Day for Night 2017 Rundown, Pt. 1: Earl Sweatshirt + Solange + Bjarki + Collin Hedrick + Cashmere Cat + En Vogue + Kona FM + Acid Jeep + Rezz

Yes, yes, yes. Day for Night 2017 is right around the corner, just one solitary week away — it kicks off with a Summit session of talks & whatnot this Friday, December 15th, and then the music, art, and all the rest happens on Saturday, December 16th, and Sunday, December 17th, the whole deal unfolding over at Post HTX downtown. Check over here for the full schedule, should you feel the need.

Now, as we’ve done the past couple of years, your trusty SCR people over here are going to write up our little randomly-chosen pile of previews/rundowns of as many damn DFN performers as we can over the next few days. Given that there’s a whopping 69 artists on the list, I dunno that we’ll get to all of ’em, but dammit, we’ll try.

And be warned that some of the big-namers might not make it in — like I said, this is random, and we try hard to stick to that, so if Headliner A doesn’t get picked by the magic of RANDOM.ORG, well…hell, they probably don’t need us talking about them to begin with, right? You — and we, in some cases — might just get to learn about somebody new, instead. Which is good.

Anyway, enough of that; let’s get to it:

Earl Sweatshirt
I’ve gotta say this first: I’ve never been an Odd Future fan. Just never have; I definitely get how they’ve influenced the current state of hip-hop, and that’s an awesome thing, because they absolutely made it weirder and looser and broke a lot of walls down, but at the same time, the actual music they’ve produced as a crew has left me cold. I don’t hate it, I just don’t like much of it, y’know?

That said, Earl Sweatshirt is an exception. His lyrics are simultaneously twisty and sleepy, sliding past quick enough that they don’t really sink in ’til later, and on 2015’s I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, he digs deep into his personal life, vulnerable and emotional like few rappers ever really can be. He’s weird, to be sure, which I’m good with, but unlike cohort Tyler, The Creator, he’s not an asshole about it; he’s a bit more on the fragile side, although I doubt he’d like to hear himself described that way.

Still, that’s how it feels to me, at least — Earl’s got his emotions, his neuroses out for public display. Hell, it’s right there in the title of the album; at one point, it sounds like he really didn’t go outside much at all, but hid himself away from the world at large and then wrote about it, like some kind of hip-hop Howard Hughes. It’s strange, yes, but compelling. (Jeremy Hart)
[Earl Sweatshirt plays at 11:20PM on Fri., December 15th, at the Day for Night Friday Summit.]


 

Solange
Out of all of the people on this year’s Day for Night lineup, this one’s the one where I saw it, nodded, and said, “okay, that makes perfect sense.” See, not only is Solange hometown royalty, but she was scheduled to play at this past summer’s FPSF (now dead and reborn as In Bloom)…which was cancelled midway through the second day because of a massive storm drenching the area. Yours truly was one of the people booted out of the festival grounds in the afternoon, although I wasn’t sad about it once the storm hit; driving home through it was nightmarish enough.

Still, it sucked for all the fans who’d been patiently waiting to see the late-Sunday headliners, and it sucked for the performers themselves, too, who were denied their chance to hit the stage. I’d been hopeful about Solange’s set, in particular, because despite the aforementioned royal-ness, she’s only recently really started to make a big impact for herself, even around here. She needs a coming-out party, so to speak, and I’d figured FPSF would be that moment. But it wasn’t to be.

Except, now, maybe we’ve got that chance again. Going by last year’s A Seat at the Table, which is a fully-formed exposition of modern soul, drawing together the sound’s roots with the current day and pulling in some serious thought about the African-American community, racism, history, and identity, she damn well deserves that moment in the spotlight. Two moments, actually, since she’s not only performing at DFN proper but also doing a piece on Friday night called Saint Heron (about Gil Scott-Heron, maybe?) that she composed, arranged, and choreographed herself. I’m very glad her chance to shine coming back around. (Jeremy Hart)
[Solange plays at 7:40PM on Fri., December 15th, at the Day for Night Friday Summit, and at 6:40PM on Sun., December 17th, at the Red Stage.]


 

Bjarki
I have to admit, at first listen I was sorely tempted to shrug Icelandic DJ Bjarki off as “yet another generic-sounding EDM act, eh, whatever.” But I was busy doing things while listening, so I let it roll, and…okay, I’ll say it: I’m liking this. Bjarki is certainly EDM, but he eschews the trap/dubstep trappings that’ve gotten too damn commonplace lately in favor of an older, more nuanced sound, instead bringing to mind music from the pre-“EDM” era.

In particular, I keep coming back to Underworld — a lot of the four-on-the-floor beats are fast enough they make me think of that group’s classic “Born Slippy,” off Second Toughest in the Infants (and/or the Trainspotting soundtrack, depending on who you are). At other moments, though, there’s more of a Leftfield feel to things, with those skittering, staccato snares and cymbals, and that’s no bad thing, either.

