Despite setbacks, Buku festival triumphs


Angelo Imbraguglio

BUKU fans dancing during a performance at the float den. The BUKU Music + Art Project occurred on March 9th and 10th making this the 7th year of operation.

Caleb Beck

On March 9, Buku opened its gates for the weekend to 17,500 attendees – 3,000 more than in previous years. This spike in festivalgoers was met by a complete redesign of the grounds that moved the main stage to a larger location, added a new stage and VIP viewing areas, and generally kept crowds from slowing to a halt from stage to stage.

The festival sold out completely Saturday evening.

Dean Gura, artist coordinator and craft vendor from Gainesville, Florida, has been attending Buku since 2015 and said that the festival stayed intimate in spite of the expansion.

“I love the setup there. How close they fit everything together makes for an interactive experience and tight-knit community. It’s one of my favorite city festivals for it’s unique crowd energy,” Gura said.

Sonically, the festival hosted a range of genres and performances often just a stage over from one another. A Day to Remember’s pop-punk anthems were front and center, Green Velvet’s house tunes slinked darkly by the Mississippi River and Flatbush Zombies’ hip-hop packed audiences not long after.

This year was met with a few artist cancellations. Famous Dex, Ski Mask the Slump God and Lil Uzi Vert didn’t show up for their time slots. Migos arrived late and played a condensed set.

In a message displayed on the Power Plant stage after Lil Uzi Vert’s cancellation, Buku’s public relations representative stated portions of the popular rapper’s pre-paid fees would be donated to Upbeat Academy Foundation, a local music education program for impoverished youth.

Jaimie Villar, a music industry senior and marketing intern for Buku, found the cancellations disappointing, but said they were handled with grace.

“It was pretty rude on their end to cancel day-of-show with no warning, and I felt bad for the people that had come just to see them. I felt that the artists that subbed in, like Gryffin for Lil Uzi Vert, made the best of the situation,” Villar said.

Favorite performances from attendees quoted after the festival closed included Bonobo, Isaiah Rashad, A Day to Remember and Virtual Self’s first live performance.

At the end of its seventh year, Buku retains its small city festival atmosphere while preparing itself for future large-scale crowds and performances, cementing its unique place on the national festival circuit.