tyler, the Creator on his best behavior

During the 2011 Voodoo Music + Arts Experience in City Park, members of the Los Angeles rap collective Odd Future, including Tyler, the Creator, threatened credentialed photographers in the photo pit in front of the stage. One of those rappers, Left Brain, lashed out directly, striking a couple of cameras.







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Tyler, the Creator, as seen on a video screen, performs on the main Skyline stage of the 2022 BUKU Music + Art Project in New Orleans on Saturday, March 26, 2022.



Eleven years later Tyler, the Creator has blown up and grown up. As the closing act at BUKU on Saturday, he appeared by himself on a bare stage. His unconventional hip-hop attire featured pleated khaki shorts, white socks and tasseled black loafers. He strode onstage with a briefcase, set it down and went to work.

Though his songs can sometimes be dissonant and/or or utterly lacking in melody, he proved to be a compelling, charismatic performer.

Like Bayley before him, Tyler praised the local culinary offerings – to a point. He marveled at the existence of jambalaya pasta but was less impressed with another local favorite. “Somebody offered me turtle f—- soup,” he mused. “What kind of s— is that?”

He was smitten with the sign-language interpreter who was working hard on a stage-left platform, keeping pace with his flow. He rapped most of one song alongside her, shook her hand when he was finished, and later encouraged the audience to give her a cheer. “Please make some noise for the sign language lady. She’s killin’ it.”

Overall, he was great and dialed in to the crowd’s well-being. “Y’all good?” he asked. “Y’all horny?” He then smiled and quipped, “Can’t help you there.”

He introduced “Lumberjack” as an ode to “a vehicle company that I’m kind of enamored with.” That company, the lyrics made clear, is Rolls Royce. He apologized for the absence of the stage props he’s using on his current arena tour, including a car.

The large crowd packed in front of the stage bounced in time to “Come On, Let’s Go.” In “See You Again,” he rap/sang the inadvertently timely lyric, “Can I get a kiss and can you make it last forever/I said I’m ’bout to go to war and I don’t know if I’ ma see you again.”

Fireballs, his show’s only special effect, erupted during “Who Dat Boy?” During “I Think,” he climbed down from the stage to venture out into the barricaded aisle running through the center of the crowd. Back onstage, he pulled back “Earfquake” to essentially render it a cappella. “New Magic Wand” was the opposite: loud and heavy.

Tyler ended right on time at 11 pm, capping off BUKU’s comeback, and his own.

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