Day For Night, the inaugural Free Press Houston winter art and music festival, had Houstonians' heads spinning with so many exciting musical acts and mind-boggling visual installations presented over the weekend. Held in and around Silver Street Studios, it featured three massive stages and acres of immersive installations, leaving festival goers perpetually entertained.
Delivering on its promise to provide Houston with an exciting new winter festival in addition to the organization's popular Free Press Summer Fest, the weekend-long event drew thousands of art and music fans, leaving them intrigued to see what next year's event will bring.
Here are some of my favorite moments:
Kendrick Lamar gets some help from the audience
As the last performance of the festival, superstar hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar wowed a crowd of thousands with a performance that rivaled (or even topped) any headliner from Free Press Summer Fest. The 28-year-old sensation — nominated for more 2016 Grammy Awards than any other performer — drove the sea of fans wild as he walked on stage before launching into "For Free?" from To Pimp A Butterfly, an album that has repeatedly been deemed as the best of the year.
Jazzed by a live band that featured electric guitars, the crowd hung on Lamar's every rhyme and danced vigorously during his performances of chart-topping tracks like "Alright" and "King Kunta." Only a minute or so into "m.A.A.d. city," he decided to show some Houston love and get help from the audience, bringing up several fans to perform the song along with him.
Before exiting the stage, Lamar led the crowd in chanting, "I will be back." Given his stellar performance, I certainly hope so.
New Order gets some help from Alexander Wang
The Saturday night performance by New Order was surrounded with hype as it was the first Houston performance by the famed English rockers since they performed at AstroWorld's Southern Star Amphitheater in 1989. As it was the band's only tour stop in North America, even hip designer Alexander Wang was drawn to Houston to watch the legendary group perform. Wang was spotted backstage casually attired in Converse tennis shoes.
As the more pop-influenced reincarnation of '80s post-punk band Joy Division, New Order has fans that span generations, leading to an older crowd than one would expect to find at a Free Press Summer Fest headlining show. While the band played a number of songs from their recently released album Music Complete, fans of their classic hits were delighted to hear songs like "Bizarre Love Triangle" and "Temptation."
As the final act of the night on Saturday, fans cheered riotously for an encore after the two-hour set, leading to a powerful version of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" before the electrifying performance's finale of the 1983 hit "Blue Monday."
The Infinity Room makes everyone feel a little trippy
A huge line of festival goers could be seen throughout the weekend as they waited patiently to experience Turkish artist Refik Anadol's immersive installation, "The Infinity Room." With swirling visual projections reflected by a mirrored floor and ceiling, visitors felt as if they were surrounded by an infinite abyss seething with white light. In spite of the long line that had visitors waiting up to an hour, people were still clamoring to experience the installation and take photos inside.
Whether you found the experience to be soothingly meditative or even a bit disorienting, there's no question that "The Infinity Room" was one of the most exciting and unique offerings.
Philip Glass draws the most diverse crowd
In spite of an early time slot on Saturday, the Philip Glass Ensemble drew one of the largest crowds of the festival for their afternoon performance on the Green stage inside Silver Street Studios. As one of the most influential musicians and composers of the late 20th century and known for his signature minimal repetitive stylings, Glass performed on keyboard with the ensemble that he founded in 1968. The ensemble — composed of Glass and six other talented musicians — performed six of his compositions in front of an incredibly excited and diverse crowd that ranged in age from 16 to 65.
Perhaps the most notable — and recognizable — piece the group performed was "The Grid" from Glass' score for the 1982 experimental film Koyaanisqatsi, which had the enormous crowd rapt with attention. As the only orchestral group at Day For Night, the immersive performance was quite a departure from many other artists at the festival.
Nonotak is Strobe City
As one of several international visual artists presenting works at the festival, Paris-based artists Nonotak created "Volume," a massive light and sound installation that occupied the entirety of an expansive warehouse across from Silver Street Studios. With bright strobe lights mounted on a maze of scaffolding, the lights flashed in the darkness to create a 'zooming' effect as they turned on and off around the vast structure. Visitors were able to walk through the scaffolding of the installation, which also featured a rather ominous droning sound accompanying the lights, creating a truly unique experiential environment.
Flying Lotus creates a dazzling visual display
As one of the last performances of the weekend-long festival, experimental artist Steven Ellison — known by his stage name Flying Lotus — knew he really had to impress the crowd, and he certainly followed through. With a multi-genre style that often blends hip-hop and electronic music, he sat behind a projection scrim, allowing the audience to see Ellison through a dazzling visual display. With chill electronic jams like "Zodiac Shit" and "Massage Situation," his set was the perfect calm-before-the-storm needed prior to the high energy set by Kendrick Lamar, with whom Ellison recently collaborated on his 2014 album You're Dead.