Coverage by Waylon O’Day, Bree Angela Hamilton, Raj Radia, and Franco Rosa
Photos by Aarik Charles and Junior Fernandez
People from around the world descended upon the Bayou City this weekend for a one of the most highly anticipated festivals of the year, Day for Night. After the Friday night pre-party which included a DJ set from Bjork as well as a performance from the Suffers’ lead singer Kam Franklin, it was time for the real festival to begin. The first day went off without a hitch as acts such as Thundercat, Tycho, Blood Orange, and Aphex Twin gave performances that audiences fawned over.
Welcome to Houston
The first act that I got to see at this year’s Day for Night was one that I had wanted to see since the collective had been created at Free Press Summer Fest a few years ago, but had been unable due to my unwillingness to attend the festival in any place other than Eleanor Tinsley Park. When I arrived at the Red Stage, ESG was already on stage in his blue jump suit urging the crowd to get more involved, after performing his class “Swangin’ and Bangin'” before handing off the mic to Devin the Dude who can seen above piloting a drone while performing, he ran through a few of his more popular songs including “What a Job,” and personal favorite “Doobie Ashtray.” After H-Town’s equivalent to Snoop Dogg came Northside rapper J-Dawg who ran through his most popular song “First 48,” as well as a couple of other songs. “WHO?,” rang through the crowd and all of those who followed hip-hop in the early part of the new millenium instantly knew who was about to hit the stage, none other than Mike Jones. The man who was once the face of Houston hip-hop performed his classic songs “Back Then,” as well as “Still Tippin'” and “3 Grams” to which he brought out Slim Thug and Paul Wall. The pair then proceeded to assume the spotlight, using up the majority of the hourlong set between them. Slim ran through his standard songs “Thug,” “I Ran,” and “Houston,” while Paul Wall backed him up and sang his feature verse from the latter song. Then, the People’s Champ brought out Lil Keke to perform “Chunk up the Duece,” and “Break ‘Em Off” with him, he also performed “Sittin’ Sidewayz.” Lil Keke went on to perform his classic “I’m a G,” then came Lil Flip who performed a couple songs including a brostep remix of his hit song “This is the Way We Ball,” which honestly was awful and felt like it was pandering to EDM crowd, and it was completely out of place as no one else swerved that far out of their respective lane. Luckily, the was all forgetten when the King of the Ghetto, the Mo City Don, Z-Ro hit the stage. He came onto the stage singing the chorus to “Still Gets No Love,” which was originally a song with him and Trae the Truth, Z-Ro also played his arguably most popular song “Mo City Don Freestyle,” before Bun B came onto the stage to perform “Get Throwed” and “Draped Up.” Near the end of the set Bun B, a living legend in hip-hop addressed the crowd, hinting at a national tour of the collective before performing the late Pimp C’s verse from the classic UGK-Outkast collab “Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You). It was amazing to see this collection of H-Town heavyweights, I really have no complaints, but I do have a subtle suggestion: I think it would add a lot if “Welcome to Houston” began to slowly infuse the surplus of young blood in Houston into the act, creating a relationship between the old and the new era’s of hip-hop of our great city.
Personally, Tobacco was one of the main draws to the festival. He was one of the artist that fit the bill perfectly. When Tobacco went on, he brought a whole band and hopped on the bass. All the times I saw him, he just managed electronics, so it was an awesome change-up. Even though he got on bass, he spent the whole performance sitting on the stage. Even though he was sitting down, that didn’t change the mood of the crowd. It seemed like several people in the crows we’re unfamiliar with him, but they slowly got into it. By the end of the performance, everyone was dancing. Their overall set was great. They played several new songs, such as “Human Om” and “Gods in Heat,” as well as older songs, such as “Sweat Mother” and “Hair Candy.” I would’ve loved to see more songs off of his first album F***ed Up Friends. Even though I didn’t get that, that didn’t take away from his performance and killed it.
