By: Zachary Kolesar
The Buku Music + Art Project in New Orleans had some strange cancellations this past weekend after a series of rappers dropped out of their sets last second or showed up insultingly late. The new age of mainstream rap did not hold up its end of the bargain over this past weekend, and it is a phenomenon that has sadly become more prevalent across the genre’s bigger, autotuned stars.
Ski Mask The Slump God and Famous Dex backed out of their slots on Friday, while Migos, a headlining act, arrived 45 minutes late and half-heartedly raced through a 30-minute set. Lil Uzi Vert, one of Saturday’s headlining draws, also no-showed for his main stage performance.
There are always extraordinary exceptions, however, and one of them happened to be an import from Columbus.
When New Thousand—a string-centric, electronic, trip-hop, jam band—was scheduled to open up the main stage on Friday at 3 p.m., it showed up on time and ready to get down.
Oh yeah, and it made appearances on both days, totaling three BUKU sets.
“It really tightens us up and makes us the musicians we are,” New Thousand violinist Adrian Jusdanis said of constantly performing. “I have a pretty unique playing-slash-performing style that I've developed because every day I was able to test new ideas out in front of a fresh audience that either stopped if they liked it or walked away if they didn't.”
Living fulltime in Columbus until he was 25-years old and then splitting six-month periods between his hometown and New Orleans, Jusdanis decided to relocate to NOLA this year for now. The move stemmed from a desire to find a fresh scene of culture and people, a way to further push the band’s boundaries on its innovative playing and performing style; performances pop up across the French Quarter almost every day, some days in three separate locations.
But before New Thousand got down to its usual MO at BUKU—busking on the street corners of NOLA—it graced the grand stage that Bishop Briggs and MGMT would bless hours later. Jusdanis even caught MGMT watching in the distance in the VIP pit while he whipped his acoustic violin behind his back accompanied with intense shredding. New Thousand was feeling its moment, which was apparent by Jusdanis incessantly motioning to amp up the bass to a crowd-slapping level.
It was a surreal moment and, according to Jusdanis, by far the largest stage the humble group has performed on. Probably because New Thousand is not usually playing on any stage.
For the previous two BUKU fests, New Thousand—also consisting of excitable keyboardist and Columbus native Max Jones and newly-found drummer Nick Haven—parked its party underneath a large white tent, becoming known as the secret smash hit of BUKU. With a personal PA system, a wise $2,500 investment for musicians on the go, New Thousand captured the hearts of BUKU, which was backed by live testimonies I witnessed while in New Thousand’s presence.
On the final day of this year’s festival, Jusdanis took time before busking under the white tent once again to look out at the Mississippi River, reflect on moving to New Orleans full-time and pause every now and then to amuse passionate fans.
"I've been trying to find you since I moved here and I could not," one passerby ecstatically said.
Passerbys on their way to see second-tier BUKU lineup musicians and top EDM acts this past weekend were brought in by a musical gravity that was erratic, groovy and electronic all at the same time.
The Columbus expats made its name busking the streets of New Orleans, curating corner-alley parties on a whim, so why not at a music festival?
“I'm just sort of enveloped in music,” Jusdanis said. “I walk around where I work and there's music on every corner, and that's inspiring to me.”
The jam band structure that New Thousand applies to electronic and hip-hop comes along with unique, quirky performance techniques. Whether Jones is bopping up and down while jamming on the keys, Haven is masterfully switching up electronic genres or Jusdanis is playing the violin with his teeth or screaming into the sound hole of his violin, New Thousand does so in an earnest way that keeps a warm relationship with the audience.
“I would say I've benefited from having ADD and mindlessly f------ around with stuff and just making weird noises happen, and sometimes those weird noises are cool and sometimes they are totally stupid,” Jusdanis said. “But when I come across a weird noise that's cool, I keep playing with it.
“I just focus on the stuff that I like to play but people like to hear.”
Without many recorded tracks that truly represent its live persona, New Thousand is planning on releasing material that matches its kinetic energy accurately in the next few months. It also expects to have more singles and EPs out in the next year.
For now, New Thousand will be picking up a following in the most organic way possible.
One of Jusdanis’ most profound comments came when he talked about Dancing in the Streets, a book by Barbara Ehrenreich “about the history of public displays of joy and exuberance being removed from European white society.”
New Thousand is thus the counterculture in 2018; a group that will take every opportunity to perform in front of anyone, anywhere. As for now, it will take place 13 hours from home.
But Columbus will see New Thousand again.
"We'll absolutely be back, and we can't wait to play for the home crowd because that'll always be the home crowd," Jusdanis said.
You can find out more about New Thousand by visiting its webpage.