It felt like Christmas came early for those attending the 2nd annual Day for Night festival in downtown Houston. Abandoned Barbara Jordan Post Office felt dystopian in appearance, but was without a doubt ideal for a unique festival such as Day for Night. The festival’s lineup boasted various styles and genres, including rock, psych, shoegaze, hip-hop, EDM, metal, and R&B. Attendees of the festival were just as eclectic and unique as some of the artists on the bill. From baggy JNCO raver jeans to goths to cosplayers, the sights and sounds of the festival were not limited to those on stage.
Day 1 started out strong with heavy, doomy sound of Chelsea Wolfe. Her appearance and vocals were haunting in nature, complementing her music as designed. The Jesus & Mary Chain brought their brand of loud, nostalgic shoegaze which left attendees and longtime fans in a trance. The following act brought the unique multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer Dev Hynes, better known as Blood Orange. His set started off with microphone issues, but Blood Orange’s layered beats and R&B vocals transformed his set to one of the best of the weekend.
The Marquee act of Saturday was without a doubt Aphex Twin. Rumors were buzzing throughout the day. “What would he play?” “What kind of visuals will he present? “Will he even show up at all?” The crowd gathered around the Red stage in anticipation for his show, eyeing the countdown meters on the stage and the soundboard. After an eerie intro, Aphex Twin hit the stage.
His set started off slow, but not in a negative way. Everyone in the crowd could feel the downtempo beats were just the beginning of a 2 hour journey. Just as his set peaked several gusts of wind and rainfall hit the fest (almost as if it were orchestrated by Aphex Twin himself). Many in the crowd scattered, but even more stayed. The most notable attendee being Bjork herself. The avante garde queen was spotted in the crowd, dancing in the rain with the rest of us.
After the music ceased for the night, the post office itself was still open for attendees to enjoy the art. The fog ridden post office was a bit difficult to navigate (perhaps by design), but fortunately many Day for Night staffers were on hand to help. Certain stairwells were marked as “up” and others “down” in order to avoid bottlenecking. Even with this implemented, fire alarms still went off throughout the weekend. Amongst the 11 art installations was Tundra’s “Outlines” – a three dimensional grid of red beams which evoked the feeling of being in a 80’s sci-fi movie. The more minimal “Crimson Louts” by Damien Echols were glowing mystical symbols, like one might see written on the walls of a forgotten prehistoric cave. The most popular art exhibit of the weekend was without a doubt Bjork Digital. The exhibit left festival goers frustrated; waiting as long as 7 hours in order to get the virtual reality based experience.
Unfortunately, the lines at Bjork digital wasn’t the only problem that put a damper on the weekend. Complaints regarding lack of bathrooms, garbage cans, and water were prevalent throughout the weekend, along with quibbles regarding the VIP areas of the festival. The most disheartening complaint of the weekend was the mass reports of pick pocket attempts. Despite the festival taking place only a week before Christmas, there were still several Grinches in attendance, looking to make a dollar off misfortune.
Despite these fixable problems, Day for Night was an overall success. Bringing wonderful and talented people together from different ends of festival’s spectrum of art to create a unique experience that cannot be offered just anywhere. Next year will be hard to top, but I believe festival founders in organizers have the template for such a profound, unique experience.
See you next year, Houston.
Writer: Matthew Mabry Johnson
Photography by: Julian Bajsel