Day For Night introduced winter with an onslaught of stimulation.
Day For Night created a great deal of anticipation with an announcement of the return North American performance of electronic music phenom – Aphex Twin. This shed a spotlight on the southern American epicenter of Houston, TX, known more famously for rap music and barbecue rather than cutting-edge music festivals.
While other festivals claim to cater to alternative tastes, Day For Night separated itself by including a number of renowned art installations alongside its list of progressive music. With a weekend filled with highlight performances, Day For Night’s combination of music and art welcomed various tastes with a hospitality only found in America’s biggest state.
In order to house the four indoor/outdoor stages and the number of art exhibitions, promoters ‘Free Press Houston’ utilised the vast campus of the defunct Barbara Jordan Post Office situated right in the middle of downtown. The venue would prove to be the perfect locale as the ground level hosted a large indoor warehouse stage and three outdoor stages. The entire second floor was dedicated to art and provided an escape from the weather as much as the music. This allowed festival goers a chance to immerse themselves in some of the larger installations.
Harboring most of the attention and space was undoubtedly St. Petersburg’s artistic collective ‘Tundra’. Their large room was filled with intricately placed lasers, creating a torrential downpour of light and complete with soundscapes of a fierce thunderstorm. Also, on the second floor, was United Visual Artists’ captivating exhibit ‘MusicaUniversalis’. Situated in a separate room, the line to enter the installation was constant and lengthy and for good measure. With a pitch-black room, a row of planets are orbited each by two light sources and sound tracked by synths of varying frequencies. UVA described its exhibit as “A spatial instrument that investigates the resonances from far away objects in our solar system”.
While enclosed in a separate wing and requiring an online ticketing system, Björk Digital was a multi-room immersion into the mind of Icelandic singer and visionary – Björk. Throughout 5 areas, guests are taken through a virtual reality tour of picturesque landscapes, celestial backgrounds and even interactive anatomical competition with Björk’s signature high-pitched vocals as your narrator. Self-indulgent to say the least, Björk Digital showcases the singer’s creative vision of her work in all angles, colors, and perspectives, giving you several messages to decipher.
Although the art exhibitions are an integral part of the festival, Day For Night prides itself on creating a musical line-up that is as engaging as its installations. From rap, indie rock, electronic to avant-garde, Day For Night truly had something for everyone. Friday’s festivities started off with a bang as ‘Welcome to Houston’ showed the many tourists the city’s claim to fame – chopped and screwed rap music. The group consisted of Houston’s perennial flame-bearers of the genre – Mike Jones, Paul Wall, Bun B, and Z-Ro. Stepping up next on the main outdoor stage was none other than bass-virtuoso Thundercat. His brand of psychedelic, overreaching jazz rock gave the early crowd a taste of the musicianship many critics have been lauding in recent years. Plying their trade inside the large warehouse indoor stage, were the downtempo, ambient wizards of San Francisco – Tycho. Scott Hansen and company transported the ‘Blue Stage’ to a desert caravan as their hypnotic brand of emotive cadence evoked fervor among the crowd.
The headliner this night was the immortal Aphex Twin and, having advertised his North American return performance months in advance, many were anticipating his “second-coming”. From heavy bass, dubby tones, and hard techno; Aphex Twin’s performance spanned his 2 decade-long career and served a refreshing set that transpired many genres and was seductive enough to introduce a heavy rain storm mid-set. The crowd thinned as a result but nevertheless Richard impressed in his return to the stage.
The sudden drop in temperature on the last day of the festival did deter some from returning but highlighted the endurance of the art and music faithful. Again highlighting Los Angeles-based jazz musicians, Kamasi Washington graced the main stage with his saxophone and large collection of backing musicians.Washington is a relative newcomer to the festival circuit, presenting a brand of improvisational bebop to an unassumingly younger crowd that might not have been introduced to the genre otherwise. Another purveyor of experimental music, Unknown Mortal Orchestra embraced the wind and performed a high-energy set across the festival on the Green stage. Their melody-driven variety of psychedelic garage rock played well to the crowd’s open ears. Returning to his hometown and headlining the Green stage was Houston’s own Travi$ Scott. Having no regard for his health, Scott performed several songs shirtless and with flame visuals as his background, the intensity of his show demanded submission to his multiple requests for “jumping and moshing.” Day For Night served as a fitting homecoming celebration for the rap star as his album ‘Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight’ reached number one on the Billboard 200 back in September.
Day For Night focuses on the growing attention to the arts within the millennial community and capitalizing on the enthusiasm and curiosity for new talent. Although the line-up was electric in its own right, the concept of having other forms of digital and visual media adds a spectrum to a tired formula of LED screens and pyrotechnics seen at most other festivals. Day For Night’s eagerness to push boundaries with their curation and festival experience must be commended and hopefully others in the industry will take note as to what will define your festival as unique and worthwhile.