Months ago, while still recovering from Free Press Summer Fest induced sunburns, Day for Night was announced. We didn’t get much other than it being a winter festival, and that alone was enough to pique interest to garner an early following. A festival where clothing was a necessity and not just a nuisance in the hot Texas sun was uncharted territory for Houston. Over the course of the next few weeks, Day for Night teased us relentlessly with clues and artistic snippets about being a festival where “Light and Sound Collide.” Now fast forward to this past weekend… collide they definitely did.
Day for Night flaunted a lineup of musical and visual acts that were masterfully curated. From 11-time Grammy nominated artist, Kendrick Lamar, to the elusive and iconic New Order, it was undoubtedly a musical lineup to be reckoned with. Soulful Janelle Monáe showed off her chops with classics from her “The Electric Lady” album as well as treating the crowd to an inspiring speech about equality and fighting for what you believe in. A little political enlightenment is always good for the soul, and a little James Brown is too; which of course Ms. Monáe paid homage to as well.
One of my favorite takeaways from the weekend was turning around during the New Order set to observe the looks on the faces of diehard fans, and trust me, there were plenty! With their act being the only U.S. tour date, and the band’s debut after a two decade hiatus from Houston, there were fans far and wide. It was quite possibly the largest crowd of the weekend with Kendrick Lamar’s crowd following close behind. His too, was a show for the books. With a full jazz band accompanying his poetic lyrics, it was easy to get lost in his insightful words as well as go hard when “m.A.A.d City” came on. However, no one went as hard as new local hero, Corporate Dough, a diehard fan who shocked us all when he was brought onstage and KILLED it. The pride swelling in the crowd was palpable when Mr. Dough was moved to tears by his hero. As for the other three that Kendrick brought onto the stage, we won’t talk about them.
Big names aside, I have to take a second to applaud the makers of Day for Night for reigniting what festivals are truly about – creating a space for people to discover new music, completely outside of your comfort zone. I feel like that gets lost more and more each year among some festivals as they stray toward more commercially safe acts. I left Day for Night with a renewed sense of hope and most importantly, a new playlist. Word of advice? Look into Roman GianArthur, an act so funky and soulful, you won’t be able to help but dance. Ask Janelle Monáe and Kam, lead singer of the Suffers, as they were both at his set to witness quite possibly, my favorite performance of the weekend.
The festival grounds were clad with amazing displays of digital art. From decorating the sides of the buildings of Silver Street, to transforming the warehouses inside, there was no shortage of awe inspiring installations. The power lines were alive with glowing light as well, for crying out loud! One of my favorite pieces was NONOTAK studio’s “Volume,” an interactive tunnel of industrial pipes, flashing lights, and sounds that onlookers walked through in wonderment. Another favorite was Alex Czetwertynski’s “Photoperiod.” The New York based digital mastermind created a piece using painted plants, a light bulb, and unbelievable projections, to help us answer the age old question of “If plants could dream, what would they dream about?” Okay, maybe not age old question, but after seeing the installation, you’ll have found the answer you didn’t even realize you were looking for. For the art newbie like me, there were definitely pieces that reminded me of my computer screen saver (sorry!), but then at the same time, there were pieces like one from Casey Reas that made me feel so completely frustrated as I left. There was something for everyone, the thought evoking pieces for the art aficionado and the simply visually stunning pieces that “made a great Instagram photo.” And yes, I swear I overheard that.
A collision of light and sound is what was promised, and that was what was delivered. However, they forgot to mention the collision of a ridiculous spread of amazing food as well! Food truck heavy hitters, like Sticky’s Chicken and Oh My Gogi! were obviously present, but Day for Night surprised us with culinary greats like Chef Chris Shepherd’s Hay Merchant and the South African Peli Peli. The Lucky Fig, a new truck from Masterchef season 4 champion, Luca Manfè, made its festival debut with Italian goodies like decadent goat cheese stuffed arancini and fried eggplant and fresh mozzarella sandwiches. My mouth is watering just remembering that perfectly crisp sandwich. As for beverages, DFN got creative by offering a bevy of spiked holiday drinks like their “Adult Hot Chocolate,” hot chocolate with a generous dash of cinnamon whiskey, and The Hot Toddy was especially perfect for the crisp Saturday weather.
I stepped foot onto the (very 90s-carpet clad) festival grounds without a clue of what to expect. As a veteran festival goer, I was preparing myself for two possible outcomes: being severely disappointed, or completely blown out of the water. I am so glad to be able to claim the latter (while vehemently apologizing for the former even crossing my mind). Day for Night catered to all of the senses and was an absolute feast for the eyes, ears, and taste buds. It was an experience perfectly tailored for those with a liking for the eclectic, and next year can’t come soon enough.