Coverage by Waylon O’Day, BreeAngela Hamilton, Raj Radia, and Franco Rosa
Photos by Aarik Charles and Junior Fernandez
The final day of Day for Night was the perfect end to a stellar weekend. In spite of the cold and the wind, festival goers braved the elements with the help of some stellar music. However, the inside part of the festival campus was noticeably more crowded than the day before. Acts like Kamasi Washington, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Mykki Blanco, and Kaskade gave the shivering crowd a little warmth for the soul. Meanwhile acts like the Butthole Surfers and Houston’s own Travis Scott made us feel as though we were left out in the cold, while Blonde Redhead literally left us out in the cold.
Starting things fresh for day two of Day for Night was psychedelic-pop artist, Ariel Pink. The multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter from LA, and his backing band, Haunted Graffiti, did not disappoint. What began as a more-than-frigid afternoon in downtown Houston, turned into a joyous, well-orchestrated, blueberry acid jam. Critics have raved on about the showmanship and songwriting capability of the quirky and unorthodox, Ariel Pink, for a few years now and I’m glad to finally see what they mean. Signed to a label started by prominent, neo-psych band, Animal Collective in 2003, Pink truly did rise to the occasion and delivered a textured, mellow and upbeat set list performance. The songs seemed to take a lot of influence from surf-rock based rhythms, and surf guitar tremolos all while glossing it over with spacious, blue-wave synth and poppy, rebellious, lyrical content. Despite the battle of the elements going on, the group put on quite an engaging show as bodies shimmied and shook throughout the crowd to produce an arctic glow.
The much anticipated, noise rock duo from Rhode Island, Lightning Bolt, performed as planned on Day for Night’s Green Stage. The duo began promptly as the sun slowly descended, so the cold air started to freeze everyone outside. Lucky enough for the crowd, the act they were about to witness would be enough fire for their bones. “Houston, are you ready?” drummer-vocalist Brian Chippendale teased. The crowd screamed in uproar as bassist Brian Gibson, turned up his fuzz bass and executed a razor sharp riff. Chippendale breaks into his drum-set, all while screaming and singing like a banshee. It was an indescribable feeling. Pure chaos ensued, as legions of young people swarmed in the crowd to thrash around, head bang and crowd surf. The duo’s gnashing bass tones combined with an absurd pulsing tempo produced a raw and emotional experience for the audience. Although, the technicalities of the music weren’t exactly precise or structured, their explosive nature delivered an unforgettable moment at Day for Night, Day Two.
Mykki Blanco graced Day for Night’s Blue Stage about five minutes earlier than scheduled but gave the floor to his DJ, Bambi, before beginning his show. Once he started, the rapper wowed the crowd with track after track from his self-titled debut album. Blanco seemed to decide the setlist as the show went on, taking breaks between songs to talk to the crowd and ask the DJ what to play next. Though most of the songs he performed were booming, bragadocious bangers like “I’m In A Mood,” Blanco showed range with slower, more thoughtful tracks like “Loner.” Blanco did more in the first eight minutes of his set than most artists do in the entirety of theirs. Blanco used everything at his disposal as a prop—the DJ table, microphone stands, strobe lights and even his wig. Fans and passersby were treated to the full Mykki Blanco experience which included some stripping, several jumps into the crowd, one climb up a wall and one run through the photo pit. After performing his final song, Blanco turned the spotlight to Bambi again and danced with the crowd to her live mix. I thoroughly enjoyed every second of Blanco’s performance—my only complaint is that the event staff pulled the plug on his set after going two minutes over time.
