Inside the first festival of the future: Day for Night 2017

The city of Houston needed a win this year. Between the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and the less-publicized Tax Day flood, the fourth-largest city in the United States had a rough 2017. Happily, Day for Night’s third year was more than a win – it was a celebration of the best and weirdest of the city, along with international artists and musicians to reflect the spirit and culture of the strong music & art scene there.

Day for Night is unique because of two intertwined factors: the venue and the respect they show to the light & art installations found within. The two outdoor main stages are pretty run-of-the-mill festival fare, but the rest of the fest happens inside the now-defunct Barbara Jordan Post Office building, which is better described as a sprawling warehouse. Left mostly dark, the building housed two indoor stages on the ground floor, several bars & VIP areas, and an entire second floor dedicated to art installations with a particular focus on light, sound, and interactivity.

Light Leaks installation by Kyle McDonald + Jonas Jongejan. Photo by Kyle McDonald.

While art installations are nothing new to festivals, they often feel like an afterthought, something to entertain audiences on their way from stage to stage. Day for Night blows others away on the sheer scale and thought put towards them. You could easily spend an entire day exploring and experiencing the pieces, a fact underscored by the full queues for the bigger names in the visual lineup, including Ryoji Ikeda, Mathewe Schriber, and Ryoichi Kurokawa. But despite the quick-moving lines, the massive interior space meant that even though the festival seemed very well-attended, crowds rarely became an issue. You could move quickly and easily from installation to installation, spending as much time with the interactive pieces as you’d like without feeling rushed or pressured by a horde of people behind you. Clever partitioning meant that the immersive experiences, often involving detailed sound design in addition to bright and moving lights, never interfered with each other or prioritized one over another.

None of this is to diminish the incredible music lineup, drawing names across the spectrum. The eclectic mix appealed to all music fans with bigger names such as Nine Inch Nails, Cardi B, and Justice rightfully attracting many. But, like I said, this was also a celebration of the weird, and the more experimental performances from artists such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Jlin, and Shabazz Palaces were not only welcomed, but met with eager and raucous crowds and applause. Other big name Texas festivals like Austin City Limits or, elsewhere in the US, Pitchfork Festival struggle to draw so many stellar fringe artists. North Carolina’s Moogfest might be a closer comparison, but even that festival lacks the visual component and comes at a higher price-tag.

Justice at Day for Night 2017. Photo by Nick L. for Festival Snobs

Musical highlights included a powerful homecoming performance from the Houston-born Solange, who stunned the audience on Sunday with towering onstage sculptures, appearances from the TSU marching band, and a dynamic, heartfelt performance drawing largely from her masterful A Seat At The Table album. Closing out that night was the incomparable Thom Yorke, whose ensemble (including longtime producer Nigel Godrich) ripped through a 90-minute set filled with selections from The Eraser & Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, as well as songs from his Atoms For Peace project. Electronic acts Demdike Stare, Mount Kimbie, and the aforementioned Jlin explored brutal and heady terrains, and the more dance-centric Jamie XX, Roni Size, DJ Tennis, and Nina Kravitz had crowds tearing up the floor. Back on the main stage, Russian ex-pats Pussy Riot powered through a set that engaged the huge crowd despite being mostly in their native tongue, and Justice had every person in the crowd losing their mind with perhaps the best stage production of the weekend.

Day for Night 2017 is the best festival experience I’ve had in years. There are always things to improve: the layout of the Blue Stage meant most of the audience had limited view of both the stage and the visuals, especially important as it housed most of the electronic artists. Vegetarian and vegan food options were limited, and better signage for restrooms scattered within the building could have improved lines. But the staff was helpful and friendly, audience spirits remained high all weekend despite heavy rains on Saturday night, and there was a true sense of brotherhood and appreciation for how special the festival was.

Telestron installation by VT Pro. Photo by Randall Pugh.

On Sunday, I met a festival-goer who had lost her apartment & many of her belongings in the hurricane, which meant she had to leave a job she loved for a higher paying retail job to help offset the losses. Shortly before Thom Yorke, I asked if the festival was a way of her giving a middle finger to 2017. She laughed and said, “No, this festival is a way to celebrate what I love. That I’m gonna be – that Houston’s gonna be – just fine.” Then we hugged and turned to watch our musical idol take the stage.

[LIVE] TBE Presents Freedom Fry at The Peppermint Club on 12/6

Vinyl Moon alumni Freedom Fry is playing a show! They were featured on Volume 15: Taking Shapes with their terrific cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.

TBE fave (& Vinyl Moon artist), STAL, are also playing!

