Live Review: Day for Night Festival: Day 1 (Houston, TX)

Janelle Monáe
Janelle Monáe by Chris Maroulakos

The best word to describe Houston’s inaugural Day for Night fest? Chill.

Day for Night is a strange cousin to Free Press Summer Fest: it trades the raucous, sweaty, spring-breaker set for a mellowed crowd of sweatered, hot toddy sippers. A fully carpeted outdoor dance floor transformed the Silver Street Studios into the city’s largest rec room. And the eclectic and electric lineup huddled nostalgic New Order fans and young EDM aficionados together in the crisp December air.

But the chillest (and most ambitious) part of Day for Night was the light. Dozens of light installations dotted throughout the festival grounds, and as the sun set over Houston’s skyline, the sides of buildings morphed into moving, illuminated works of art. “Volume” by Nonotakstudio created a strobe light industrial horror show scene, while “Lull” by Vincent Houzé + AV+C undulated and oozed with light reflecting off of peaceful, quiet smoke. Paired with a music lineup that skewed experimental, the festival is as much art festival as it is music festival.

Janelle Monáe stood out on day one, charming the audience with an expertly crafted throwback show. The consummate professional show-woman, she emerged onstage in a straight jacket, unleashing herself on the crowd with “Giving ‘Em What They Love.” Each song revealed Monae to be a natural, precise performer, from the funky George Clinton riffs of “Electric Lady” to the sultry club beats of “Yoga.” But Monae did not limit herself to endearing theatrics. After a crowd-pleasing cover of “I Feel Good,” she entreated us to defend the rights of immigrants, women, and religious minorities and “not elect a candidate” who would not do the same.

New Order were the biggest draw for the night, and the audience got their money’s worth with a two-hour set. While younger audience members may have been flummoxed by film clips from Lust and Sound in West Berlin, no one was lost when the band burst out with crowd favorites like “Ceremony” and “Bizarre Love Triangle.” The set blended effortlessly into the aesthetic of the festival, bringing a geometric light show to vibrant electronic compositions. Bernard Sumner still played to the crowd, however, donning a cowboy hat for “Blue Monday” and closing out a magical first night.

And that’s just day one.

Check back soon for our review of day two of the Day for Night festival.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.