Sending it to The Big Easy: BUKU Music + Arts Project in Review

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Additional words by John Flynn.

The smell of lobster po’ boys and boiled crawfish is thick in the air, as crowds of festivalgoers make their way down Magazine Avenue towards the entrance to New Orleans’ Mardis Gras World. The venue is a one-of-a-kind urban promised land, whose grounds are home to the Big Easy’s iconic Mardis Gras Day parade floats and an abandoned early 20th Century power plant that has become the official backdrop of Winter Circle Production’s BUKU Music + Arts Project.

BUKU’s position at Mardi Gras World is perhaps its biggest prominency. The destination provides the ultimate unique locale for festival organizers to craft a singular experience rooted in the spirited history of one of America’s oldest cities. Located on the banks of the Mississippi, its outdoor stages are set in plain view of a rusted-out power plant. The festival’s newest stage, dubbed The Wharf, is quite the intriguing addition, with wooden shipping crates standing as it’s center piece aesthetic. While BUKU veterans were initially disappointed in the organizer’s elimination of the boat stage, their apprehensions seemed to melt away as they danced their hearts out to the house beats of Green VelvetWalker & Royce, and Bonobo, among others.

Photo credit: aLive Coverage

Photo credit: aLive Coverage

As festivalgoers from many walks of life scurry through the grounds with grins on their faces and all sorts of potions in their hands, one can see the minute mental moments of reflection of their faces, where they pause briefly to take in the Mississippi River air, contemplating the performances the next two days has to offer. The seventh annual edition of BUKU, it seems, thrives off of the palpable hype pulsing through the veins of wide-eyed 20-somethings seeking total sensory assault.

The festival is a match made in heaven for such a demographic, offering up some of the biggest names in EDM and hip-hop — from Bassnectar, Porter Robinson’s new Virtual Self  project, and the goddess of Neptune, REZZ, to Migos and Lil Uzi Vert — along with a plethora of other styles for those looking to forsake sonic overload for something a bit more subtle in SZA, Sylvan Esso, and MGMT.

It is this sort of eclectic line-up that the festival prides itself on. One might be dancing to the hypnotic builds of Honey Dijon and, upon a turn to the left, see the Mississippi River as freight boats glide by. Turn to the right, and the gutted power-plant provides an industrial backdrop to Illenium and Gryffin‘s feel-good soundscapes. BUKU’s premier indoor stage, the Float Den, is set inside a 300,000 square foot working warehouse — the very one where the city’s elaborate Mardi Gras floats are created and stored.

Beyond dance music, Friday night brought an abundant array of more popular spectacles. Two stalwarts of contemporary hip-hop/R&B, Migos and SZA, made and appearance, while hitmakers MGMT brought a taste of indie flavor. As the beginning synth from “Time To Pretend” sets in, swells of festival goers could be seen rushing to the stage to catch the band in action. Their booking helped fill a niche for attendees that existed outside of the EDM and hip-hop dominated culture.

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While Migos’ performance was cut to a mere 30 minutes due to their tardiness, SZA’s surpassed all expectations. Despite an ankle injury cutting her set ten minutes short, the artist hit her notes in stride. At a time where SZA is quickly becoming one of Generation Z’s largest pop stars, her elegance on stage made for something downright magical. As far as Migos set goes, you’d have to ask one of the thousands of panting kids that exited the stage promptly after, but it goes without saying the Atlanta trio put on a spectacle of a performance.

Friday also marked the debut of Virtual Self’s US festival performance. As the Porter Robinson alter alias descended on the festival, surges of fans flocked into the Float Den to catch the performance. Given his set time and location on the more intimate stage, his set was a huge success. As the melancholy tinged synths from “Ghost Voices” bounced off the warehouse’s walls and the dance floor hit peak movability, it became clear that the alter ego has nearly equated Robinson himself.

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What Robinson has crafted in this current reiteration of his live performance is painstakingly artistic and novel. With lights shooting up in parallel lines from the stage’s see-through flooring panels, to the multitude of lasers so perfectly timed to his uncanny drops, Virtual Self’s set stands as a fully immersive visual and auditory spectacle. Even if his IDM, jungle-infused, era-accurate trance, early hardcore, and j-core blended sound doesn’t tickle everyone’s ear drums, one simply could not walk away from the set without an immense respect for what the Robinson is doing — that is, recycling early electronic sounds into a rollercoaster journey of new-wave sounds.

