Day For Night 2017 in Review
As a native Houstonian, it is a strange feeling to have an event in our city considered the paradigm of ‘cool’. Sure, Houston has incredible museums, an expansive ethnic food offering, and is home to the largest rodeo and renaissance festival in the nation –but it is the nascent Day For Night festival that causes scenesters in both New York City and LA to go green with envy. In it’s third year, Day For Night has gathered momentum and continued to deliver quality music and art, despite obstacles and forces of nature that would crush a less dedicated festival team.
While no festival is perfect, Day For Night continues to be imperfectly perfect, as its weather, cancellations, and drama just add to the volatile but exhilarating atmosphere. The fringe and counter-culture of Houston is rarely on display, and DFN has done wonders creating an all-inclusive playground where world-renowned artists, progressive musicians, and black-clad locals converge in an explosion of creativity. Here are some highlights (and a few lowlights) from the festival that continues to impress going into it’s third year.
5 Best Performances:
Nine Inch Nails – A memorable set that began with lead singer Trent Reznor telling the crowd, “We’re not gonna let a little rain stop us – let’s go piggies,” as they launched into their hit “March of the Pigs.” While other artists at the festival balked at the unfavorable weather (see Cardi B), Nine Inch Nails fought a driving rain storm like they were doing battle with Mother Nature herself. Although the set ended by the stage being evacuated, it was an immaculate baptism for NIN fans.
Perfume Genius – Mike Hadreas aka Perfume Genius creates primal pop with tremulous vocals and anvil-like backbeats. Hadreas moved with grace and effeminate poise while oscillating between his songs from his last album, No Shape, and older crowd pleasers like “Queen” and “Hood”. The voice of Hadreas is transcendentally beautiful and his gyrating stage antics made this performance perfect.
Solange – Although she cancelled an appearance on Friday, Solange was the hometown highlight for the Sunday night crowd. It is easy to pin Solange as the beneficiary of her sister’s fame, but it’s evident upon her first song that she has a unique aura and talent unto herself. “I want to shout out H-town, my hometown!” as Solange talked about hitting the Galleria and going to local hotspots like Frenchy’s. Solange’s set reflected the deep soulful spirit of Houston and filled the audience with her uplifting light.
Pussy Riot – My expectation with the all-female band that had famously been imprisoned by Vladimir Putin in Russia was a politics-heavy outfit short on musical abilities, and boy was I wrong. Pussy Riot brought their Slavic brusque attitude to a high octane hip-hop and pop set that was magnified by over-the-top pageantry. The songs were catchy, but when they announced, “This next song is the song that sent us to prison for two years,” the reality of their strength and resilience hit home hard.
Justice – There was a time when there was no getting away from a song like “D.A.N.C.E” but now, a decade later, Justice is still able to melt faces and ignite a city-wide dance party. Seizure-inducing lights and chest-rattling beats fomented the biggest dance party of the weekend. The French duo has just released their third album, Woman, and it looks like they’re back to charm America.
Honorable Mention: En Vogue, Kimbra, James Blake, Jaime XX,
5 Disappointments (Besides the weather and some late cancellations):
Cardi B – In all fairness, the hype built around her performance was undeserved, and many would argue her career might be as well, but the reality tv star still managed the saddest excuse for a performance I’ve seen to date. NYC rapper Hood Celebrity came onstage to lip sync for a few songs before letting the DJ awkwardly stall for 45 minutes. Scheduled for an hour, Cardi came on for ten minutes, rapped three songs and then said, “It’s too cold ya’ll” and left the stage. A huge waste of everybody’s time.
Pretty Lights – I’m not sure if Derek Smith is getting experimental but his typically high-energy, crowd-pleasing set was buried away somewhere, while he tinkered with a minimalist electro odyssey. Pretty Lights played the Spinal Tap equivalent of a free-from Jazz exploration in front of a festival crowd, needless to say, it did not go well.
Set Times – I heard after the fact that there was actually an official DFN app, but it was released midway through the fest. Because of the weather, set times were constantly changing and people were constantly accessing the mobile DFN site to stay on top of the latest audible. Not a big issue but annoying to say the least.
Thom York Late Show – More of a personal issue, but I can’t be the only one who needs to work on Monday morning. I get having the music going late on a Saturday, but I would have loved to have seen Thom Yorke’s set without having to sacrifice sleep. A name as big as Thom Yorke would have gotten a bigger audience prior to a 12:30 AM set time.
Bets Moments of DFN 2017:
Lil B Doesn’t Know Where He Is – Lil B shouted out UGK, DJ Screw, amongst many others. He then said, “I want to shout out Dallas, Texas! What up ya’ll!” At least he got the state right.
BLACKIE Shocks – This local electro-screamer had a mosh pit going on at the Yellow Stage and, while he had many admiring fans, the shocked faces of those who were passing through were worth the price of admission alone.
Phantogram Calls Out Cardi B – Bombshell Phantogram vocalist Sarah Barthel had obviously heard of Cardi B’s diva behavior the day before, which prompted her to say, “We’re going to take a quick break and will be back in an hour and a half. We’re going to hang out with Cardi B.” Barthel continued to lambast Cardi B throughout the set, which was fine with everyone present.
House of Kenzo – A hip-hop art collective chock full of sissy-pride and raunchy dancing, The House of Kenzo were shocking and electrifying in every way. Twerking, rapping, and freak dancing gave this performance a uniquely raw and appealing vibe.
Billboard Callout – Whoever ran the projector at DFN was having a lot of fun giving inspirational quotes, dishing out fun artist facts, trashing Donald Trump, and even calling out a festival attendee named Jimmy Nguyen. Apparently Jimmy Nguyen was selling fake DFN passes and was put on blast in front of the whole festival. Gotta love the moxie of the guy/gal behind the projector!