Words by Martha Jamail
Day for Night was a truly singular experience; A festival merging a phenomenal musician line up with innovative visual art. Even in its debut year, the festival was well-curated, being both mindful of its audience as well as its location. Apart from the visual art and music, the backbone of this festival was something uniquely “Houston.” I was under an overcast sky, in the midst of the warehouse district: muddy, concrete, humid, and God, I felt so, so good to be home. Silver Street Studios sits among freight trains, rice silos, and in the shadow of downtown, Day for Night used its dark, industrial, surroundings as a stage for space-age gadgets, hacker art, optical illusions, and some kick ass music.
In this sense, the visual art installations were suited to the space and seemed like strange alternative industry in the empty warehouses. One installation by Paris-based visual artists Nonotak arranged scaffolding with alternating strobes and sounds. The combination of lights and sounds ranged from evoking something simple, digital, and patterned, to as chaotic and overstimulating as an oncoming train. In another dark corner, artist Vincent Houze combined water, steam, and light to imitate tides, machinery, and anesthesia. Several smaller works lit dark passages and walls throughout the festival.
The performances consistently delivered, especially for a festival only in its inaugural year. Janelle Monae was endlessly powerful and energetic and an ethereal, avant garde performance from the Philip Glass Ensemble attracted both young and old. B L A C K I E demonstrated exactly why he is quickly emerging as one of Houston’s hip-hop legends, as is “Death Grips, holy shit” as Houston’s own Bun B said. Death Grips straight up ate their audience’s ears and vomited said ears with some putrid goo-acid back at them. The group went on stage, white light silhouetted, and delivered an onslaught of sound before just walking off–no questions asked. I think Zach Hill might have nodded once in acknowledgement of the audience, but then again, maybe not. That right there is exactly how I want to be treated by Death Grips.
And finally, New Order. This band is absolutely iconic and one I had to see. I should probably apologize to the two friends who went with me to the festival, because I had to hold my ground at the front of the crowd for when New Order eventually played (in 3 hours). This concert was a well-overdue return and Bernard Sumner, sporting a cowboy hat, seemed thrilled to be back in Texas. New Order opened with the fast-paced track, “Singularity” paired with incredible footage from the Rockumentary Lust and Sound in West Berlin. The set mixed tracks from the new album Music Complete with classic numbers like “Temptation” and “Ceremony.” The crowd was entranced by “Plastic,” belted along to “Bizarre Love Triangle,” and overall, brought well-deserved energy to a band which pioneered dance music. It was just really neat to see performers and the audience work together so well. Even after one incredible show, the band came back with a tribute to Joy Division in “Atmosphere” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” which was incredible, yet undeniably eerie and even downright but these are his transfer essays… otherwise I wouldn’t put in the effort for him to hear live. New Order said goodnight to Houston with “Blue Monday.”
Overall, Day for Night may be my favorite music festival so far. Granted, there were a few minor glitches, but Free Press pulled off the fantastic “Festival of the Future” they promised. There was something very inclusive about the event. It draws the young crowd and an older crowd, as well as music and art lovers from a range of genres. I’d say this festival isn’t particularly targeted for one group; there were hip-hop, composers, classics, the word “acid” repeated to some sick beats, and so much more. It’s just something you have to go experience for yourself. Thank you Free Press, you’ve done it again.