BUKU Music + Art Project / Music / by Jordan Hefler

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to cover BUKU Music + Art Project (better known to the New Orleans area as BUKU Fest) for Stitched Sound! I had always heard about BUKU but never attended. It's only been around for a couple years but each year it has been getting bigger and bigger, and this year it had actually sold out (30,000 people, CRAZY!) I'd like to throw it out there that EDM is not really my cup of tea, but that I've seen some amazing photos from EDM festivals and knew that this would be an amazing opportunity, especially only 1 hour from my backyard. I was also really excited about the hip hop artists that were going to be there: Future, A$AP Ferg, Kid Cudi, the list goes on.

It had been storming all week and really all day before the festival even started. We were lucky that it didn't get rained out. I had bought a ton of shower caps and ziploc bags before driving to NOLA because I was like what am I going to do with my camera if it's storming outside!? Although it was flooded and nasty (rain boots saved my life) it ended up being pretty awesome weather.

My friend Darby waiting to use a bathroom. New Orleans was pretty flooded from all the rain. This was real nasty.

My friend Darby waiting to use a bathroom. New Orleans was pretty flooded from all the rain. This was real nasty.

The sky right as I left the pit after shooting CHVRCHES on the first day

The sky right as I left the pit after shooting CHVRCHES on the first day

The festival spans over 2 days at Mardi Gras World in New Orleans, right off the Mississippi River. The iconic Mississippi River bridges were an awesome backdrop against the crowds at the main stage, and then the other stages were scattered about Mardi Gras World amongst the famous floats inside the facilities, as well as outside along the riverwalk. As typical with press passes, I was permitted to shoot during the first 3 songs (or first 20 minutes, in some cases I couldn't even tell what 1 song was versus 3 in the EDM world) and this was the most amount of photographers I've ever had to deal with in the pit. This festival is huge, so rightfully so, there were 40+ photographers in the pit with me from all over the world covering the festival for many other publications and reasons. This was by far the most challenging aspect of the festival, just because there were so many other people trying to get the same shot as you. This was also the first time I realized WOW I should really be wearing earplugs. I never had worn them before when shooting live music, but these speakers were on another level. Also the continuous womp-womp of the electronic music really wore on my ears after 2 days of being pressed up against the stage. I definitely went home with a headache and learned my lesson. Now I have pink earplugs (for women? do we have different ears or something?) permanently in my camera bag. Shout out to Rite-Aid.

Anyways, the festival was super fun to photograph because the stage production was so amazing. Lighting was great everywhere, I had adequate access in each pit, and the artists were great! I went alone and it was actually pretty awesome. I liked the methodical aspect of having to do my job for 3 songs, then run to the next stage to catch the next artist. I mapped out my own schedule and was on my own time frame. I can't imagine having gone with anyone else. The festival is crazy, everyone is TURNT on who knows what substances (for real, you EDM fans are legitimately psycho, sorry bout it) and it's just like a massive colorful, sweaty sea of people. Being alone was great because I would just do my thing and run into people I knew, say hi, then keep walking. I also wore a blue sequined fanny pack so I felt semi-cool.

Hangin with Big Freedia

Hangin with Big Freedia

I also ran into my friend Evan at Chef Big Freedia's tent, where she was cooking soul food (cornbread & collard greens, BITCH) with her family and friends at Simple Play Nola. She was cracking me up with her megaphone telling people to come try her "BOOTY POPPIN POTATOES!" It was also really cool to see my friends in Motel Radio (formally Palmyra and technically the first band I ever photographed) playing at one of the stages! I snagged some shots of them too while I was there. They're definitely going places.

The only real bummer was that Kid Cudi pulled photo passes last minute before his set. Normally in that situation I would just try to shoot from far away with my longer lens, but in this case there are 30,000 people in front of you so that wasn't as easy. I really only got 2 or 3 usable shots of him.

This is turning into a really long blog post, and I'm pretty sure I just wrote the whole thing in multiple tenses (really not in the mood to check my grammar) so I'm just going to go ahead and give you a list of the artists I shot and then let you look at the photos:

CHVRCHES, Mystikal, Juvenile, Fetty Wap, Kid Cudi, Big Freedia, Kehlani, BORNS, Future, Earl Sweatshirt, Miike Snow, Purity Ring, Motel Radio, Nero, A$AP Ferg, PRETTY LIGHTS

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Also pictured at random times: BADDIE WINKLE

*Photos must retain proper credit if reposted. Photographed for Stitched Sound