By: Seth Johnson
Photos: Berto Campos
Man, oh man, was 2016 a big year for fantastic releases. And with those releases came a slew of acts hitting the road too — many of whom I was lucky enough to catch in concert. Despite a year packed full of show going, however (see Seth’s roundups of Pitchfork Music Festival and Lollapalooza), nothing compared to my time at Day for Night 2016.
Only in its second year, the festival boasted an impressive lineup of acts, including the likes of Aphex Twin (first U.S. show in eight years), Bjork, Run the Jewels, Blood Orange, Travis Scott and more. And while this is certainly what caught my eye, I eventually became more intrigued upon learning that the fest would also feature several immersive art installations curated by artists from all over the world.
Held in and around a different abandoned warehouse in Houston each year, Day for Night 2016 was held at a huge abandoned post office building, with three outdoor stages, one indoor stage, and art installations scattered throughout the vicinity. With so much art in one place, there was never a dull moment, as the stimulating instillations allowed festivalgoers to explore visual art when they weren’t catching their favorite musical acts. Ultimately, this aspect of the festival was incredibly refreshing and gave Day for Night its own one-of-a-kind charm.
Before I jump into the music portion of my roundup, I think it’s only appropriate that I give the booking team behind Day for Night proper praise. Unlike many major festivals in the modern age, Day for Night seemed absent of outside influences such as massive media companies. Nevertheless, they managed to bring together a very unique lineup of acts that featured a little bit of something for everyone, while still showing love to Houston with several featured local artists too. In a nutshell, the whole thing just felt genuine.
DJ Windows 98 (aka Win Butler)
After attending the Day for Night pre-party on Friday with excellent DJ sets from Bjork and DJ Windows 98 (a.k.a. Win Butler of Arcade Fire), I wandered back over to Day for Night’s opening day on Saturday, where I was “welcomed to Houston” by a collective of notable Houston rappers (Z-Ro, Bun B, Mike Jones, Paul Wall and more) all performing on stage as one beautiful H-Town family. After catching a bit of this set, I quickly began darting around from stage to stage, catching bits of magic from Tobacco, Thundercat, Clams Casino, Oneohtrix Point Never and The Jesus and Mary Chain. As one might expect, though, the festival truly transformed into another world after the sun went down and the lights made their emergence.
Oneohtrix Point Never
Night one of Day for Night was certainly one for the ages, with stellar performances from Blood Orange, Run the Jewels and Aphex Twin. I was so happy to catch the large majority of all three sets, especially considering the releases of Aphex’s mysterious 12” that day and Run the Jewels’ RTJ3 the following week. As any music lover might expect, this triple play of sets was filled with nonstop greatness, leaving my cheeks sore from all the smiling I had done.
Day two, I was back at it once again, running frantically around the abandoned warehouse to catch as much music as possible. On Sunday, my path took me from SURVIVE to Ariel Pink to Lightning Bolt, and then from Mykki Blanco to Kamasi Washington to RZA. In the later hours, I was sucked into the festival’s playground of lights once again, revisiting some of my favorite installations before heading back to the tunes. After this short hiatus, I entered the home stretch, catching high-powered sets from Squarepusher, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Butthole Surfers and Travis Scott, before capping my weekend off with an appropriately scintillating set from Arca.
I look forward to seeing you next year, Day for Night. You truly did change my perception of what a music festival can and should be.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Jesus and Mary Chain