When Free Press Houston announced that Houston was getting another new festival, the city was instantly excited. FPH is the same organization that put on the now-legendary Free Press Summer Fest every June, and this infant festival, the newly minted Day For Night, lived up to the precedent set by its established older sibling.
Bringing together elements of art, light and sound, DFN is a one-of-a-kind first event in the city of Houston. Many Houstonians jumped at the opportunity to enjoy an out-door festival in relatively cooler temperatures than what we’ve gotten used to dealing with at Summer Fest.
The two-day event found its home at the Silver Street Studios complex just north of downtown, composed of three main stages housing the various musical acts, while light fixtures and other exhibits dotted walls and warehouses throughout the venue.
Artists from across the world converged upon the city to display their wondrous and entrancing installations. A festival favorite was “Volume” by Parisian duo Nonotak, which combined cinematic audio and intense lighting to create an industrial wonder. There was also a maze of fence poles, strobe lights, and ominous sound evoked a feeling similar to a concentration camp or Kanye West’s Yeezy Season fashion shows.
Not just light and art, the first day of Day For Night had a diversely packed lineup, ranging from Philip Glass Ensemble to Janelle Monae to Future Blondes to the only U.S. show of New Order.
On the larger Red Stage, 19-year old Shamir captivated the audience with their pitch perfect countenor voice, singing several cuts from the recently released debut album, Ratchet, as well as other tracks from the 2014 EP Northtown. The self-described countertenor bounced around the stage, as their house-tinged cuts echoed across the festival grounds.
The same stage also introduced many to the talents of American freak duo CocoRosie, a pair of sisters backed by a beatboxer and aged keyboardist. Eclectically dressed as hipster astronaut and a saddened pin-up girl, the duo emulated various instruments, children’s toys, and electronic sounds while combining elements of hip hop, opera, and blues.
As the temperature dropped, the crowd seemed all too ready for the next performer to take the Red Stage: Wondaland’s own Janelle Monae. The ArchAndroid arrived onstage in her now-trademark Hannibal Lecter fashion, wheeled out while encased in a straightjacket. Performing her feel-good hits like “Dance Apocalyptic,” “Electric Lady,” and “Tightrope,” Ms. Monae took the crowd along with her vision of “church in the future.”
Not only did she crank out her own classics, she also took on some pitch-perfect renditions of James Brown’s “I Feel Good” and the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” She shaded Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump before going into “Cold War,” warning those in attendance on how important 2016 was going to be in America.
The soulful singer was in peak form throughout her entire set, even breaking out some sultry moves during her most recent hit, “Yoga.” Any rumors that Monae is a lackluster live performer seem to be totally unfounded, as her dance moves matched her superb vocal ability, notably on “Primetime.”
In between Janelle Monae and New Order, many attendees rushed over to the Green Stage to experience the hard-hitting mixes of French DJ Madeon. The enclosed warehouse instantly turned into a rave, as the audience took to revelling in a dancing frenzy. Having recently worked with Lady GaGa on her Artpop album, Madeon entranced the Day For Night with his dance house sound, capitalizing on the festival’s innate combination of light and sound.
Wondaland Records was taking over day one of Day For Night, with Janelle Monae’s performance being followed up by her artist Roman GianArthur. The last performer of the night on the Blue Stage, Roman filled his set with tracks from his EP OK LADY, transposing classic tracks by Thom Yorke and Radiohead through a R&B/soul filter. A well-versed instrumentalist, GianArthur took his time as he told an expressive story to an audience that held on to every note.
Janelle Monae electrified the crowd as she ran out onstage to join Roman for a number, bringing the energy level way up, before she returned backstage to watch on as her artist performed. Roman GianArthur kept the crowd alive with his own version of “church in the future,” switching from pining ballads, like personal favorite “H:GH&DRY,” to dance-friendly, crowd engaging numbers. A natural performer, Roman easily combines high energy elements of Prince with a vocal ability akin to D’Angelo, thoroughly entertaining the widely diverse crowd.
All in all, the first sojourn of Day For Night met its high-set expectations, bringing out millennials, mid-lifers, and everyone in between to the Silver Street Studios campus for an experience like no other. A December music and arts festival in Houston is a welcome addition, as the expanse of art, food vendors, and musical acts fit the city’s aesthetic perfectly.
Check out our recaps of the festival’s performances on our YouTube channel, as well as our Day Two recap.