The rise of fall music festivals is a fairly recent development, and Houston’s Day for Night rests at outer limits of this wave—so much so that it took place a week before winter officially begins. The pre-festivus bonanza’s lineup is formidable, featuring hometown heroine Solange, Thom Yorke, Nine Inch Nails, St. Vincent, and Tyler, the Creator as a few of its starring acts in its second year. Still, this was an event that had to thrive despite the wintery conditions. Cardi B preluded her set with a surprising admission: “I’m sorry, but a hoe nowadays gets cold.” She performed for just 10 minutes.
At times, Day for Night also had to flourish despite itself, too. Disorganization was a fairly consistent undercurrent that peaked with Saturday’s aggressive rain. The weather advisory forced the organizers to end the outdoor sets early and move around the shows, most notably pushing Tyler, the Creator and Nine Inch Nails’ concurring sets an hour ahead. Attendees who didn’t have the cellphone service to scour Twitter or emails—most likely a majority of them—were given fairly short notice. Packing into the Downtown Post Office, drenched and exhausted, wasn’t a pleasant of an experience either.
But the lack of efficiency is somewhat forgivable. Day for Night is one of the few festivals that are mostly unbothered by corporate branding; to compare, its older Austin counterpart SXSW had sponsorships from the likes of YouTube and Pandora. While the disorganization would feel like another slap from the bourgeoisie elsewhere, Day for Night’s mishaps were about as endearing as a distant cousin’s fuck-up.
It helps when the performances are generally spirited, too. Tyler, the Creator, who was still riding high off of his recent Grammy nomination (“OK, now enough of that Grammy-nominated album,” he boyishly said before delving into his older stuff) gave enough energy to keep the crowd trouncing as the downpour got heavier throughout his set. To briefly summarize Day for Night’s demographic, Nine Inch Nails’ audience was slightly bigger than Tyler’s.
The official headliners were Kaytranada on Friday, Jamie xx on Saturday, and Sunday’s Thom Yorke, whose set of solo material and rarities seemed a bit too insular top off a festival of this magnitude. However, Day for Night’s most memorable performers were Jlin, St. Vincent, and Solange. The faint lights that glowed within the Post Office could’ve been powered by the genreless alchemy of Jlin’s set, which peaked with the transformative closer “The Escape of the Blvck Rxbbit.” St. Vincent’s masterful guitarwork is something to behold, although her decision to frontload her set with her biggest hits before running through most of MASSEDUCTION stifled the momentum.
The typical limitations of a festival forced Solange to do a miniaturized version of her Afrofuturistic Radio City epics; the orbs that adorned those performances were flattened, and from a distance, her set design looked like Japan’s national flag. But the Houston star and her band were effortlessly rapturous. The show’s climax was A Seat at the Table’s thesis “F.U.B.U.,” when a brass section danced on stage with such joyous synchronization that it’s a wonder none of the instruments clanged against each other. Some can only dream of that sort of organization.