Five Things Other Festivals Should Learn From Day For Night

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Day For Night proves that festivals can no longer make an impact with a handful of notable headliners. In order to stay relevant, festivals need to re-envision what lands within the boundaries of music; they also need to consider other types of creative endeavors that can amplify the music experience. Day For Night's careful fusion of light installation art and experimental electronic music make for a sensory encounter deeper and more enjoyable than those found at your average music festival. By making the art an integral, rather than ancillary, part of the event, it expands the possibility of what a festival can ultimately be. As ticket prices rise and lineups become more formulaic, festival organizers need expand their creative scope to keep audiences interested. KATIE SULLIVAN

In Houston it certainly is. The whole concept of spring and summer as "festival season" must have been invented by people who had very little idea of what a furnace the Southern states can turn into. Certainly in Texas, all-day outdoor events during those months feel like an especially cruel form of punishment to inflict upon music fans. But by daring to hold a summer-style festival in December, Day For Night has opened up a whole new front of possibilities for Winter entertainment in Houston. (That said, Houston Whatever Fest can lay some claim to this idea, though it has itself now moved to the Spring). People are already in a festive mood; many students, a huge demographic of any festival, are home from school, and even the holiday decorations of the downtown skyline make for one of the most beautiful background landscapes any fest could hope for. And while no one around here is a huge fan of freezing temperatures — one especially unprepared fan in short-shorts and a T-shirt was spotted running full-speed away from the festival late Saturday, screaming "This is Houston! It's not supposed to be cold!" — when that blue norther blue through during Aphex Twin's cryptic electronic alchemy about 10:15 p.m., the crowd appropriately cheered. Mr. James couldn't have orchestrated it better himself, unless somehow he actually did. CHRIS GRAY

The best thing that other festivals can learn from Day for Night is simple ambition. Day for Night wasn't the first fest to include a strong art component, but it may be the first to include festival-only installations that can actually compete with the musical acts for people's attention. I'm not sure I'd have thought it possible if I hadn't attended last year. Even still, I didn't think the organizers would be able to dig up Aphex Twin and have him shipped to Houston for the weekend. I didn't think I'd ever catch John Carpenter and Run the Jewels minutes apart in downtown Houston at some old post office building, because no one had ever had the ambition necessary to make anything of the sort happen before. I'm completely thrilled that it's been proven possible, and I can't wait to see what they cook up for next year, even if it's freezing cold again. Other fests, quit hiring the same "festival circuit" acts as everybody else and put together a unique lineup with some local flavor capable of actually capturing the imagination. If you want a destination festival, it's going to require more creativity than 37 Budweiser tents can provide. NATHAN SMITH

Sunday afternoon I headed upstairs to check out just what Limb's Octa was all about. And it was great, a really interesting mix of beats and pulsing lights (and one very apocalyptic take on "Lovefool") in a really interesting space. It was like a high-concept warehouse party, everyone in a big circle dancing and waiting to see what would happen next. And it felt special, the type of thing you couldn't experience at any other special. I'm not saying that all festivals need to double down on light arts, but so often you just have these little corners of a fest with nothing going on in them and I can't help but wonder what would happen if the promoters let smaller acts use those spaces to live out some of their bigger ideas. Plus, it was nice to get away from the typical festival stage-setup to experience something more visceral at a fest. CORY GARCIA

More festivals, especially ones at a first time location, should have an opening night with a limited amount of people to test out the logistical design of the layout and use simple facilities. D4N did this with the Friday Night pre-party did this, giving the crew an opportunity to observe the traffic flow and address the hot spots to prevent major bottlenecks. Larger problems may be identified and addressed prior to the masses descending on the festival grounds. For instance, simple changes in signage can decrease confusion once it is realized. Even if promoters understand a particular issue is going to cause problems and nothing can realistically be done about it, they have the ability to create and provide a unified message to attendees. Additionally, it will create a buzz for any unsold tickets as those in attendance post their experience to social media. JACK GORMAN

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