Buku’s fourth year kicked off with a bang and an entirely sold-out festival, not the least bit surprising given last year’s popularity, but certainly curious given a newly and stringently enacted 18+ policy. IDs were checked just before one of two bag checks and a trip through a metal detector to get into the festival grounds, all of which went surprisingly swiftly. Before I knew it, I was headed to the outdoor Power Plant stage to enjoy the instrumental grooves of STS9, expertly led by bassist Alana Rocklin. One of Buku’s major upgrades in staying true to their Music + Art roots was adding more sporadic performances. Those spread out far enough from the main stage to dance were treated to a Buku breakdance crew and even a brass band with dancers marching through to a tented performance section just outside the Ballroom.
The Ballroom played host to superduo Run the Jewels and a whole lot of inebriated, high as a kite fans. Right before El-P called out Killer Mike for knocking over his drink before RTJ took the stage, some very enthusiastic fans were able to puff puff pass a lit spliff to Mike just as they were finishing up their third song, a track that may have been obscured by the indulgence. Their RTJ2-heavy set was certainly a smoky endeavor — owing either to yet another fan’s over-enthusiasm or the spirit in the area, the fire alarm was somehow set off during the tail end of their set.
It was enough to clear out the Ballroom and make Alaskan five-piece Portugal. The Man late to take the stage. Portugal. The Man most definitely took a note from STS9, stretching out songs from their pivotal Evil Friends LP into slow-burn jams. Frontman John Gourley showed off some true rock star guitar chops rolling from opener “Hip Hop Kids” to a surprising ending mash-up set that took the serious tone off the band and rewarded a faithful audience for waiting just outside the Ballroom as it was cleared out post-fire alarm pulling.
Sandwiched in between the good vibes of Run the Jewels and Portugal. The Man was A$AP Rocky and his mob, plus a whole shitload of bass. If Die Antwoord’s bass managed to somehow knock out the power in the Float Den later in the evening, (which it did and didn’t really deter them) then A$AP’s rig should’ve feasibly been able to bring the whole city to its knees. Somehow he and his A$AP Mob held the fort down, paying tribute to A$AP Yams’ sudden and tragic death at the beginning of the year and rolling through new tracks from his forthcoming untitled album, which has pretty much been shrouded in mystery save for teaser tracks like “Swipe Life.” With all the heavy-handed gimmicks and thrumming subs, A$AP Rocky proved a perfect primer for Float Den headliner Die Antwoord.
Riding high off the success of the major motion picture Chappie and just as bizarre as ever, Die Antwoord shuffled through a fine mix of Ten$ion hits and Donker Mag bangers, though they were stopped in their tracks just two songs in when their legitimately heavy bass rig actually knocked the power out, or so Ninja said when, after a five minute break, everything was up and running again.
It was enough to make him dive into the crowd and inspire Yolandi to shower fans and photographers with a bottle of water. Her acrobatics, including doing the splits are what ultimately anchored a seriously weird show with EL wire x’s criss-crossing between tons of moving lights and a massive LED setting the backdrop for DJ Hi-Tek to spin the night away. Owing to neighbor complaints, the Buku festivities didn’t go much longer than 1am, but an earlier ending time most certainly didn’t signify an inhibited festival experience.