Coverage by: Trent Lira, Rupal Mehta, Madeline Robicheaux, and Waylon O’Day
Cazwell and Amanda Lepore
Noted LGBT rapper Cazwell and N.Y. based transgender icon Amanda Lepore hit the stage early in day on the Red Stage, but that didn’t stop people from dancing and showing interest in this eccentric duo’s live set. They switched on and off playing about three songs in a row and also including some of their collaborative tracks as well. With songs like “Get Into It,” “Marilyn,” and “My Hair Looks Fierce,” people who didn’t know what this pair was about definitely got the idea fairly quickly. Amanda rocked eye catching looks with a sequined red dress for her first outfit before switching into a skin colored gown, complete with mink shawl, for her second look. Cazwell had two backup dancers for his solo songs and encouraged the crowd to “dance like you have good credit.” He proceeded to play other zany tracks like “I Saw Beyonce at Burger King” and “All Over Your Face” while Amanda Lepore (who had Vegas-style showgirls as her backup dancers) played her hits “Cotton Candy,” “Turn Me Over,” and “Champagne.”
It had been just over a month and a half since I had seen the Las Vegas native celebrate his twenty first birthday in Austin at Fun Fun Fun Fest, and here I was again ready to see what Shamir would bring to my hometown. His set was almost identical to that of his one at Fun Fun, except with the addition of a couple more songs due to his extra fifteen minutes DFN gave him. He opened with “Vegas,” the first song off of his debut LP, Ratchet. He followed that with the funky, disco-esque “In For the Kill,” which got the whole crowd dancing before he dropped his most popular song to date “On the Regular,” which had our Programming Director, Trent singing all the words. His band included himself singing, a drummer with a traditional drum set up along with a handful of electric drums, a keyboard/synth player who gave Shamir’s music the funky, dancey body that kept the audience moving for his whole hour long set. He also had another vocalist on stage who used two microphones, one of which had a Roland vocalizer, which would distort the female singer’s voice to sound like that of KRS-One. Other songs included “Demon,” “Head in the Clouds,” “Hot Mess,” “Darker,”personal favorite “Call it Off,” and “Youth,” all of which are from his one and only full-length release. The latter, Shamir incited the crowd to pump their fist to their youthfulness during the chorus. He also covered Joyce Manor’s “Christmas Card,” and played songs off of his 2014 EP Northtown, which included “Sometimes a Man,” and “If it Wasn’t True.” Shamir closed off his set just the way he did at Fun Fun with the insanely danceable “Make a Scene,” which Shamir lit a cigarette to, and continued to smoke on for the rest of the song before retreating to the drummer’s station and helping him bang out the cymbals before launching drumsticks into the crowd, one of which I was fortunate enough to catch. His performance at Fun Fun paled in comparison to this set, possibly due to his increased stage time, although I think it was because this was the first chance for Day for Night patrons to shake their baby makers on the beautifully-patterned carpet that covered the Red Stage’s space. Overall, this performance cemented Shamir’s prowess to play a crowd, at least in my mind.
One of the most anticipated performances of Day For Night day one was definitely R&B powerhouse Janelle Monae. Her year was spent mentoring a group of artists she signed under her new label Wondaland Records, so she’s only played scattered shows throughout the year. That being said, the crowd was eager to see her in the flesh on the Red Stage. I met many dedicated fans in the pit before she went on, in fact, they were so dedicated that they bought V.I.P tickets for the festival just so they could see her. Being a major fan myself, that’s a level dedication I did not foresee. Ms. Monae has established herself as an electrifying live performer with iconic T.V. and festival appearances since 2007 and she proves again and again that she’s not slowing down anytime soon. She started the show being wheeled in on a dolly wearing a straight jacket; startling for the unfamiliar audience member. Once she got her straight jacket off, she got straight down to business, playing songs from her 2013 album “The Electric Lady.” Cuts like “Electric Lady” and “Q.U.E.E.N.” left the young women in the audience feeling empowered in conjunction with Janelle’s powerful speeches to the audience about fighting for what you believe in and that everyone should be treated like a human being regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. She also included tracks from her albums “The Archandroid” and “Metropolis” like “Cold War,” “Come Alive (The War of the Rose),” and her hit single “Tightrope.” To add to her already immaculate set, she also tackled two covers by legends James Brown and The Jackson 5. “I Feel Good (I Got You)” and “I Want You Back” set the audience into a sing-a-long frenzy and by the look on her face, she enjoyed them just as much as we did. Overall, she was an Electric Lady in every sense of the word; commanding, powerful, and mesmerizing.
