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No Festival is Perfect, and That Includes Day For Night

If you can create a space that can host moments like this, you can probably figure out a better way to get information to the fans.
If you can create a space that can host moments like this, you can probably figure out a better way to get information to the fans.
Photo by Jack Gorman

Something that is easy to overlook about Day For Night is that it’s still a young festival. Sure, they’ve managed to book some stellar musical acts and some world-class artists, but 2017 was still only the third year that the festival had done its thing. Growing pains are expected, and even festivals have been around for much longer than D4N still have issues. Whether that means you want to grade what they’ve done on a curve or not is your choice.

Day For Night 2017 was not a flawless affair, but it wasn’t a bad time either. Taken all together, I think the festival did a pretty good job playing the hand that it was dealt while also creating some issues of its own. Let’s take a look at three of the more contentious aspects of this year’s festival.

Houston Weather Gonna Houston Weather
We all knew that it was going to rain on Saturday, it was all just a matter of when it would start and how severe it would be. The festival made the decision somewhat early in the day, long before the heavy stuff started to fall, to move up set times so that all the acts scheduled to perform outside got to do their thing. This was the right move. Yes, it did throw off some people’s plans, and I understand why they’d be upset. However, it was a choice that benefitted the greatest number of people and worked out about as well as it could considering just how random Houston weather can be.

Yes, it did mean that Nine Inch Nails took the stage as the cold rain started to fall. While some of us thought the rain actually made the show better, others have wondered why they didn’t postpone the show until the rain let up. The most likely answer is that starting their set early gave the best odds for them to play a long set; had they postponed it, everyone would have been at the mercy of the elements and had things gone real south the band might never have taken the stage.

Better to try and get them up and done than hoping for the best. Sometimes you have to be a pragmatist instead of an optimist. And who didn’t enjoy Trent Reznor singing the line “are you sure this is what you want?” as the rain increased and most of us were soaked to the bone?

Jenny Hval played the blue stage, but unless you were upfront you probably didn't get a great look at her.
Jenny Hval played the blue stage, but unless you were upfront you probably didn't get a great look at her.
Photo by Jack Gorman.

The Blue Stage Problem
The Post HTX space is fascinating, but it’s not the ideal setting for the common stage setup. The ceilings are too low and the acoustics aren’t always the best. To their credit, the organizers did a better job situating the blue stage this year in the space as to not cause traffic jams, but like last year it was not the most viewer-friendly stage. Even for acts not even in the same realm of popularity as Thom Yorke it was hard to see what exactly was going on stage if you weren’t in the first few rows, dead center of the stage. The sound was also weak at times, which didn’t help matters.

Listen, I know that the circular screens on the side of the stage look cool, but if you’re going to insist on a stage design that only works for about 200 people, you have to go with bigger, rectangle screens. Sometimes you have to sacrifice looks for functionality.

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It’s just weird that the blue stage was so disappointing again because at the same time they proved that interesting stage design was possible with the yellow stage. The in-the-round setup of the yellow stage was clever, and Post HTX should consider turning that concept into an all year thing; the dance parties they could throw there on the regular would be epic, but as proved by acts like B L A C K I E, the design works for all genres. It would be fascinating to see how other acts in other genres would adapt to the concept.

Ill Communication
Did you know there was a Day for Night app? Odds are good that you didn’t because the app didn’t go live until after the festival was underway. Real shame about that, because it could have been used to relay information on things people would have wanted to know about, like last-minute set cancellations, set times changing, why the doors opened late on Friday, that the red stage was being shut down on Saturday, so on and so forth. Day For Night’s footprint isn’t so large that anyone, far as I heard, was suffering from an inability to look up information on their cell phones, but you’re playing a weird game when the primary way you distribute information, or what feels like it at least, is Twitter.

We all accept that no festival is ever going to be completely transparent about what’s going on behind the scenes. Still, if you can find the time to write “Fuck Trump” on your giant screens, you can probably find time to say, “hey, this is why the festival is late opening, we’ll see you good looking people ASAP” or “Sorry that [x] isn’t playing anymore, but you should swing by the yellow stage to see LIMB be amazing.” It’s cool that Day For Night wants to be the festival of the future, but odd that they communicate like festivals that have been around forever.

Also, the festival really should put up the names of the installations on their website. Featuring information about the artists is great, but don’t make us go hunting online so that we can tag our Instagrams properly.

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