** Janelle Monáe was on my list of unmissable acts at Day for Night, and for good reason. Looking picture-perfect in her short-sleeve tuxedo shirt, Monáe made everything appear easy on Saturday. The neo-soul star sang and danced with iconic style and electric joy, and when her white-hot band broke it down on the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” it was hard not to notice that Janelle has the same sort of megawatt talent that Michael had — without the baggage. Getting her here, outdoors in December, was a coup.
** All of the festival’s many lighting installations were terrific, worth a nice chunk of the cost of admission on their own. They gave the fest its own trippy, often noisy feel. Everyone seemed to have a different favorite, but I was most blown away by NONOTAK studio’s amazing array of LED strobes, sequenced to create 3-D hyperspace tunnels of light and sound inside a darkened warehouse. It was one of the more memorable pieces of art I’ve seen in a long time, and it also just so happened to be the quickest way to get between the Red Stage and the Blue.
** I’d never been to the Silver Street Studios campus before Saturday, but it turned out to be a pretty perfect place for a music and arts festival. There was plenty of space for all the stages, plus a ton of food trucks, a fine selection of porta-potties, and even a few mind-blowing art installations. It felt like there was room to grow, too. I’m already looking forward to seeing what the organizers might cook up there next year.
** You know you’ve put on a successful festival when the worst complaint you hear is that some of the best stuff had the longest lines. The Infinity Room installation near the Blue Stage seemed to have a 40-minute-long queue at all times, rivaled only by the lengthy line for the Waffle Bus. I endured the Space Mountain-like wait to experience the intimate little oddness of the Infinity Room, but there was too much good grub available to hang around for waffles. Good Lord, did they ever smell good, though.
** The lamest spot in the festival grounds, especially Saturday, was the mobile Bud Light sports bar shoved over to the side of the Blue Stage. The overtly branded bar-in-a-box offered the prospect of honest-to-God seating, sure, but very few festival-goers wanted to be caught dead sitting down and watching cage-fighting on the flatscreen while the heady likes of Psychic TV and B L A C K I E bashed away nearby. I did see it crowded once, and went over to meet the people who chose the Bud Light bar over seeing or doing something cool. Then I noticed they were police. I kept walking.
** There’s no other way to say it: The Red Stage festival ground was carpeted. Outdoors. Thousands of carpeted tiles had been put down over plywood so that we wouldn’t get our shoes muddy. It was weird at first, but pretty cool. As long as I tried not to think about the fact that people were probably spitting, ashing and worse all over it, it was just about the most pleasant place to stand, sit or lie down at an outdoor music festival that I’ve ever been to.
** In a festival full of strange sounds, disconcerting lights and novel food and drinks, the weirdest thing of all was probably still B L A C K I E. The local noise savant has really taken to playing the saxophone of late, and it was something to behold on Sunday. He blasted out absurdly dissonant notes, played the horn with the microphone inside of it and then screamed into the microphone inside of it. Plenty of folks couldn’t hang and fled to saner environs than the Blue Stage. B L A C K I E’s fans and quite a few slack-jawed onlookers got a hell of an epic set, though.
** Between songs in the middle of her Sunday afternoon set, Swedish hip-hopper Elliphant mentioned to the crowd that the Houston skyline view she was facing looked exactly like chlamydia. It was a bizarrely sincere comment that had most of us looking around at each other, trying to confirm if we’d heard her correctly. I think that we did. I think that she said that the view looked like chlamydia — twice. And I think Elliphant was really fucking high.
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** One of the strangest moments on Saturday involved heading over to catch locals Indian Jewelry on the Blue Stage only to discover a massive double-decker freight train passing silently by the stage. I can’t name another music festival anywhere in the country — hell, the world — located practically right on top of train tracks. The quietly clacking behemoths proved to be no bother, only adding another strangely surrealistic touch to the psyched-out fest.
A glimpse of Infinity.