The headlining performance of New Order was historic and iconic. They haven’t played a show in Houston since 1989 (at Astroworld) and Day For Night was the only U.S. tour date on their world tour supporting their latest album “Music Complete.” This U.K. band have so many influential albums that the pop landscape simply would not be the same without them, and they proved that with their stellar performance. With eye-catching visuals and dance-able tracks galore, the audience was both young and old waited to be graced with the presence of New Order. Once they hit the stage, they fired through track after classic track like “Singularity,” “Ceremony,” and “5 8 6” and even songs from their new album such as “Tutti Frutti” and “Restless.” Though there wasn’t much onstage banter, the crowd was kept in the loop with intriguing transitions between songs via visuals and soundscapes and the anticipation for what track they were going to play next. Toward the middle of the set, the audience was served a barrage of some of New Order’s most well known songs like “Bizarre Love Triangle,” “The Perfect Kiss,” “True Faith,” and “Temptation.” Their encore tracks included two covers of Joy Division classics “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and “Atmosphere” before closing out the set with their dance-pop anthem “Blue Monday.” This definitely like a once-in-a-lifetime performance for everyone in the audience; mostly due to the fact that it probably was. New Order does not tour very often and especially not in the U.S. So with that in mind, the audience relished in every moment they were on the stage, and the love was felt a million times over.
M.Grave is the brainchild of Texas native Eric Castillo, and he had the honor to open up the very first performance at the Blue Stage at the inaugural Day for Night Festival. I had no idea what to expect when I arrived at the stage, I tried to youtube some of his music but failed miserably because I had no service. I had chosen to see his performance because the picture of him on the DFN website showed him surrounded by hardware, and personally I love electronic artists that use hardware. He was wearing a black leather jacket with the Psychic Cross and another symbol that showed he was a disciple of Psychic TV’s Genesis P-Orridge. He had numerous drum machines, launch pads, and synthesizers; all of which he showed his prowess using. At some points it seemed as though he was completely improvising, but it still sounded fluid. If I had to guess as to what his genre is, I’d place it somewhere in between industrial and experimental haus. He made drum patterns reminiscent of Thrill Kill Kult, and synth sounds surprisingly similar to Prefuse 73. His visuals were a pleasant addition, mostly consisting of a dull green and very Roshak-esque shapes. Overall, M.Grave set the tone what would be a very interesting and completely unique festival experience.
