The third iteration of the now heralded music-slash-arts festival that is Day for Night opened this past Friday, featuring talks from legendary performance artist Laurie Anderson, as well as Chelsea Manning and Nadya from the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, and spoken-word poetry from Saul Williams. However, the night was not just filled with stimulating conversations about the intersection of technology, society, art, and politics. The summit also featured performances from artists such as BOOTS, Jenny Hval, Earl Sweathshirt, and Kaytranada, who gave the crowd that gathered at the old Barbara Jordan Post Office something to move and groove to.
Coverage by Waylon O’Day, Cedric Mathis, German Romaldo, and Kolin Miller
The Friday Summit at Day for Night started off this year with five great speakers, but the festival kicked off its musical portion with a great performance, visually and musically, by Jordan Asher Cruz otherwise known as Boots. Starting off as the frontman for various different bands before signing with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, Cruz worked on and developed his production and musical skills through the experiences he had with previous musical endeavors, but it all paid off with his help on the production of Beyoncé. Cruz’s hard work was evident as Beyoncé later went on to praise his innovative skills. Cruz released his solo studio album, Aquaria, in 2015 to critical acclaim. With various performances alongside acts such as FKA twigs and Run the Jewels, Boots is climbing a ladder of success that he has built to be fresh and strong.
As for Boots’ Friday performance, he started off the first half of the set demonstrating his electronic djing skills that delved deep into the electronic soundscapes similar to his soundtrack work on Fifty Shades of Grey to the bass bombing of Aphex Twin, one of Boots’ creative inspirations.
With minimal vocals, Boots created an intimate setting that allowed one to groove along to the beat or get engulfed in the noise overload. One of the highlights of the set was the insane endurance and concentration of the drummer who kept a consistent beat with his drum machine and actual drum for around ten minutes.
The second half of the set introduced Boots’ instrument of choice, the guitar, as well as a bassist. Taking a much different approach from the first half, Boots played songs off of Aquaria that were less droning and more sonically diverse. With so many different guitar effects, it did not sound as if Boots was playing guitar rather he was playing a soundboard with strings. On a side note, the light effects were magnificently done and were some of the best in recent memory at the festival.
Boots truly demonstrated the innovation that is spoken so much of him on Friday night. Boots provided a great start to not only a night of great music but to a weekend of it as well.
Shortly after Boots high energy performance, Jenny Hval took her place on stage. As she performed, a screen of floating images depicting Tweets, and computer windows which she claimed were “secret messages” to someone in particular. Like an ethereal being, she rocked back in forth while singing ever so softly. Her voice was light and comforting, and at one point she stopped, looked into the photo pit, and invited the photographers to use flash on their cameras (a big no no usually at musical venues) so her outfit could reflect the flash. But as the set went on, Hval wasted no movement, and while the blue stage seemed slightly smaller from past years, she continued to subtly rock from side to side, singing songs from her album “Blood Bitch”, creating a lofty atmospheric environment for the crowd to enjoy on the first day of the fest. Zone thing that stands out from Hval’s set as she referred to the “secret messages” this was simply not just a straight musical performance, as often with literature (Hval is an author of several books) there was layered meanings, from the lyrics of her songs to the video playing behind her, even the side panels where usually shows the artist on a camera, Hval had a pin wheel and even a 3D model creation of a human in an app at one point. This set was a full experience that I had the great fortune to witness.
I was more than pumped to see ole Thebe, throughout high school I was obsessed with Odd Future and all of it’s members, especially Early Man, in fact I’m wearing OF donut socks as I write this.
I have always connected to his lyrics more than any of his contemporaries; the darkness, the isolation, the depression, it all resonates for me, considering we come from similar backgrounds: absentee fathers, middle-class, suburban upbringing with an extremely protective mother. As he has grown as an artist, and as a person, so have I, so while waiting to see him perform, I felt like I was waiting to see a friend I haven’t seen in years, however that familiarity soon faded as Earl made his way onto the Blue Stage Friday evening.
I had seen Earl one time prior, five years ago at the House of Blues shortly after his return from Samoa, and the level of excitement that I felt then was either matched or one-upped by Earl on that occasion, however this go-around it was, well, different.
Coming onto the stage accompanied by the organ introduction of “Huey,” the first song off of Sweatshirt’s last project, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, it was immediately apparent that this wouldn’t be the bright-eyed kid I had seen half a decade prior. He struggled to make it through his dense verses on the Neptunes produced “Burgundy,” often sticking the first end of a couplet, only to completely ignore the second half. He would sort of rap a long to tracks from both of his full-length projects, never playing songs from his eponymous mixtape that ultimately led to his notoriety. About fifteen minutes into his set, during his rendition of personal favorite “Sunday,” his DJ slowed down the tracks so that Earl could try and nail his lyrics, but still to no avail. To add insult to injury, the sound during his set was dismal, as the track would take precedence over vocals, and then the vocals over the track, over and over for the length of his set as he performed songs such as “Faucet,” “Grief,” “Grown Ups,” “AM // Radio,” “Wool,” “Guild,” “Chum,” and “Molasses.”
It’s hard for me to judge his performance based off of the one I saw so long ago, but it seemed as though Earl was extremely lethargic, whether due to substances, or just the morose nature of his music. Regardless, the performance was not the worst hip-hop performance I had ever seen, he rapped over instrumentals not over his own voice, which is always a huge plus. However, the lethargic aura Sweatshirt put off and the sound issues made it hard for me to focus on the fact that I was seeing someone that was once touted as the next Nas.
Waiting for Kaytranada in anticipation for the groove the entire venue and I knew we would ride for hours, I could feel the excitement build with every passing moment on the countdown. 10 minutes until dancing; 9 minutes; 8 minutes; and so on and so on. Kaytranada finally gets on stage, partnered by 4 giant balloons, and the color scheme of cotton candy. brightly warm blues and hot pink dominated the light show, with a screen showing scenes of people dancing in all forms formed a kaleidoscope of color, activity, and straight fun with the overall atmosphere. Kaytranada built a dance floor inside of a retro candy shop right before our eyes with mere lights, one screen, and good vibes.
The set itself was pretty good. Kaytranada started off with an original mix that led into his song “Together” from his 99.9% album with vocals from goldLink and Aluna George. The set lasted roughly one hour and forty five minutes, which in retrospect, flew by. Only one negative aspect of the entire set (aside from the minor technical difficulties which plagued every performance that day) comes to mind; Kaytranada is obviously a talented DJ along wth his talents as a producer. That being said, last night didn’t feel like a professional DJ was performing a DJ set, rather, at many points and transitions it felt like Kaytranada just had an aux on his phone playing the first couple minutes of his best work. Sometimes there were actually impressive transitions, and I would have liked to hear more of his lesser known stuff from before 99.9%, however overall, this was one of the performances out of all the countless performances I’ve seen that will forever stick out in my mind, due to the raw energy and talent showcased by Kaytra.
Thanks for reading our coverage of the Friday night summit for the third annual Day for Night Music and Arts Festival. Check in tomorrow for our coverage of the first full day of the festival when we review acts such as Tyler, the Creator, Nine Inch Nails, James Blake, Jaime xx, and many more.