The 2014 BUKU Music + Art Project
SATURDAY, MARCH 22
Belonging in the conversation with mega talented bassists like Les Claypool and Victor Wooten, Thundercat was perhaps the most exciting artist to play the main stage all the uber-tight trio immediately started channeling fusion forefathers like Stanley Clarke's outfits or Weather Report with an absolutely stunning display of blindingly fast fretwork on the early extended “Daylight,” a tune from his 2013 album Apocalypse that sounded as inspired by space watchers like Carl Sagan as cosmic funkateers like Funkadelic. The familial connection between Stephen Bruner (bass) and Ronald Bruner Jr. (drums) was palpable and downright electric. For as much love as the band-fronting bassist gets, his GRAMMY-winning brother deserves just as much praise and it was hard to pay attention to just one as they traded jaw-dropping solo after jaw-dropping solo.
There are few artists who are better at playing the ‘master of ceremonies’ role than Dan Deacon. Always encouraging the highest level of participatory lawlessness, the party starting DJ was perhaps the artist who encapsulated the spirit of this BUKU Fest more than anyone. Setting up his turntables on the floor in the crowd, he immediately began encouraging dance circles, break dancing, full crowd high fives and an overall thought bubble hanging above the crowd that read: “I can’t believe all of this is really happening!” Limbs flailed, people lost their minds and every second was enjoyable. It was as fun, entertaining and carefree as live music gets, truly capturing the essence of what a music festival should be.
Preservation Hall featuring The Gaslamp Killer
There are a few guaranteed ways to rock a boat on the Mississippi River, and one of those occurs when you get a performance of funky New Orleans jazz mixed with the whirling luster of deep-thought DJ-ing. So clear is the result of a VIP on-board show with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band featuring The Gaslamp Killer, which at BUKU Fest 2014 was a pleasure scene of instrumental canticles composed of smooth brass and drums alongside some purposeful DJ minimalism at its finest. Fear not, music lovers, tradition and innovation were proven again and again to go hand in hand and Pres Hall's attempts at pushing envelopes yet again delivered something both fresh and forward-looking.
The Flaming Lips
Flaming Lips live shows can be a mixed bag musically and Saturday night’s set was just that, unsurprising given the fact it was their first full show in over four months. Given that takeaway, it should be said that the performance is deserving of an A+ for the quality of the visual spectacle. The stage was accented by a series of stringy light-up ropes hanging above the band and piled into a pulpit for Wayne Coyne to preach from. The LED wall behind the famed Oklahoma band was constantly providing jarring visuals to accent the psychedelia beaming across the festival grounds. Albeit a tad uneven and lacking in overall flow, the set hit some very high points during impressive covers of The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and Devo's "Gates of Steel" and Lips originals like “The Terror” and “A Spoonful Weighs A Ton”. The set bogged down a bit during the drudgingly slow rendering of “Race For The Prize” and the bizarre “Virgo Self-Esteem Broadcast” portion. Overall, it was a good set and further proof that The Flaming Lips are always full of surprises.
Explosions in the Sky
Nothing blows the mind quite as completely as a set that manages to climax over and over, the kind of performance that right when you think the sound couldn’t get any more enrapturing, the band grabs you yet again by the vertebrae’s ears and delivers you into the realm of golden awe. This was the formula for the Explosions in the Sky set in The Ballroom at this year’s BUKU, certainly one of the most affecting shows of the weekend and one that had fellow festival-goers floating about the firmament air of their own grooving inner-space.