Organizers reworked layout, sound system for 2014 show
This weekend effectively marked the start of New Orleans’ festival season with the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival, the Congo Square Rhythms Festival and the Buku Music + Art Project .
The first two festivals conclude Sunday in the French Quarter and Armstrong Park, while Buku finished its third year Saturday night with the Flaming Lips, Grammy-winning electronic dance music artist David Guetta and rapper Tyler the Creator among the many artists who performed on four stages at Mardi Gras World.
The festival continued after 2 a.m. on South Peters Street, where The Howlin’ Wolf and The Republic presented dance music by DJs from New Orleans and around the country into the early morning.
The festival began with a focus on electronic dance music, but last year it expanded to include hip-hop and rock ’n’ roll.
The 2013 festival aroused the anger of many residents of Bywater, Gretna and other neighborhoods who could hear music from the festival’s main stage as the sound carried down and across the Mississippi River.
This year, the Buku producers repositioned the stage, made changes to the sound system, ended music on the main stage at 11 p.m. and positioned a riverboat that doubled as Buku’s VIP viewing area beside the stage to help block the sound. There were some complaints but nothing like last year.
Festival producer Reeves Price tested the success of the efforts Friday night by taking decibel readings in the nearby neighborhoods during the performance by Zedd, whose heavy bass frequencies would likely have the largest sonic impact of any of the acts. “We were in pretty good shape,” he said. “We were under 75 decibels, which is what the city noise ordinance is now as I understand it.” Price also drove across the river to check the levels in Algiers and Gretna.
“Compared to last year — a world of difference,” he said.
Buku attracted fans from around the country, including Chris Poulton and Stephanie Normand, of Knoxville, Tenn. “This is our second year,” said Normand, who last year gave Poulton tickets for his birthday. They enjoyed the festival so much that they returned this year.
“I like that it’s ‘music and art,’ ” Poulton, a graffiti artist, said. The two go to three or four music festivals a year and plan to return to Buku next year. While at the festival, they met people from Texas and Michigan.
Musical highlights included rapper Nas performing his classic “Illmatic” album in its entirety to celebrate its 20-year anniversary, plus the heavy-metal dance rock of Brooklyn’s Sleigh Bells. Chance the Rapper’s set with a live band was the show people were talking about on social media Friday night and on-site Saturday.
The one setback was the delay of Schoolboy Q’s performance. Because of a bus breakdown, he had to fly to New Orleans, which caused his set to move from Saturday afternoon to Saturday night.
In addition to being the setting for Buku, Mardi Gras World was the site of a Fat Tuesday concert with rapper Rich Homey Quan, where a shooting left two people dead. That prompted the producers to add a higher level of security for the weekend, even though Buku has no history of violence.
Less than two weeks before the festival, producers made arrangements to install walk-through metal detectors to beef up the security. “We either wanded or did walk-through metal detectors on everybody on-site — artists, everybody,” Price said. “It was nice to see that work.”