Photo credit: Ismael Quintanilla
Music and art collided at Day for Night Festival in Houston Texas, and it was a genuinely transformational experience. I am still at a loss for words at how UNIQUE and incredible this relatively new festival is. Where other festivals have an emphasis on “art,” Day For Night seems to say “hold my beer” to other art-focused festivals and knocked it out of the stratosphere for their 3rd annual event. I have never attended a more diverse and artistically immersive festival.
I flew out from Indianapolis on Thursday, snagging the cheapest flight I could, as well as the earliest wake up call I have experienced in quite some time, (hello 3am) and arrived in Houston around 9. Everything is bigger in Texas, and after navigating their airport for 45 minutes, I was well on my way to start my thrilling weekend. After checking in early to my hotel at the Crowne Plaza, I took in some of the sights at the Galleria Mall, which is by far the most impressive mall I have patronized. I literally got lost inside trying to find my way out!
Day for Night is all about catering to a more enthusiastic artistic crowd. You won’t see a lot of youthful festers here; this festival caters to a more mature crowd. How refreshing! Walking into the building you are immediately welcomed by digital projection screens with live art being broadcast all over the entire building. The Friday artist summit hosted huge names like Nadya Tolokonnikova from Pussy Riot, and Chelsea Manning who spoke about their time as “war criminals” in prison. Very eye-opening talk, and an excellent start to set the overall vibe of the festival.
We were lucky enough to be in a smaller crowd to enjoy the art installations this day, and even after 3 entire days, it never ceased to underwhelm us. Each installation is incredible, and different than the last. The group I had the pleasure of meeting up and festing with were all Houston natives and Day For Night veterans. Hamza and Andrea welcomed me like one of their own, and each gave me a slice of Southern Hospitality. We began our exploration with the disco ball installation by Kyle McDonald and Jonas Jongejan. Our entire bodies glittering with light, we thought ourselves to be floating amongst the stars in outer space. At least 30 disco balls were suspended in a net from the ceiling, and turned this room into an ultimate disco. Studio 54 would have been put to shame.
We were then transported into what I would liken to a “spaceship” by COCO LAB, at least that is what it felt like. Spotlights shined on a column that was lit up and down choreographed to music. Across the room, we found ourselves in another space time continuum-style exhibit which could be compared to a “Stargate” by Hovver artists Chris Lunney and Katherine Brice. Blues, whites and pinks all turned the metal disks into different arrays of milky colors. Looking through all three you could swear you could see your soul on the other side.
Our second favorite was an installation by Playmodes entitled Cluster on the second level. Every support beam in the room had been outfitted with vertical lines of lights that pulsed and undulated in a dance encompassing the entire room, all set to music that I literally still have stuck in my head 5 days after the festival. White, blue, red, and green all seemed to crackle and pop around us, then sparkle in crescendo for the grand finale. This room seemed to draw all of us for the duration of the fest. My photographer friend Brandon said it best: “It gets me every time.”
My favorite art installation of the entire fest had to be “the robots.” Most people walked right past this due to the massive line. Well, I am proud to say, I saw the robots a whopping total of 5 times (I really deserve a sticker) and every time I saw it, the experience was different. VT Pro deserves all the accolades for their impressive robotic light show, where the robots seemed to speak to each other through light and music, and magically dance together. I made every person in my group see this, and even those who begrudgingly waited more than 20 minutes in line with me all said the same thing – “Worth it.”
Obviously a music festival includes music, and this years Day for Night lineup was literally the most diverse I have seen in years. Pussy Riot opened up the fest for me with a feminist empowering performance, one I will remember for the rest of my life. We watched Nine Inch Nails in a torrential downpour which I am still drying out clothes from, and were graced with a soulful performance by En Vogue. The standouts of the fest had to be the incredible electronic music duo Justice, who treated us to many of their fan favorites from their album “Woman”, and electrified downtown Houston with their infusion of rock and EDM. Thom Yorke brought his A game and delivered a melodic set that swept through the large warehouse like a dream. Finally, DJ Tennis and Nina Kraviz brought so much energy to the Yellow Stage, that I was transported back to my early 2000’s warehouse rave era.
The people of Houston are so welcoming and friendly, it is easy to create long lasting bonds. My wonderful hosts took me to my first speakeasy, and then my first ever Tex Mex meal. I must say, when they say “you can’t go wrong with Papa,” they mean every word. If you are ever in the area for this event, make sure to spend extra time at the closest Pappasitos. I feel like I have now had the perfect Texas experience, and now that I have been the guinea pig out of my group of friends, I can’t wait to return with my crew next year. You have absolutely got to see this festival to believe it.