Day For Night 2017

Let’s get this out of the way. No, I did not get to shoot Day for Night from the photo pit. In fact, my “media” approval amounted to a discounted 3-day wristband. It was disappointing, if I am to be honest; I was truly looking forward to shooting this year. The organizers saw it differently. I guess one day we’ll have to relent and buy fake followers on social media as an insurance policy.

Alas, the hotel was bought and paid for already, so off I went to make the most. Saturday, I left the camera behind as there was confusion, too much of it, about camera policies, etc. Turns out, I had a great time wandering aimlessly through the cavernous space, spending much of my time in the art installations, occasionally paying attention to the stages. I had no schedule and stumbled into people, sometimes standing in the crowd only to look to my right and realize a friend had been right next to me for a half an hour. Sunday, I mounted the trusty 55/1.8 to the a9 and revisited the installations and took in way more music.

The art ruled the weekend – I went to an art show and caught some bands. Pop through and read about highs and lows and discoveries and disappointments…

Day one was all phone photos and I think I could say it was a remarkably enjoyable challenge. Day two, TBH, was a better lineup for my musical preferences aside from Nine Inch Nails. Off into the darkness I went.

ART: There were several beautifully clever installations; piles of sand with projectors redefining the landscape with color and motion, towers of motion lights in sync, entire rooms with columns lit dancing to a soundtrack, recordings of eight waterfalls displayed on screens that would build into a cacophony of sound and power, but there were a few true standouts. In the static realm, “Focal Point” was a massive collection of red lasers lined up on the ceiling and pillars all precisely aimed single point in the middle of the space. It was remarkably bright at that convergence. It also created a tent of lines that viewers could take shelter in and gain perspective from. Another absolutely mesmerizing experience was “Liminal Scope”. Three large rings with polished steel interiors and hidden projectors were suspended from the ceiling. Fog filled the air and as the projectors pushed patterns onto the interiors of the rings, it appeared as though the light was slowed to crawl, rattling and swirling around inside each circle. There was a viewing platform in the back of the room where you could watch as passers-by would be caught in their tracks.

But there was one installation that stood out, not just because it was the only one you had to wait in line to view the performance, but because it was simply beautiful and haunting. “Telestron” by VT Pro Designs featured two industrial robots painted black set in reflection pools surrounding their bases. At the articulating end of each robot’s arm, a geodesic sphere with lighting of its own surrounded a vari-light. As the soundtrack for their performance began, conversations stopped and eyes grew wide. The two machines interacted, trading solos, showing off their range with flashes, color and spinning choreography and the music continued to build until the two machines seemingly looked at each other, a pencil beam fired from each to the other in perfect alignment. I get goosebumps typing this. They would move linked, break the link and reconnect several times in the show that remained. Both times I viewed this performance, the crowd applauded at the conclusion and discussions outside debated the robots’ relationship; were they friends, lovers or rivals? I still don’t know how I feel about it.

MUSIC: Fine, let’s talk music. I do really enjoy the eclectic nature of the festival. Noise acts, DJs, downtempo, throwback punk, R&B greats. My standouts, both good and bad:

St. Vincent: I wish I could gush here. She was praised for being brave and out there to perform solo in a silly outfit. Yes, amazing vocal and guitar, but it was karaoke for me. Choreographed motions, performing from a few points on stage for variation. I was left flat.

NIN: Holy crap it got cold and starting pouring during the Saturday headliner again. But “Wish” will keep you warm. The set times were pushed up a bit in hopes to avoid the downpour, but no such luck. It was rad, though.

Cardi B: don’t make a crowd wait for fifty minutes, perform lipsync three songs and then proclaim it is too cold. You stepped up to ninety minutes. You will disappear as quickly as you arrived.

The Album Leaf: Shout out to the crowd, massively respectful. It was lovely set of their more accessible and groove oriented tracks. I was into it.

The Jesus Lizard: Probably the best thing I saw was this reunion set. They sounded great, David Yow spnding as much time spitting at the crowd as he did in the crowd. It was fucking rad and don’t let anyone say it wasn’t.

Phantogram: They have certainly come a long way since seeing them in the backyard at Home Slice during SxSW. Always strong live, they’ve added band members to take over more of the live show freeing them to play more, interact more, slay more. But alas, they have gone way to Alt Nation in their new material for my tastes; I want them to get glitchy and dark again.

Forest Swords: One of those moments where I just stopped to listen for a minute and somehow ended up in the middle of the crowd. Lovely down-tempo electronic stuff, groove-oriented at times, glitchy pop surfacing now and again.

Blackie: From booming looped saxophone over tracks to punk vocal delivery of social injustice rap lyrics with ZERO elegance in transition. There is anger there. Depth, the performance left many wondering what they just saw as his fans had a smug look of “yeah, you know what you just saw.”

Laurie Anderson: She played violin, she told jokes and shared experiences. She is an important person to you, whether you know it or not.

En Vogue: All the hits. A polished stage show, fantastic band, the women of En Vogue weren’t just nostalgia.

Thom Yorke: Joined by Nigel Godrich, Thom shared the solo material on the fringes of Radiohead fans’ record collections with a few adaptations from Atoms for Peace peppered in. It was a flowing and moving thing, the whole set blending. All did not go swimmingly and a decision by the festival that had plagued other performers, placing subs under the Blue Stage, would be called out by Thom during the first song as nothing would stay settled on stage. Yes, Thom, details do matter.

In general, sound was solid, a few soundcheck hiccups, but better than last year in execution. Lines for bathrooms and food appeared shorter. The Yellow Stage wins for best setting, a back cavern, a circular center console was surrounded by screens and speakers. Get inside that perimeter and dance.

Until next year…

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