There must be at least 25 disco balls being held in a giant net suspended 15 feet off the ground. Beams of light glisten off thousands of mirrors to emit a dazzling universe of tiny spots above our head. It's a beautiful sight, one that captivates passersby with each evolving pattern. Many drift toward the structure like moths to a flame, hypnotized. It's easy to get caught here before continuing on into the abyss of artistic exploration that is Houston's Day For Night festival.
In just its third year, Day For Night has established itself as an immersive haven for innovative talent, fusing visual art and sound in a unique industrial setting. It's diverse bookings, which includes Kaytranada, Nina Kraviz, Bjarki, Roni Size, Jamie xx, Nine Inch Nails, Justice, James Blake and Thom Yorke among others, is a major draw as it veers away from the basic festival bookings. That said, the otherworldly atmosphere is what allows it to clearly stand out on its own within the American festival circuit.
Although Day For Night is clearly much more than a music festival, in order to help provide a glimpse into the experience, Mixmag has highlighted 10 tracks from 10 of our favorite performances.
Nina Kraviz user18081971 (Aphex Twin) 'GPO Beat'
Closing out the festival on the Yellow Stage, Nina Kraviz delivered a high octane set of intricate techno to a crowd of revellers eager to get their last licks in before the music got shut down. As Mixmag’s recently announced DJ Of The Year in 2017, she’s proven to be one of the most in-demand DJs in the industry and she showed us why with her latest performance. We began to try to ID some tracks, we recognized this one by Aphex Twin, but then decided to put our heads down, hands in the air and rave as hard as possible for the duration of the set. It was pure magic.
Kraviz opened up on Facebook about her experience playing at Day for Night:
“Yesterday was my Houston debut and It was a special one too bacause during my set there was a part where I went in the very interesting and quite unknown to myself direction -both musically and emotionally-and people seemed to appreciate it a lot. I was near that place before but never exactly there. I would call it “acidic voodoo”. Something is definitely growing in Texas. Growing very strong. Thank you for having me in your home. Feels great to play on one of the most promising events and one of the best festivals in America- Day For Night.”
Jamie xx The xx 'On Hold' (Jamie xx Remix)
Day two of Day For Night was headlined by a highly anticipated set by Jamie xx, who mesmerized the crowd with his distinctly melodic house. As one of the creative minds behind The xx, who released one of our top albums of 2017, he’s built a reputation for delivering moody dance music. His DJ set that night was widely regarded as brilliant by many people I spoke to at the afterparty, including festival host Frank. A major highlight was of course his remix of The xx’s hit single ‘On Hold’.
Jamie xx has previously expressed how this track is one of his personal favorites to play: “It's been a while since I've made something that I've had so much fun playing out in clubs.”
Roni Size Roni Size 'Hold The Front Page'
High energy rhythms, ripping textures and sweaty dancing bodies filled the room during Roni Size’s blissful drum and bass set. He dropped numerous gems, but the track that caught our attention was his recently released 'Hold The Front Page', which was actually premiered via Mixmag earlier this year. Looking around at the packed crowd it was clear this track has strong dancefloor appeal.
Pussy Riot Pussy Riot 'Make America Great Again'
One of the most noteworthy performances of the entire festival was that of Pussy Riot, the politically charged outfit coming out of Russia known for their unapologetic and revolutionary attitude. Their track ‘Make America Great Again’, which delivers a clear message opposing the US President Donald Trump and his opinions on policy, was a standout moment that left a lasting impression. It was inspiring to see a large crowd in Texas rally around these artists.
Kaytranada Chance The Rapper feat. Knox Fortune 'All Night' (Kaytranada Extended Remix)
Day for Night held somewhat of a soft opening on Friday with only one stage open that hosted a diverse lineup featuring Jenny Hval, Earl Sweatshirt and Kaytranada, among others. The latter of which turned the Blue Stage into a bouncing dance party after the two more subtle and downtempo performances before him. Kaytranada clearly has a unique style to his DJ sets, playing r’n’b-esque house beats that swing and bob between warm melodies. His extended remix of Chance The Rapper’s tune ‘All Night’ is a clear representation of this motif, one that brought life to the early arrivals.
Mount Kimbie Mount Kimbie 'Made To Stray'
Mount Kimbie live is an experience. Coming off the biggest year for the electronic outfit in 2017, with one of the best albums of the year and an extensive global tour, there was a strong buzz in the air when they took the stage on the final day of the festival. Weaving through rhythmic electronic soundscapes and wobbling basslines, the band was engulfed in a thick layer of fog as strobes blared throughout the set. To cap off the special performance, they played one of their fan favorites, ‘Made To Stray’, a track that is purely timeless.
NNOA Rihanna 'Needed Me' (NNOA over Located Mix)
As Mixmag wandered through the festival grounds early during the day on Saturday we explored the immersive art installations that were littered throughout the venue; like the giant bundle of disco balls, swirling vortex of light and hypnotic videos of waterfalls. We were passing through the Yellow Stage when we heard the familiar sample of Rhianna’s ‘You Needed Me’ vocal being fused between ambient sonic textures and hyper subtle rhythms, two elements that caught our attention due to the unexpected pairing. We couldn’t Shazam the track, but we waited for the artist to finish his set so we could ask him about the material. Turns out he was a local named NNOA and the track was one of his own edits. Nice work!
James Blake James Blake 'Voyeur' (Dub)
It's difficult not to completely melt away when hearing James Blake's voice seeping out from massive speaker stacks at a music festival. But amidst the moody melodic crooning during his set, when he plays 'Voyeur' (Dub) it's a welcomed moment of rave energy that ignites the crowd.
Justice Justice ‘Genesis’
'Genesis' is the first track off Justice's debut album released over a decade ago and it still has some serious power when played live. It's edgy electro textures seem to embody the essence of the duo's sound profile, steady beats and hard hitting melodies that deliver a massive sound. At Day For Night they played all their hits, teasing the D.A.N.C.E vocal during their 2016 hit 'Safe And Sound' and bringing the most energy to the main stage than any other artist.
Thom Yorke Thom Yorke 'Impossible Knots'
An exploration of sound, light and art. This is a simple, yet accurate description, whether talking about Day for Night as a whole or the final performance of the weekend by Thom Yorke. The Radiohead frontman is one of the most unique humans on the planet and his mesmerizing live show showcases the extensive scope of his artistry. He went through a plethora of tracks, but many long-time fans recognized the unreleased gem titled 'Impossible Knots'. He's been performing it since 2015, but each time he does it's as fresh and new as the last. Fingers crossed for a proper release.
Harrison is Mixmag's East Coast Editor. Follow him on Twitter here