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If Day For Night Wants to Be the Fest of the Future, it Should Book More Women

More artists like St. Vincent, please.
More artists like St. Vincent, please.
Photo by Jack Gorman

There are certain uncomfortable truths we have to accept how we as a society deal with accusations of sexual assault. One of them, unfortunately, is resounding indifference from the public at large, especially in cases where the accused is behind a beloved event. Because of this, I feel pretty confident in saying that if those behind Day for Night do decide to bring the festival back this year, after the ousting of festival founder Omar Afra, people will show up.

Houston doesn’t need Day for Night, but it was a nice feather in our cap. For once, it felt like the city was on the cutting edge of something in the world of music and art, and that something was being built that would make other cities envious of what was going on here. The present being what it is doesn’t change the fact that Day for Night, warts and all, was considered to be a good time by most and revolutionary by some.

But the festival of the future shared some of the same drawbacks as the festivals of today, the biggest and most obvious being the lack of gender parity when it came to who they booked. True, Day For Night might have been a little better than most, with Solange, St. Vincent, Pussy Riot, and Cardi B being near the top of the lineup, but there were still more dudes on the lineup. This is pretty common across the nation, where all-male acts still make up 70 percent of festival lineups.

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People can be eager to dismiss the idea of gender balance when it comes to festival lineups, most pointing out that festivals are a business and that they have to build lineups that make money. This has always come off as a lazy excuse to my ears, festival organizers basically admitting that they don’t want to put the work into making the numbers work so that women get a fair seat at the table.

But Day for Night could fight the good fight here. Day for Night should fight the good fight here. Yes, giving people a unique experience they can’t get anywhere else is important, especially as we sail past the point of festival overexposure, but that doesn’t mean that in the course of innovating the festival experience they have to anchor themselves to the mistakes of the past. This might be hard to believe for some, but there are a lot of women out there that are just as passionate about music as men are, and plenty of young women looking for artists to show them that they too, if they work hard enough, can share the festival stage.

Whether or not Day for Night returns feels like a decision that is still up in the air. One doesn’t have to go far to find the rumors about how the festival wasn’t exactly a moneymaker, after all. And while its loss would not be a tragedy, and there are certainly more important discussions to be had about the state of Houston music, it would still be a bummer. But if it does return at some point, the best thing it could do was commit itself to amplifying the voices of women, because that would be more cutting edge than a room full of cool looking lasers.

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