It’s going to be an excellent time, so hopefully we’ll see you there. Link to get tickets HERE!

Clans – Lust EP

Despite its universal appeal, when it comes to multi-track releases, “sexy” can be shorthand for “boring” – a one-trick pony of songs that sound like they all belong in the same champagne room, all sultry beats and crooning vocals blurring together into a indistinguishable mass that you can move your hips to and then forget about ten minutes later. Not so with Clans’ first EP, Lust. Over the five tracks on Lust, Clans explores different styles and attitudes, while still making sure that each song is suited for dimmed lights and rumpled bedsheets .

From the lush, ambient guitar swells of the title track to the full electro-pop ecstasy of “Needs”, Clans shows a lot of flexibility in sound and lyrical content. There’s the Rhodes-driven R&B stomp of “Easy Love”, an ode to a strictly physical relationship.  The lead single, “Alibi”, is a wry, tongue-in-cheek accusation, and there’s even an unexpected take on Li’l Wayne’s “Lollipop”. If Lust is any indication, there’s no telling where Clans will go next – but we’re definitely paying attention.

Speaking of paying attention, keep your eyes and ears peeled for Clans on an upcoming VINYL MOON release…

Disco Shrine – SOFT FUR EP [+ Release Party Friday 2/19]

The dichotomy of Disco Shrine is inherent in their name. Half party, half spiritual devotional to said party, they are damn serious about having a damn good time. And that’s what their debut EP Soft Fur is all about. Falling in love? Dance it up. Broken heart? Dance it out. Bored? Dance it through. Lazy? Just go home then.

With this sudden heat wave we’re having in L.A. it makes a person want to get out and get weird, amirite? Thankfully local good-time goddess Beating Lights has cooked up just the right concoction for our Friday night. Join the party at The Hi-Hat to celebrate Disco Shrine’s release of Soft Fur as well as sets by King Shelter and Tambourines. PLUS DJ sets by yours truly. And if you can still stand upright after all that, there are some extra pop-up goodies. It’s like a mini music festival but without any camping or dehydration. Rally the troops and see you there!


[PREMIERE] Inspired & The Sleep – EYELID KID EP

San Diego’s wonderfully weird Inspired & The Sleep just released their 6-track Eyelid Kid EP. If you have been following songs like “Sleeps Well On Knives” and “In my Labyrinth Mind” then you know we are stoked to premiere this collection on The Burning Ear. Eyelid Kid weaves some lovely and interesting soundscapes for your escapist pleasure. Flowing somewhere between a  sci-fi movie and a high-school drug trip, you’ll have plenty of mental company as you drift off with them. “Peripherals” may be my favorite of the new jams but its hard to pick when each one has so much going on. Dive in and explore for yourself.

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Opus Vitae followed up their stellar debut jam “Hold On” with a finger lickin good video for earworm “I’ve Been Wrong”. And now we finally have a full EP that adds the tender “Sail Away” and jangly “Hold Me Closer” to the mix. As a whole, the EP is a stellar opening statement for one of the more underrated bands killing it in LA these days. Such killer guitar work bouncing around ripping drum parts. There is something fresh yet timeless in this indie rock. And I’m looking forward to more.

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[LIVE] Vacationer, Wild Party, Hellogoodbye // 5.22.2014

I dont know about you, but I feel like its a rare treat to go to a show where you are genuinely stoked for all 3 bands on the lineup (well, except for Blind Date shows but I organize those so…). Well that was the story of my awesome night. The amazing Vacationer sandwiched between up and coming Wild Party (remember them!?) and old school favorites Hellogoodbye.

Wild Party opened

Vacationer absolutely slayed. They played all the classics from Gone and a bunch of fantastic new tracks. Standouts for me were “Shining” off the upcoming LP Relief and “Warmer” available only on “The Wild Life” 7″.

Now I haven’t listened to Hellogoodbye in forever but after seeing them last night I need to catch up! So much energy and the crowd was locked in!

[LIVE] Broods & Strange Talk @ The Echo 5.14.14

Last night was an awesome one-two punch of down-under goodness with New Zealand’s Broods and Australia’s Strange Talk. The room was packed for Broods’ first proper LA show and they fed off the crowd, pumping tons of energy into their jams. There was even a new song or two that sound great.

Then Strange Talk came on and celebrated the long awaited US release of Cast Away by absolutely slaying their set. Great times all around! I have some video of some killer guitar solos but they seem to have blown out the mic on my camera. Too hot!

As usual, dive into the show through the eyes and ears of the sexy people that were there! Then catch all my photos here, you stalker.