Houston stakes its claim as a destination city for music this weekend. Compared to the live music capital up Highway 290, Houston has been seen in some music circles as being as a major metro without a strong musical identity. In the last few years, a new found dedication to ambitious booking has made the city into a place to be for music fans. Thank this weekend’s Day For Night festival for making a sizable impact.
The festival line-up is an embarrassment of riches for the audio aficionados. Pulling from multiple genres and well known international and national acts, this might be the best lineup of cutting edge and influential acts featured anywhere on U.S. soil in 2016. And lucky for us, it’s right in our backyard, set to take place at the 1.5 million-square-foot former home of the Barbara Jordan Post Office at 401 Franklin Street, just north of downtown.
This year’s edition is bigger and bolder after a wildly successful inaugural year in 2015. The expanded location will feature dozens of performances over three days (Friday is VIP access only) and four stages. For $170 for a weekend pass, Day For Night is a steal.
Those set to gain from the strong line-up are Houston acts that wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to play alongside big names like Bjork, Aphex Twin and Run The Jewels, not to mention the exposure to bigger crowds.
“It’s really great for the city to have nationally known bands play here,” said Zahira Gutierrez of Houston-based Wild Moccasins, who promises some surprises for their festival closing slot Sunday night. “People not only come to see the music but they will get to see other things that makes Houston great, that we aren’t just Austin’s little brother. We have a lot of things going on here.”
The most unique aspect of Day For Night, one that sets it apart from the more established festivals, is its visual element, in which performers are selected based on more than just throwing a good show. They also are chosen due to an aesthetic that matches the overall theme of the festival.
“The music acts that come to the festival are typically very visual, and have their own visual designs,” said Alex Czetwertynski, curator for the art portion of Day For Night. “But we also have artists who are performing inside installations they designed, or musicians who are creating installations, like Björk. So it runs the gamut of that relationship.”
Here are some of the must-see bands and performers to see this weekend:
Lower Dens, Green Stage, 5:10-5:50 p.m.
One of the best bands of the 2010s writes emotive, atmospheric indie rock in the vein of fellow Baltimore act Beach House. The last three albums, Twin-Hand Movement, Nootropics and Escape From Evil are must-listens.
The Jesus and Mary Chain, Green Stage, 6:20-7:10 p.m.
The influential godfathers of the British shoegaze movement play only their fourth show since announcing their reunion to the live stage and release of their first album in 18 years, Damage and Joy, out in March. The cocksure Reid brothers, William and Jim, are responsible for stone-cold alternative classics, such as "Psychocandy," "Darklands," and "Stoned and Dethroned." Be among the first to hear new tracks and can’t-miss old favorites.
Blood Orange, Green Stage, 7:40-8:40 p.m.
One of the breakout acts of 2016, Blood Orange aka Dev Hynes released one of this year’s best albums with Freetown Sound. Channeling 80s R&B and new wave, free jazz and a generous helping of Prince, the groove will be strong.
John Carpenter, Blue Stage, 9:45-10:45 p.m.
The horror film master is a respected composer in his own right, writing the soundtracks of his films, including the iconic Halloween and Escape From New York scores. His sound is now heavily appropriated by a new movement of synth-based acts: see Stranger Things soundtrack.
Aphex Twin, Red Stage, 10 p.m.-Midnight
A major coup for Houston, the mercurial Richard D. James makes his first U.S. appearance in eight years and plays his first Houston gig in over two decades. Arguably one of the most influential electronic artists ever, the “Come To Daddy” and “Windowlicker” auteur has been extremely particular about which festivals he plays over the last decade. Don’t miss it.
Other acts to watch
Thundercat, Red Stage, 4:40-5:25 p.m.
Onehitrix Point Never, Blue Stage, 6:35-7:35 p.m.
ODESZA, Red Stage, 8-9:35 p.m.
Daughters, Yellow Stage, 8:20-9 p.m.
DJ Windows 98, Green Stage, 9:10-9:40 p.m.
S U R V I V E, Blue Stage, 4-4:40 p.m.
Has any act had a better 2016 than S U R V I V E? The release of Netflix’s Stranger Things blew up the relatively unknown Austin-based, landing it the pages of Rolling Stone. And deservedly so – the four-piece created the best TV show theme song in ages, along with a soundtrack that waxes nostalgic in the best of '80s horror and sci-fi many of us grew up watching.
BjörkDigital, Blue Stage, 8:20-9:50 p.m.
This slot has been somewhat shrouded in mystery. It’s billed as an art-installation/DJ set, but the Icelandic queen of avant-garde majesty could play a kazoo and it won’t soon be forgotten by those lucky enough to witness it. She’s that good.
Little Dragon, Red Stage, 9:20-10:20 p.m
A favorite on the international festival circuit, the Sweden-based Little Dragon is as guaranteed a highlight as anyone on the bill. The Grammy nominated four-piece’s catalogue is made for the Day For Night environment with smooth trip-hop beats, chill wave synths and a captivating front woman in Yukimi Nagano.
Travis Scott, Green Stage, 11 p.m.-Midnight
Owner of a 2016 No. 1 album with Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight, Travis Scott has been unescapable in the hip-hop world, working with the biggest luminaries in the genre. You won’t see a more popular artist at Day For Night; expect a big crowd.
Butthole Surfers, Green Stage, 9:40-10:40 p.m.
One never knows what to expect when the Austin psych-punk legends take the stage. Just know that it will be a strange, loud and frenzied trip.
Other acts to watch:
Matmos, Blue Stage, 5-5:40 p.m.
Blonde Redhead, Green Stage, 6:10-6:50 p.m.
Liars, Blue Stage, 7:05-7:55 p.m.
RZA feat. Stone Mecca, Green Stage, 7:10-7:50 p.m.
Squarepusher, Red Stage, 7:50-8:50 p.m.
KASKADE, Red Stage 10:50-11:50 p.m.
Wild Moccassins, Yellow Stage, 11-11:50 p.m.