Although the audience didn’t get to hear the full three hours of The Epic, or even the full forty five minute set time, Kamasi Washington and his backing band which included Thundercat gave what in my mind was the most exciting performance of the entire festival. Most of the time when an act plays just three songs you walk away feeling slighted, but that just doesn’t apply to Kamasi Washington. The saxophonist came to the stage probably about ten minutes after the rest of his band had assembled onstage, addressing the crowd he said “It’s colder than a mug out here,” before starting off the set with the lead song from his album “The Change of the Guard,” which included a perfect sax solo from Washington himself as well as his keyboard player. It felt like I was just watching these guys jam at their house, it was so smooth and fluid, everyone on the stage looked well at home. Despite being on the main stage at a high traffic time, this set felt by far the most intimate of any I had seen at any festival ever. The group closed with “The Rhythm Changes,” the closer of the first act of his three act album, in which the lone vocalist he brought with him was able to polish her chops in spite of the near freezing weather. Before leaving the stage Kamasi once again addressed the audience to give thanks to his backing band, then Washington thanked the crowd for being there despite the chill, and promised he would be back soon. There is ample room for him to perform in Houston, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be at a contemporary concert venue, it could be at the Opera or the Houston Symphony, both of which I feel like would be more than welcome to have him play. Now, I am left waiting and hoping for another opportunity to see one of the greatest jazz musicians of our generation.
RZA featuring Stone Mecca
RZA was one of those rapper I thought I would never get the chance to see. I was excited not only to see the legend perform, but to see how he would do without the rest of Wu-Tang. I never listened to his solo stuff, but his set list definitely sparked my interest. His set was unusually aggressive, which I loved. His band, Stone Mecca, helped bring out the aggression in his music. He played a variety of his old songs, as well as some Wu-Tang classics such as “Wu-Tang Ain’t Nuthin” and his verse in “C.R.E.A.M.” It was one of the best rap performances I had seen the whole festival.
My uncle had introduced me to Squarepusher a couple of years ago, and over that time I had steadily grown more and more fond of his music as I digested more of it. Never did I once think I would have the opportunity to see him live, I knew he was somewhat reclusive, as many electronic artists from his era are, and that he seldom performed anymore, so when I saw his name on the lineup I knew I had to see him in the flesh. Squarepusher entered the stage wearing what looked to be a fencing suit before waving to the crowd as the video screens behind him lit up with coding from what looked to be audio software as “Stor Eiglass,” the opener from his latest album Damogen Furies, whose tracks his set leaned on. The tracks tended to be a little more abrasive and bass-heavy than I was accustomed to hearing from Squarepusher. However I did enjoy the true to the genre drum n’ bass that he sprinkled throughout his set which kept me from looking as though I was not shivering from the cold, but instead dancing freakishly fast. Despite me being a fan of Squarepusher more for his minimalist, jazzy, ambient productions, I still found his hour long set enjoyable, that is up until the point it sounded as if he blew up one of his machines as a loud pop was heard from the studio monitors, and it went silent.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
By the time UMO took the stage, it was frigid and the sun had fallen. Even though the cold air was just unbearable, it was worth it to see these guys perform front and center on Day for Night’s Green stage. This band never ceases to amaze me. They opened their set with timeless song, “From The Sun” off of the album, II (2013). Every song that followed, was a kaleidoscope of texture and color. Formed by singer-guitarist, Ruban Nielson, the band have released three studio albums so far, each one masterfully written and composed by Nielson. With the help of his band, keyboardist Quincy McCrary, bassist Jake Portrait, and newcomer Amber Baker on drums, UMO is able to produce a medley of jazz, soul, pop, rock and neo-psychedelia into their repertoire. The songs alone are so colorful and catchy, it’s always fascinating to see which approach they take their songs in a live setting. Throughout the night, they played songs such as “How Can U Luv Me” & “Ffunny Ffriends” from their self-titled (2011), “So Good at Being Trouble” & “Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)” from II (2013) and songs off their most recent album, Multi-Love (2015). I recall a moment of bliss felt in the audience as Ruban Nielson’s bellowing woes are heard in the song, “The World Is Crowded”. Every musician on the stage was such a savant, it was astounding how good they were at feeling each other out, riffing, soloing and intermingling with each other’s intricate instrumentation. During “Stage or Screen”, the charismatic Nielson climbed the stage side structure, serenading all below him, and eventually throwing himself into the crowd. Eventually, UMO bid their farewells to the audience with their last song being “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone”, with a promise to return to the Bayou City in the near future.