Saturday’s diverse range of sets made for a great follow up, with artists like REZZ, Isaiah Rashad, Sylvan Esso, and Illenium drawing large crowds. Bassnectar also made a welcome appearance, slamming his most sought-after tracks upon his audience — from “Raw Charles” and “Cozza Frenzy” to “Hologram,” and “Lost In The Crowd.” He also paid homage to the city of New Orleans in his deliverance of his bass-bolstered remix of Buku’s “Front to the Back,” while making time to drop in a tune by NOLA-based bass music duo, sfam, so as to promote rising local talent. However, it was REZZ who molded these bass worshipping disciples into pure balls of energy with her hypnotic performance. No longer human, the audience transformed themselves into slow moving entities at the hands of the Niagara Falls native’s industrial-tinged rhythms set to the frequencies of the planet Neptune. Indeed, the slotting of REZZ to close out the festival after Bassnectar was a bold, deliberate, and keenly-astute decision by organizers.

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The most notable aspect of BUKU fest was the organizer’s intentional booking of strong female headliners — a highly laudable move that deserves recognition in an age of the #MeToo Movement, where female artists and consumers have begun speaking out against sexual assault at the hands of powerful male industry professionals. With additional lineup support from Alison Wonderland, Bishop Briggs, No Name, and Clozee, it was clear that the Bukweens were out in dominant force. Their presence transformed the festival vibe into a refreshing modality of equality and empowerment, further spotlighting how the music industry masses are waking up to the fact that females are disproportionately represented at the top tiers of dance music.

As BUKU thrives and grows with each passing year, the Winter Circle-produced event has earned a reputation as the South’s premiere outdoor, urban, spring time festival. It’s become clear that these organizers know what they are doing as they expand the venue seamlessly, create insane stage productions, and curate cutting-edge line-ups. If you haven’t experienced the magic of Mardis Gras World already, you’ll want to make sure to include BUKU Music + Arts Project as the kick-off event of your next festival season.

Photo Credit: VibeSmith


All photos by Vibesmith, unless otherwise noted

Dancing Astronaut’s ‘Best of CRSSD’ Fall 2017 edition

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CRSSD Festival has become a veritable institution of California’s flourishing electronic music landscape. The bi-annual festival, produced by FNGRS CRSSD, consistently curates some of the more forward-thinking lineups around, as evidenced by bookings this year like Mathew Jonson, Marcel Dettmann and more.

Combined with its gorgeous backdrop of Waterfront Park, CRSSD has found its formula, and it’s hard to find fault. With the fall edition having freshly wrapped up, Dancing Astronaut has selected five highlights from the weekend.

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Photo credit: Mike Selsky

CRSSD and Redbull Curates host first-ever CRSSD Xpress

Prior to gates opening this year, CRSSD, in partnership with Redbull Curates, hosted the first-ever CRSSD Xpress: a futuristic party train transporting guests from LA’s Union Station to San Diego. Converting two private Amtrak carriages into fully-furnished hangout spots — including live jazz, cocktail bars, and futuristic light therapy — the train provided a standout experience for select CRSSD guests before the festival even began. What’s more, the train featured performances from both Patrick Topping and Latmun, the latter of which was captured live by Mixmag.

Ultimately, the event epitomized Red Bull’s ability to curate experiences in unlikely locations. A three-hour party train hosting some of the underground’s finest DJs is certainly a first in our book.

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Photo credit: Felicia Garcia

Richie Hawtin’s ENTER. Sake Bar

Richie Hawtin’s love for sake is no secret. In fact, it’s one of the cornerstones of his global ENTER. brand. In celebration of World Sake Day, Hawtin hosted a pop-up sake bar on Sunday of CRSSD. With high quality sake on tap, Hawtin arrived for a meet and greet with fans. While CRSSD’s craft beer selection has always been a staple of the festival, the pop-up sake bar proved a welcome addition to the festival’s experiential offerings.

What’s more, in a brief conversation with Hawtin, the Canadian veteran confirmed to Dancing Astronaut his plans for a revamped ‘Close’ show, including all new production and technology. More information to come on that soon.

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Photo credit: Julian Bajsel

Bedouin and Mathew Jonson 

There’s a certain exotic charm to Bedouin’s music that makes their performances downright spell-binding. While their music can often be a bit sedative or soporific in the home listening environment, with a proper sound system at their disposal, their creations take on a mesmerizing energy. Though playing just a one hour set at 4pm on Sunday, their performance proved an easy highlight from the weekend.

Mathew Jonson Live was a rare treat at CRSSD, and unequivocally one of the more praise-worthy bookings from the FNGRS CRSSD team over the years. The analog virtuoso brought his beautifully erratic style to the City Steps stage, providing a welcome change of pace from the more traditional house and techno sets that pervaded the weekend.