The crowd that gathered at the Blue Stage as the night became windy and darker, was a very eclectic one, there were people dressed in leather jackets and heavy black makeup, and then your typical festival goers in their sports jerseys, or hawaiian shirts, all on hand to witness Genesis P-Orridge, the enigmatic and strange lead singer of the psychedelic rock group which consisted of a guitarist, bassist, a drummer, and a synth player. The band members were not the focus of the audience, it was Genesis. One of the strangest figures in music today, although s/he can probably be said to hold that title for the last forty years that he’s been making music. Psychic TV was the result of the dissolution of P-Orridge’s previous group, Throbbing Gristle. Genesis P-Orridge has, over the past fifteen or so years, undergone many different surgeries to resemble his late-wife, Lady Jaye, who passed in 2007. The couple both underwent similar surgeries, the two considered themselves to be a singular entity, their souls intertwined. The two were the subject of a documentary called “The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye,” which detailed their journey together, cementing them as one of the most beautifully strange love stories ever, and the reason s/he prefers to be referred to as “s/he.” Genesis came on stage in complete darkness, wearing a camouflage jacket adorned with the Psychic Cross and various other emblems he created. S/he had his platinum blonde hair in two pigtails which resembled that of the grandmother from “The Beverly Hillbillies.” The stage was covered by complete darkness, with the exception of the video screen at the back of the stage which flashed numerous variations of the Psychic Cross and images of Genesis and Jaye post-surgery from the documentary. Genesis wore a headlight on his head, which s/he used to highlight the guitarist’s skills during some of the more lengthy solos. S/he opened the set up asking if the audience was happy, and pronouncing Houston in various ways in his distinct English accent. The crowd, and myself had been worked into a frenzy by the time the band began to play “Jump into the Fire.” The band followed it up with the classic, “Just Like Arcadia,” which afterwards, from the barricade directly in front of his mic stand, I screamed “We love you!” which then made Genesis focus the headlight s/he was holding onto me, changing the white light to a red light and exclaiming, “Do you know what that is? It’s the devil!” staring straight into my eyes which a crazy-eyed look. As s/he turned away from me, s/he grabbed the microphone and said “You know what I say to people who say they love me? I say you don’t know me!” Which s/he said with a wide smile. The band went on to play “Trussed,” then my personal favorite, the surprisingly melodic “After You’re Dead (She Said).” S/he often talked in between songs, endowing the audience with his philosophy, which is called pandrogeny, and even has it’s own “holy book,” called the “Psychic Bible.” The crowd favorite “Southern Comfort” followed before closing out their set twenty minutes early with the amazingly moving “Have Mercy.” Although he did not play the extremely successful “Godstar,” a song about the late-great Rolling Stone’s member who died under mysterious circumstances; I believe the audience left the Blue Stage feeling very enlightened by not only the music of Psychic TV but by the presence of Genesis P-Orridge. When I checked my phone for the time, and realized they had finished early, I stayed at the stage hoping for an encore. Although I did not get my encore, I did get the setlist from the band. The bassist looked at me after the drumsticks flew into the crowd and asked me if I could catch the piece of crumpled paper, I obviously nodded yes. She tossed it and it hit me in the hands and landed on the floor between the stage and the barricade. Before the sympathetic awes were over, I was over the barricade with the setlist in hand. Despite the aches in my wrists, hands and forearms the next day, the dive was all too worth it.
Philip Glass Ensemble
I walked into the enclosed Green Stage, which was basically a giant warehouse space converted to a mid-sized concert hall, just as Philip Glass and his seven-piece ensemble finished their tune up. As soon as they finished, the giant garage door near the back of the warehouse was closed, encasing the whole audience in darkness. Amongst the ensemble there was a clarinetist, a saxophonist, what I’m guessing was flutist (I was a little further back then I would have liked), and a vocalist who sat with just a music stand. The remaining members of the ensemble all sat at keyboards, one looked to be a classic grand piano, another was at an organ, and last but certainly not least, Mr.Glass himself. The sat before a scrim that was lit in a light blue that faded into a dull pink. His ensemble did not play what you would call songs, instead they played what I will call movements. The ensemble moved through their first two movements flawlessly before Glass first addressed the crowd. He told the audience that they would be performing selected movements from the 1982 Godfrey Reggio film “Koyaanisqatsi :Life Out of Balance.” Among the songs chosen to be performed were “The Grid,” what Glass said were the first and third movements of the movie, which are entitled “Koyaanisqatsi,” and “Clouds,” respectively. Whenever the ensemble concluded certain sections of their performance, they would all stand up and bow for the audience. The crowd treated this like an opera, the claps whenever the ensemble bowed were chilling. Many of the movements were very lengthy, some of them pushing ten or fifteen minutes, and all very minimalistic, or as Glass prefers movements with a repetitive structure. I personally closed my eyes for much of the set so that I could truly appreciate the sound this musical legend and his ensemble were producing. Of all of the performances I saw at the festival this was one of the most sonically immersive and beautiful sets I had the pleasure of witnessing. The music had so many layers, different syncopations, key changes, and beautiful melodies and harmonies; it’s impossible to dispute Mr. Glass’ talent as a composer based on this concert.