Concert goers of all ages awaited at the red stage for the arrival of beloved neo-soul and jazz artist, Thundercat. All the while, human connections were being made in the masses, minutes before the show began. Young lovers danced gleefully, while free-spirited souls exchanged words of enlightenment. At last, the wait was over and Thundercat came on the scene. “Nothing like the festival life” said singer-bassist Stephen Bruner, the creative force behind Thundercat. Instantaneously, the group dove deep into what sounded like a tranquil misty evening meadow. The sounds were unlike any other, dream-like in nature and putting listeners into a cerebral trance. The songs performed were a myriad of different, colored, glassy tones that shined a light of exuberance into the audience. There was great contrast from start to end as they would transition into strong, climatic finishes that left the crowd yearning for more. The mood of the set list was reflective and melancholic in theme while peaking in spikes of ecstatic release and transformation, songs such as “Heartbreaks + Setbacks” & “Them Changes”. In the middle of the performance, Bruner pauses and hints at the idea of a new album in the works, “or whatever”, the playful and charismatic Thundercat remarked. In summary, the turnout was a success and left everybody with eyes clenched and mind boggled. Definitely one of the most memorable experiences of Day for Night: Day One.
The man who has produced music for everyone from Lil B to Foster the People was the epicenter of the earthquake that engulfed the indoor Blue Stage early Saturday. Clams opened with Vince Staples’ “Norf Norf,” before moving onto the collab between the pair, “All Nite.” The visuals that were projected onto the circular screens on either side of the stage kept the crowd mesmerized as Clams ran through a mix of predominantly hip-hop songs accompanied with his own touch. The set leaned heavily on A$AP Rocky as well as he played song he produced for the rapper including “LVL,” as well as what I believe was a remix of Clams’ own “Be Somebody.” I had been a fan of Clams Casino since his days of first producing for Lil B, but seeing him live really cemented my feelings towards him. His ability to make hip-hop beats with a dark ambient feel goes unmatched by his peers as he is clearly head and shoulders above them on this measure.
As the festival continued, a few people started to shift towards the secluded yellow stage. All day, I had seen several artists make their debut at Day for Night. It was exciting to be able to see this next artist was homegrown and representing our scene at one of the biggest music events of the year. Decked out with a gold chain, ivory pant suit and tribal glittered face paint, solo artist Avery Davis, known as -Us., graced the stage. As he began his set, he started off strong with retro, lo-fi, drum beats and shimmering guitar tones to set the mood. As the only instrumentalist in the band, all eyes truly were on him, but he handled himself well. The songs were melodic, and synth pop based, with heavy bass and catchy hooks to accompany his glamorous aesthetic. However, I did notice a neutral response from the crowd. While a few could catch some feeling of the beat, ultimately it was the lack of stage presence and vocal mixing that could’ve been improved to enhance audience-artist connection. Although, Davis did put everything he had on the stage that night, it didn’t feel very intimate. Nonetheless, the set list was entertaining and cohesive, but if he could invest time into finding a backing band, he would be able to focus much more on the vocals and deliver a much more engaging and stimulating performance.
Banks hit Day for Night’s Red Stage with almost no warning and little fanfare. Once the stage lights went up, the singer walked out—followed closely by two dancers. She took the stage five minutes earlier than scheduled—which would have been a treat for fans if she hadn’t ended the set 20 minutes early. The stage was dressed down, only sporting a couple of microphones, those dancers and Banks. She performed popular, crowd-pleasing tracks like “Drowning” and “Waiting Game” from her 2014 debut Goddess. However, I most enjoyed her performance of “F**k With Myself” from her sophomore LP, The Altar. While the minimal set played into Banks’s aesthetic, it left something to be desired that the singer couldn’t make up for. I could barely hear Banks’s vocals over the bass in her songs and the reverb on her mic, and at one point it became painfully obvious to the crowd that she was lip-syncing. In spite of all of this, I still found myself drawn to Banks’s music, so she’s doing something right.
The Jesus & Mary Chain
At last, night had fallen and after a multitude of engaging acts, a huge following made their way to the Green stage. There was an ominous fog that seeped into the crowd as the mood darkened with brevity. As soon as The Jesus & Mary Chain took the stage, faces of the audience lit up like a thousand suns. Ages of all kinds were there, while few wore the iconic Psychocandy album t-shirt. The sounds came down like a brick wall of distorted tones and phased riffing. Singer Jim Reid, felt right at home with mic in hand, chanting and reciting his poetic and melodic phrases. The band was simply phenomenal, and it seemed to transport listeners to a different time. A time when new-wave and punk-rock were at the top of the game, the performance was emotional, nostalgic, and just pure adrenaline. A timeless act indeed, Reid thanked the crowd for having them on and reassured them of the new material scheduled to release soon. By the end of the night, classic songs such as “Just Like Honey”, “Head On”, “Happy When It Rains”, “Blues From A Gun” and “Reverence” brought down the house, leaving hundreds of fans with arms in the air, cheering and enamored once again.