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Photo credit: Felicia Garcia

RUFUS Du Sol draw the biggest crowd of the weekend

Rufus Du Sol were the biggest attraction of CRSSD’s Fall edition, and for good reason: their feel-good blend of live electronic music is the perfect match for the festival’s dreamy outdoor setting. Coupled with an indie dance-leaning, deep house-savvy demographic, and it’s no surprise that the crowd came out in thousands for their headlining set on Saturday night.

One thing that sets Rufus apart is their consistency. Fans largely know what to expect, with Bloom still holding strong nearly two years later, yet that’s part of the draw: a sea of people singing to “Like an Animal,” or a thousand hearts melting to “Innerbloom.”

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Photo credit: Julian Bajsel

Richie Hawtin reaffirms his legendary status

When Richie Hawtin is on his game, there’s few in the world who can match him. Sunday night was one of those nights. For two hours, Hawtin provided a masterclass on the City Steps stage, offering a bold, brilliant showcase of his abilities.

What became readily apparent throughout Hawtin’s set was his unparalleled control of dynamics. Through dexterous EQ precious, volume manipulation, and filter work, Richie created the auditory illusion of each successive drop sounding more impactful. Combined with his live drum programming and unabashed improvisation, it was the kind of techno set capable of turning new fans of the genre into dedicated zealots.

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5 reasons Panorama should be on your festival radar

This post was originally published on this site

Panorama Festival held its sophomore edition from July 28-30, bringing the likes of Frank Ocean, Tame Impala, Nine Inch Nails and more to Randall’s Island in New York.

Produced by Goldenvoice, the powerhouse events team behind festivals like Coachella and FYF, the 3-day event has quickly made a name for itself in New York’s crowded festival space. While it’s still early days for the burgeoning festival, it isn’t hard to imagine Panorama soon becoming one of the East Coast’s more reputable musical attractions — especially if the lineup curation remains as consistent as its first two editions. With a manageable layout, enchanting art and technology installations, and some of the more savvy artist bookings we’ve seen of late, Panorama is worth checking out for festival fans everywhere.

Here are five reasons Panorama should be on your festival radar.

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Alternative bookings

A festival’s biggest selling point — for better or worse — is always its lineup. In this light, Panorama deserves credit for booking a less obvious roster of acts. Sure, names like Frank Ocean and Nine Inch Nails will bring a far-reaching audience — yet there’s a conspicuous lack of more crowd-filling safety headliners like Calvin Harris, Lady Gaga etc. Rather, Panorama gives a platform to alternative favorites like Nicolas Jaar, Nick Murphy, Vince Staples; and for that, it deserves credit. Add on more niche acts like S U R V I V E (the composers behind Netflix’s Stranger Things), THEY., Mura Masa and Honey Dijon, and Panorama has created an indie tastemaker’s dream lineup in lieu of catering directly to the masses.

A more manageable Coachella

Panorama has previously been hailed as the ‘East Coast Coachella.’ Given its blockbuster bookings, it’s an apt comparison. Yet the biggest difference between the two events — outside of their geographical disparities — is the sheer scale. While Coachella attracts upwards of 100,000 guests per day, Panorama is notably (and comfortably) smaller (note: official attendance hasn’t been released at this time). As a result, the festival is more manageable, and feels entirely more navigable and laidback without sacrificing Goldenvoice’s renowned production value.

House and techno haven aka The Point

This year, Panorama introduced The Point stage: a consistent bastion of true house and techno running throughout the entire weekend. Modeled as a giant outdoor disco, The Point hosted legendary underground acts like Omar-S, Theo Parrish, Derrick Carter, and the inimitable Motor City Drum Ensemble in his first US tour. The stage is a bit of an outlier to the rock, indie, and EDM-heavy cast of the rest of the festival — yet therein lies its beauty. Goldenvoice has gone out of its way to cater to house and techno fans in a genuine way, and it’s much appreciated.

Awe-inspiring technology installations

From the outset, Panorama has made a point to feature futuristic, technology-driven art installations. Spearheading the move is HP and their forward-thinking HP Lounge. The art pop-up provided more than just a flashy, festival distraction, but an immersive experience, highlighted by features like a giant, responsive, inflatable orb, and an interactive music-making machine where attendees contributed their own parts to a larger ensemble.

Smartly-sized venue

Randall’s Island receives its fair share of both criticism and praise, but for a festival like Panorama, it feels like a natural home. Big enough to accommodate multiple large-scale stages, yet spaced out enough to avoid sound bleed, the venue grounds are easily traversable, with transit between stages never more than five minutes. It’s a refreshing change of pace from its more massive counterparts like Coachella, where more often than not, attempting to split set times between one’s favorite artists results in sluggish transit times and labyrinthine crowd navigation. The efficient size further played to the advantage of easy entrance and exit from the event, making for a logistically stress-free festival experience.

All photos via Panorama NYC