Here’s a question that seldom comes up in interviews: “Are you going to put a stage in the bomb shelter?”
It did here. Day For Night, the fledgling wintertime event that tosses music and digital art into a big blender, using its surroundings and the audience to create an installation in and of itself, is moving to the decommissioned U.S. Post Office in downtown Houston, formerly named after late Houston U.S. congresswoman Barbara Jordan. Built in 1962 and abandoned last May, the five-story building and surrounding grounds should make an excellent staging area for what is already one of the most unique environments for a large festival — not just in Houston, but anywhere.
“We’ll have this big indoor/outdoor hybrid environment, which I think is kind of cool for us because obviously we need darkness to make a lot of these experiences go,” says co-creator Omar Afra, also editor and publisher of Free Press Houston. “This gives us a controlled environment, but we also get the big, open, outdoor stages too.”
According to Swamplot, the former post office sits on 16 acres just northwest of Buffalo Bayou, enough to make it the largest single plot of land in Houston’s Central Business District. Five stories tall, the main building was designed by the same firm that would go on to do the Astrodome a few years later. The property was purchased for an undisclosed amount by Houston-based developer Lovett Commercial, which eventually plans to build a mixed-use development on the site, the Houston Business Journal reported last August. But for now, it’s local music and art enthusiasts’ newest and most intriguing playground.
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“It’s got this beautifully cavernous but wonderfully creepy vibe,” Afra says. “It’s got all of these strange and odd Cold War artifacts throughout the building. Yeah, there’s a bomb shelter. All of the signage throughout has got this very Eisenhower-era Cold War vibe to it. The whole building feels like an artifact. I think that it’s completely in line with where we see the festival going, and this campus has got this, for lack of a better description, blank slate that allows us to do what we want with it, but beneath that blank slate is this 20th-century character that’s just oozing out of it.”
This year’s Day For Night, a co-production of FPH and New York-based digital-branding shop Work Order Design, is scheduled for December 17 and 18. Musically, Afra says the 2016 lineup surpasses even last year’s, which included Kendrick Lamar, New Order, the Philip Glass Ensemble, Flying Lotus and Death Grips. Similarly, the handful of names Afra tossed out Monday are the sort of acts who are very selective about where, when and how they perform – they may only perform in public once every few years, for example, or have track records of live performances that sync up perfectly with the kind of omnipresent multimedia experiences Day For Night is going for.
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“It’s gonna be batshit crazy,” promises Afra. “We’re kind of flipping our shit.”
The lineup announcement, both music and art, will come late next month or in early September, Afra says. The blind presale for tickets begins at 10 a.m. today, with two-day general-admission starting at $105. The idea, Afra says, is to “heighten the experience, lower the price.”
“We’re trying to completely transcend the very rigid criteria of what makes a festival, and try to be more of a civic event,” he adds. “People don’t refer to [Venice’s] Biennale or Art Basel as a ‘festival.’ We want to have A-level musical talent, but we want to have this evenhanded pairing with this dynamic, immersive arts experience.”
Tickets will be available after 10 a.m. at dayfornight.io.