Day for Night returned for its second year to Houston this past weekend, transforming the concrete monolith that was the Barbara Jordan Post Office into a cavernous, explosive sensorial universe.
What makes Day for Night stand out amongst other music festivals is its strong emphasis on giving visual artists equal and distinct billing to the music lineup. The entire second floor, as well as half of the ground floor was dedicated to works by artists including United Visual Artists, Tundra and Nonotak. With most of the pieces being light and digital based, the vast, dark spaces served as the perfect setting for each of the works, without too much interference from other works being too close.
We were lucky enough to preview the artworks on Friday night, without too many people and no lines. Seeing Musica Universalis by United Visual Artists (UVA) was an incredible experience, both hypnotic and powerful. The site-specific work features a series of spheres, each mounted with a light and a sound box, in rotating orbit at different speeds. The revolving light cast shadow on the spheres like the phases of the moon, and changes colors from white to red, then white to a purplish-blue. Like faraway planets in our universe, communicating to each other through resonant frequencies, its a performance that lingers with you long afterwards.
Tundra’s Outlines feature 400 red lasers with a reverberating soundscape that play with dimensionality and perception. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the world of surveillance in which we presently live and a feeling of entrapment. Especially when viewed from one end of the installation looking through the lasers, and seeing between the flashes of light, spectators standing on the opposite end evoking a vision of a menacing army.
Björk Digital, a five-room virtual reality experience featuring tracks from Björk’s Vulnicura album was intimate, poignant and raw. The virtual reality videos, a collaboration between Björk and directors including Andrew Thomas Huang, Kaoru Sugano and Jesse Kanda, captured Björk’s sorrow and heartbreak, transporting us into her unique magical and hallucinative universe.
On the music side, this year’s festival really drew in the crowds with Aphex Twin topping the bill of a diverse mix of artists including Lightning Bolt, Run the Jewels, Oneohtrix Point Never, Butthole Surfers, Squarepusher, Blood Orange and Kamasi Washington.
Aphex Twin, playing his first US show in eight years, was something that will stay with everyone who was there that night. With nature playing a role 30 minutes into the set, a cold front swept through the crowd, dropping the temperatures 20 degrees celsius with cold wind and rain. Some screens and speakers had to be lowered or shut off, but the crowd wasn’t going anywhere. The freak weather episode added to the electrifying atmosphere, turning into a rapid and glitchy rave. Looking around us, at the water dripping down people’s faces, wet tousled hair, yet the most joyous, euphoric looks covering the crowds faces, we all knew that we were experiencing an incredibly special moment.
Also on the Saturday, Oneohtrix Point Never started his set with blasts of harsh, demanding sounds as if to test the readiness of the crowd, then mellowing out later into the set. Everyone was dancing at ODESZA and Blood Orange. Lightning Bolt played an energized set on Sunday, keeping the crowds spirits high to fend of the cold. Squarepusher also played a great set. Blonde Redhead unfortunately missed their show due to a delayed flight.
Day for Night, still a very young festival, has done a tremendous job in bringing together music and visual art and is sure to get even better with each year.