Day For Night Year Two RecapAphex Twin, Photo: Roger Ho
If you’re doing a festival in today’s music world, I doubt you can top Houston’s Day For Night, The festival that merges art and music did quite the job for their second year landing Aphex Twin and Squarepusher, as well as Bjork Digital and many more epic artists. In two days, all of the pain and bizarre happening of 2016 seemed to melt away while I saw tons of friends and got down where it felt like Aphex Twin literally changed the weather where it went from way too muggy, to way too cold during his landmark performance.
I got to the festival later than I wanted, but began with some Thundercat about a quarter into his set. I was impressed with his live set on a large stage, as the last couple of times I’ve seen him he was in a much smaller venue. After doing some media check ins and scheduling for the day out of the way, I took in some art which I had seen the bulk of on the Friday night preview. The crazy laser grid piece from Tundra blew me away with how mammoth it was in size while the Shoplifter piece was very pliable and fun. When I strolled by the Damien Echols piece he was inside of it leading the audience surrounding in a trance like state which was cool to witness. The light wall from Nonotak was immense, mind bending, and beautiful with what appeared to be a simplistic design, but was rather a complex layout that was trippy and always drew a crowd.
Nonotak, Photo: Theo Civatello
After a fifth attempt to get into the ultra limited Bjork Digital piece, I navigated outside to catch The Jesus and Mary Chain. They opened with their classic “Head On” and sounded pretty much as good as they did back when I saw them in the nineties. In fact, that really went with most of their stronger songs of the six I saw before I ventured inside to catch Oneohtrix Point Never. The elusive producer didn’t disappoint with a set full of bizarre sounds and morphed vocals, he definitely played harder than I expected. I caught a track from Nick Murphy, as well as a couple from Austin’s From Beyond, before I rolled upstairs to catch a glimpse of the Nonotak set. There was something bizarre yet stunningly creative in the set which had the artists silhouetted behind glass screens while beams of light danced atop the glass. It was like watching slow motion of the artists while the synchronized light patterns allowed their silhouettes to portray a different emotion altogether.
John Carpenter, Photo: Ismael Quintanilla
I caught a couple of intense tracks from Blood Orange, as well as a higher energy from Tycho on the three tracks I saw from them; before heading over to catch Daughters. They definitely sounded better than the last time I saw them about seven years ago, and their high energy really seemed to impress the larger than expected crowd that was there. After another attempt at Bjork, I then watched the crazed energy of first five tracks from Fat Tony before I went over to prep for Aphex Twin. Getting there early paid off as I was able to get really close which proved vital in locating the logo he beamed from the stage like Batman while he started off with some ambient jams. He didn’t stay in that mode for long, as he started getting nuttier and nuttier creating a more intense set before I realized that he’d been on stage over thirty minutes. I headed away to catch a glimpse of John Carpenter’s set only to walk up on a live version of the “Halloween” theme that the audience seemed to really love. However, when I went outside for Run The Jewels, the cold front had blown in as did the rain, so I only caught a track from afar. After another attempt at Bjork Digital, I got to see more of Aphex Twin and the latter half of his set really went hard. With drum and bass offerings, it was a cold temperature but the dedication of the crowd meant that it was pretty warm where I was standing.
LIMB, Photo: Ismael Quintanilla
I rolled inside to catch Houston’s DPat on stage for the Soulection set which got my feet moving before I went upstairs for the LIMB Octa set. While the collaboration between Daniel Schaeffer, Eric Todd, and James Templeton had been pushed back about fifteen minutes, I had my mind a little blown by the United Visual Artists’ piece. However once the LIMB set began, I was pleasantly surprised. The energy that the eight speaker surround sound created while LIMB performed in the middle was pretty nutty. His crazed and intense energy during his set only fueled by the audience surrounding him like a punk show, was probably the best thing I saw on day one.
Liars, Photo: Sara Marjorie Strick
On day two, I missed Ariel Pink but was definitely warmed up by the intensity of Rhode Island duo, Lightning Bolt. Performing on the green stage outside, I was happy to see so many brave the cold while these two dropped one of the best sets I’ve seen from them when they weren’t in the crowd, but on a stage. I followed that with a bit of Matmos before we all found out that Blonde Redhead had their flights cancelled two days in a row and couldn’t appear, I found myself back downstairs to attempt the Bjork Digital experience. However, since I couldn’t get in, I went upstairs to check out some more of the art. After that I caught a bit of the bizarre set from Anklepants before getting up close for the set from Liars. I was glad to get there early, as the dropped a pretty epic performance, complete with dancing and energy on a higher level than many acts going today.
Squarepusher, Photo: Julian Bajsel
The cold was a little too brisk, so I skipped the RZA feat. Stone Mecca set and headed over for Squarepusher. Possibly one of the best sets I saw on the red stage, Squarepusher went hard and deep in, never really letting up after his set began. Donning what appeared to be a fencing mask, his visuals were almost as lit up as his high energy set that included plenty of theatrical movements from the producer. After his altering set, I stuck around to catch a bit of Little Dragon who sounded better than when I saw them last at Fitzgerald’s years ago. I then headed over to the green stage, where I had hoped to catch a large portion of the Butthole Surfers performance. However, whether the band was running behind or the stage was, I watched more of their constant sound checking than I did of their actual set. I hurried over to the yellow stage to catch some of Houston’s JERK, who were definitely bringing heat to their set. Keeping things fun and energetic, this performance was the best I’ve seen the three piece so far.
Travis Scott, Photo: Greg Noire
Then, I wanted to be close for SOPHIE, which was one of the best moves I made all day. The elusive producer’s first set in Houston was a doozy, where he dropped one of the most fascinating sets of the festival. Strange sounds brought in alongside some of his trademark bangers made the set light up for a hungry crowd that filled the lower half of the downstairs. Dancing to the grooves he dropped, he seemed to really be enjoying himself which is always nice to witness from a performer. I then found myself watching a bit of Kaskade before heading over to catch a glimpse of Houston’s Wild Moccasins. After that I caught about half of Travis Scott’s high energy set. Scott definitely brought his energy as he burned through favorites old and new, consistently shouting out Houston and asking for fan participation on the bulk of the tracks I saw.
Tundra, Photo: Chad Wadsworth
I closed the festival off with about half of Arca’s performance. The Venezuelan producer did not disappoint, dropping crazed tracks while what appeared to be videos of fish in fishing nets played behind him. It was the fitting strange set to end on such a fun and inventive festival. Overall I was pleased with how the schedules ran, the lineup, and the sound alongside some of the best and most inventive art I’ve ever experienced. The only downfall was that I heard that several exhibits were vandalized by some trash person, thus almost ruining the festival’s name as well as turning a blind eye to the artist’s hard work. Most of the art exhibitions took over a year to create and craft, so I was happy to see that all of them were brought back up and were running before the end of the night.
All in all, it was another epic year for the next level festival. Even though I’ve gotten used to going wherever I want to in the music world and even I wasn’t cool enough to get into the Bjork Digital experience, it didn’t ruin what was one of the best experiences I had all year. If for some reason you missed the festival that felt like it was booked by true music and art lovers this year, then you truly missed a one of a kind experience. If I had to pick a favorite set from the two days, or three if you count the preview on Friday, I’d have to say it was Houston’s LIMB. His highly energetic performance coupled with Eric Todd’s and Daniel Schaeffer’s layout of Octa, really blew me away and was something I was proud to see come to life. Luckily for those of us who attended, the festival was a beautiful way to cap off a strange and tumultuous year.