Nick Murphy/Chet Faker
Nick Murphy, the artist formerly known as Chet Faker, took 40 minutes to bridge the gap between R&B and EDM during his set at Day for Night. The Red Stage, complete with a dramatic, pulsating light show, was the perfect backdrop for Murphy’s performance. Fans sang every word to Murphy’s hits including “Talk Is Cheap,” “1998,” and “Fear Less.” The singer’s setlist was above reproach, with each song more upbeat and soulful than the last.
Singer-songwriter Dev Hynes, better known festival-goers as Blood Orange, packed the Green Stage. Blood Orange opened his show with a slow, melodic piano rhythm, almost teasing the crowd. It was long before his band—which included a guitarist, drummer, keyboardist, saxophone player and two background singers—hit the stage that things started to pick up. Blood Orange played a mix of career-spanning tracks like “Chamakay,” “By Ourselves,” and “Do You See My Skin Through The Flames?” Though background singer Ava Raiin upstaged Blood Orange during a few songs, the singer had the most put-together performance I had seen all day.
When Tycho got announced for the festival, I was absolutely stoked. I had missed them on their most recent tour, so I was happy I could catch them, especially after the release of their new album Epoch. The Blue stage was perfect for their performance. The stage gave the band the ability to put emphasis on their visuals, which we’re hypnotizing once combined with their music. They evoked a warm and relaxing feeling that blended well with their performance. They played a good amount of Epoch, as well as some fan favorites, including, “Awake” and “Montana.”
I couldn’t be happier that there was a stage dedicated to local music. I was even happier to see Coog Radio Alumni Fat Tony take the stage. I had only heard a few of his songs and had never seen him perform, so I was excited to see what he was going to bring. He did an amazing job at hyping the crowd up. The whole entire time he engaged the crowd and had them fighting the cold weather that appeared during the night. The only complaint I have from his performance is the amount of auto tune he used. It seemed like he was relying heavily on it, which got redundant at times. Besides that, he did an awesome job and I look forward to seeing him at future performances.
The man, the myth, the legend, Richard D. James came, saw, and conquered Day for Night’s mainstage in his first performance in the Bayou city in over twenty years, and his first in America in nearly a decade. To put this into perspective, Aphex Twin’s last trip to Houston was nearly about four years before I was born, and his last American show was at Coachella in 2008, when I had just discovered the wider world of music at the tender age of twelve. The big draw of the festival, the crowd that gathered to watch James’ performance was larger than any other I saw at the festival. However, that all changed once the wind started blowing, lowering the temperature by at least twenty degrees, bringing with it slight showers of ice cold rain. This prompted many members of the audience to retreat for cover. Those who braved the weather, as I did, were in for one helluva treat, as shortly after the rain picked up, the lasers went off, reflecting the constant stream of rain with creating an exceptional visual experience. Eventually the rain stopped, but the wind continued, gently nudging the majority of the audience into dancing for pure self preservation. I know for a lot of people the weather made it hard to truly enjoy what was going on onstage, but in mind, braving those elements made the experience all that much more amazing. I mean, how many people can say that they saw Aphex Twin period, much less in the rain with near freezing temperatures. Due to Aphex’s extensive discography, I was unable to really pick out which songs Aphex threw on for the crowd, but I do know that the mix was pressed on vinyl and sold in limited quantities at the festival, so hopefully, one of those lucky few will upload some mp3’s of the mix so we can all relive the once in a lifetime performance from on of the most influential names in electronic music.
Soulection’s DJ set at the Blue Stage was the most underwhelming live music experience I’ve had in a while. Andre Power spearheaded the three-hour ordeal, adopting a master of ceremonies-type role. He introduced Dpat first, a DJ from Houston. Dpat’s mix was uninspired and uninteresting, featuring a lazy blend of original instrumentals over popular tracks like Solange’s “Cranes In The Sky,” Kanye West’s “Fade,” and Mary J. Blige’s “Family Affair.” I was hugely disappointed and found myself walking toward the exit about ten minutes after the set had started. Though I don’t regret not sticking out Soulection’s performance, I do wish that I had stayed to see Samantha Duenas and Esta, whose performances (I heard) were much better.
That is our coverage of the first day of the second annual Day for Night Music and Arts Festival, check the site over the next couple of days as we will be adding further coverage in the days to come. Let us know what you think, what sets did you like? Which ones did you hate? Tell us about your Day for Night experience.