“People say Austin’s weird, but Houston is weirder.” Or at least that’s what my Uber driver tells me as he navigates the freeways near the George Bush Intercontinental Airport late Friday night. It’s raining, windy, and a humid 78 degrees out—which is pretty normal in east Texas, my new friend explains. “On one block it’s pouring and another it’s sunny and the birds are singing.” Over the course of the following two days, I’d witness Houston’s schizophrenic weather firsthand, alongside a few thousand other locals and visitors. I’d also find a surprisingly huge community of avant garde artists, music fans, and fashionistas in the midst of one of the most ambitious, unpredictable, and yes, weird music events I attended this year.
Day for Night Festiva, which celebrated its second anniversary in the heart of downtown Houston this past weekend, is a sort of temporary haven for Texas’ artful fringe community. Boasting a carefully curated lineup of hip-hop, independent rock, and electronic music—including the return of Aphex Twin, who hadn’t played in the States for eight years prior to their Saturday headlining set—Day for Night was first and foremost a celebration of experimentalism. The fest, which hosted everyone from Travis Scott, Banks, and Run the Jewels to Arca, Butthole Surfers, and the Jesus and Mary Chain, went down in and around the historic Barbara Jordan Post Office, which sits on a massive 16 acre lot and was built in 1936. Inside, two floors were dedicated to large-scale modern art installations, which ranged from immersive light and sound displays to perspective-fucking mirrored hallways to a multi-room virtual reality experience created by Icelandic electro-pop legend Bjork. (She also DJ’d the event, once on Friday evening and again on Sunday night.) Outside, three of the fest’s four live music stages stood alongside massive LED screens, while dazzling light projections and 3-D sculptures played against the post office’s exterior walls.
Similarly, Day for Night’s crowd mirrored the art in its eclecticism; attendees ranged from toddlers to teens to music festival lifers, punks to ravers to club kids and sneakerheads. If fashion rules existed here, they revolved around a mandate of “the weirder, the better.” (At more than one point I described the scene as “Burning Man in a concrete parking lot.”)
On Saturday, when temps hovered somewhere around 78 degrees, that meant throngs of kids in makeup, chokers, leather, denim, LED lights, candy jewelry, fuzzy boots, elaborate headdresses, masks, and all manner of shimmer and sparkle. It was Texas-level humid, and kids suffered for their fashion, but not outwardly so. That is, until the rain started around 10 p.m., bringing with it gusting winds and a 20 degree temperature drop that sent a lot of folks running for cover.
On Sunday, the scene that had been painted the day before took a fast and hard 180 turn. In place of cropped tops and short shorts, Day for Night’s patrons came out decked in fur coats. Gloves and scarves were everywhere. Boots, hats, wigs, and ski pants all made strong showings. At one point in the day, we watched two groups of people in homemade metallic ensembles converge near a bar slinging Hot Toddys. They stopped to acknowledge each other’s equally impressive insulation suits, which reflected the midday sun in dazzling ways.
Unpredictable climates aside, though, Day for Night acted as a not-so-subtle reminder of the city’s large-and-still-growing art scene. In a place best known for its massive sprawl and diehard Texas pride, Houston is quickly gaining a reputation as a hub for young progressives who aren’t afraid of embracing their own identity—no matter how out-there it may be. Here we take a look at the attendees of Day for Night, and all of the weird, wonderful, bizarre and beautiful outfits they brought with them.