Words by John Griffin
Deemed “the festival of the future,” Day for Night has quickly made a reputation for itself as one of the most unique and immersive festival experiences out there. With an eclectic music lineup of current artists and cult favorites alongside several captivating art installations, I can say that Day for Night truly makes for a one-of-a-kind festival experience. It seems that many festivals nowadays use the same copy/paste formula of overpriced beer, food trucks, and music, but Day for Night (which still had all three of those things) was curated with the precision and thoughtfulness of a fine art exhibit. Here is why I think DFN is one of the most exciting festivals in the world right now:
THE VENUE: Held at an abandoned post office complex in the middle of Houston’s theater district, the vibe was dark and dystopian. The stages, which were both inside and outside, offered different levels of intimacy with the artists and provided much-needed refuge from the cold when I needed it — indoor bathrooms were also a plus. Aside from a few bottlenecking issues between stages, the layout was planned well. I never got bored walking around and exploring the different parts of the venue throughout the weekend.
THE FOOD: The food was very, very Houston. There were so many Asian-fusion options, which I enjoyed a lot (pho burritos!!), and a couple of Houston’s most popular food spots like Oh My Gogi! and The Waffle Bus. Prices were modest compared to other fests, and the vendors actually brought their trucks to the venue and offered their full menu.
THE ART: The installations were spread out across the first and second floor of the building. The Björk digital installation amassed a huge line the entire weekend, and from what I heard it was nearly impossible to go see it without making a prior reservation online. I was one of those that did not make a reservation, so I was a little sad that I did not get to see it since it was one of the main spectacles of the weekend. Nonetheless, they offered over 12 installations that gave everyone more than enough to enjoy. My favorite installation: Outlines by Tundra, which featured moving laser patterns accompanied by ambient noise. Pictured below.
THE SOUND: The lineup was absolutely spectacular. Many festivals spend a lot of money booking just a couple of really huge acts to attract a crowd, but Day for Night knew better than to do that. They booked performers from far and wide across the music scene – people that could offer very special and/or rare performances. I never would have thought I would get the opportunity to see The Jesus & Mary Chain, The Butthole Surfers, and Aphex Twin in my lifetime, let alone in one weekend. Aiming more to please a target audience than buying into commercial acts really paid off and made the festival memorable. My favorite sets: Blood Orange, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Kamasi Washington.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Day for Night’s title of “festival of the future” is well deserved. It may not be for everybody, but if it is your thing, it is a hell of an experience. It is obscure, thoughtful, and immersive as hell. Furthermore, I think it perfectly embodies Houston’s reputation as a cultural and artistic hub. I really admire the team that put this festival on because it is hard to make such a big event feel so personal. I would tell them not to change a thing, but I am excited to see how they will make it even more innovative in years to come.