Little Dragon was able to pull off one the best performances I’ve ever seen after arriving at the venue with only 15 minutes to spare and their instruments still in London. The band’s understated performance style was in perfect juxtaposition to their music. Yukimi Nagano’s voice was crisp, clear and powerful over the instrumentals to “Pretty Girls,” “Feather,” and “Ritual Union.” Prior to this weekend, my knowledge of Little Dragon began and ended with their feature on Mac Miller’s “The Festival,” but now I would gladly stand in the cold to see them perform again.
It had been five years since the experimental rockers from San Antonio had played their last show at Stubb’s in Austin, and it was pretty evident Sunday night. The rust had clearly set in during the band’s hiatus for some of the members except legendary drummer King Coffey who looked as though he was as full of energy as ever, banging on his drums with such ferocity and bassist Jeff Pinkus who swung his Flying V five string bass around like a rag doll throughout the shortened set. As the set was supposed to begin, the band was just starting their soundcheck, and so it continued for another forty minutes and then finally the band made it to the stage. In retrospect, I wish they would’ve checked longer, as sound issues plagued the whole set. In what should have been a red flag, lead singer, Gibby Haynes, addressed the crowd before playing opener “100 Million People Dead,” by saying “Let’s see how this works out.” Gibby himself seemed almost completely attached from the performance throughout, sipping on a Heineken consistently both during and between songs. The sound cut in and out as the band trudged through their eighteen song set which included “Rocky,” “Dum Dum,” “Fast Song,” and “Some Dispute Over T-Shirt Sales.” The last five songs of the set seemed to be where the band finally started to hit their stride as they played a shortened version of their lone radio hit “Pepper,” following it up with “Who Was In My Room Last Night?” which got the crowd into a little bit of pushing and shoving, but all in good fun. Then, very abruptly there was a break, and Gibby left the stage and brought his young daughter onto the stage to bang on a small drum set along with King Coffey as the band played my new found favorite Butthole Surfers’ song “The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey’s Grave.” Finally the band closed with “Lou Reed,” leaving a lot left to be desired. A noticeable absence in the set list was “Dracula from Houston,” a track the band cut for the soundtrack of Step Into Liquid in 2004. Maybe it is because it wasn’t a track they released on an actual album, but it seems like a forgone conclusion that you would play a song that includes the name of the city you’re performing in. The band left a little late, but not enough to make up for their soundcheck, and ultimately cutting their set time down by nearly half. However, these guys are all about sixty years old, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that they don’t live up to the stories I heard growing up from my parents. It’s just really hard for me to accept that I was born too late to see these guys in their prime, but that’s the reality of the situation.
Kaskade was the last act at the red stage and everyone was excited. Everyone was freezing and ready to dance and warm up. Kaskade was only a couple of minutes late, but a couple of minutes feels like eternity in the cold. Once e came out everyone started screaming. He strayed away from using the giant screens at the beginning of his set, and used the lights available. Once he started using the screens he activated the smoke guns and confetti shooters and riled the crowd up (in the best way possible). Everyone was dancing the night away. Even the security got in on the action. He played a variety of his hits, including “In Common” “Disarm You” and his new single “Beneath With Me V4.” Kaskade was overall a great show. It was an awesome way to cap off the festival.
Travis Scott’s set at Day for Night was underwhelming to say the least. The show started more than 20 minutes behind schedule and it began with someone else’s song. Festival-goers flocked to the Green Stage once Travis began rapping. He played an array of career-spanning tracks like “90210” and “Outside,” but paused his set to shout out Kanye West, Kid Cudi, Chief Keef and 21 Savage. Travis performs in the same way as many rappers—walking back and forth with a mic in his hand. I kept waiting to be impressed, but that moment never came. At one point I found myself wishing he would hurry up and play “Pick Up Tha Phone” and “Goosebumps” so I could leave—and of course, he saved those songs until the bitter end.
That is our coverage of the final 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 telling you about what we liked and didn’t like about this year’s festival. Let us know what you think, what sets did you like? Which ones did you hate? Tell us about your Day for Night experience.