Throughout, it’s dark and menacing, never truly party-down, dancefloor-friendly music — rather, it’s driving and insistent, almost to the point of mania, pushing into your ears until you can’t help but bob your head along. And again: no bad thing, in my book… (Jeremy Hart)
[Bjarki plays at 10:10PM on Sat., December 16th, at the Green Stage.]


 

Collin Hedrick
Once, long ago (okay, not that long ago, but a few years ago, at least), there was a band called Giant Princess. They were loud but not so loud it hurt, they were bluesy and sweet and raw, they were energetic as hell, and they were a lot of fun. They made a really good album, zip zop wow, back in 2010 or so, and then they seemingly collapsed, playing sporadically for a bit before fully dissolving into the ether.

Oh, and they had a really good frontman, a guy named Collin Hedrick. I’d always hoped he would come back around at some point with a new band, the way most H-town bands seem to do — I swear, they’re like freaking dandelions, where one band spawns twelve others. And eventually, he did…kind of. See, the music Hedrick’s making these days doesn’t involve guitars or any singing, but rather synthesizers.

It’s very, very different stuff from the old GP days, it’s true, but it’s pretty fascinating nonetheless, and I say that as somebody who tends to run screaming from most music deemed “experimental”. Hedrick’s music these days is ambient and hazy, floating cloudbanks of synth and half-sleepy/half-messy washes of sound; occasionally it drops down to earth somewhat, as on “the way down,” from this September’s Entropic Bolt, but that seems to be a rarity. For the most part, Hedrick has left the ground behind and aims to float amonst the clouds. Join him up there. (Jeremy Hart)
[Collin Hedrick plays at 2:10 on Sun., December 17th, at the Yellow Stage.]


 

Cashmere Cat
Next up on the list is Magnus August Hoiberg, also known as Cashmere Cat. This Norwegian-born DJ brings his style of alternative/almost-R&B house to Day for Night. The vibe he brings to the table absolutely screams Day For Night, with the deep house beats of most of his songs.

This turntablist started off his career with his EP Mirror Maru, released in 2012, and continued to gain recognition when the title song on the EP was included on the Grand Theft Auto soundtrack back in 2013. He gained even more notice when his remix of Two Chainz’ “No Lie” topped the “25 Awesome Genre-Benders of 2012.”

Overall, I’m super pumped to see Cashmere Cat perform this year. (Abbie Hart)
[Cashmere Cat plays at 8:20PM on Sat., December 16th, at the Green Stage.]


 

En Vogue
Yeah, it’s true — I laughed when I saw En Vogue listed on the lineup for this year’s Day for Night. I couldn’t help it; all I could remember was one of the many cookie-cutter soul-pop acts from back in the ’90s, all groups I’d pretty much sneered at the time, metal-/rap-loving teenage (non-)iconoclast that I (thought) I was. It was just more blah radio-friendly pop, and I couldn’t stand it.

So it was with a bit of trepidation that I dove back in to listen to the group for the first time in a few decades. When I did, though, I was hit hard with a flood of memories, dragging me back to those confused days of middle and high school; the music rolled on, and I realized that I knew every goddamn song, even songs I couldn’t have remembered intentionally just an hour before. Despite my youthful disdain, the music had seeped deep down into my subconscious.

And holy shit, I like it. Sure, there’s a bit of the nostalgia buzz going on, but even beyond that, I’m finding a whole lot to like as a grown-ass adult that I just couldn’t get when I was a kid; En Vogue weren’t just a bunch of ladies singing soul, it turns out, but were actually sharp as hell, crafting smart, sleek, surprisingly incisive songs that also happened to be heartfelt and sincere.

Seriously — I’m not even kidding here. “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It),” “Free Your Mind” (which is arguably the first-ever real soul-rock hybrid), “Giving Him Something He Can Feel,” “Hold On”, those are all damn near flawless chunks of pop songwriting brilliance, and I’ll fight anybody who thinks different. Teenage me would doubtless be horrified, but yeah, I’m actually looking forward to seeing En Vogue at DFN. (Jeremy Hart)
[En Vogue plays at 4:30PM on Sun., December 17th, at the Green Stage.]


 

Kona FM
And then, from somebody I’m way more familiar with than I thought I was, to somebody who’s totally new, at least to me. From the little bit I’ve heard so far, though, I’m liking the heck out of local Houston DJ Kona FM‘s sound; it’s ambient but not whispery or hazy, moving instead into a more overtly “international” realm, blending flutes and drums and gamelan and bird noises with house beats and handclaps and samples from TED Talks (I think?) and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.

It’s warm and serene, gathering all those sounds in together while never getting too dark or repetitive, with Kona’s Soundcloud sets typically clocking in at a half-hour or so and covering a ton of ground in that time; “Steven,” for one, goes from the aforementioned world-music-y stuff to something that sounds like a Welsh folk song and then to something that sounds like the soundtrack to the original Tron. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on it, it shifts again, transforming into something new. Which, honestly, makes it perfect accompaniment, in my book, for a festival like DFN. (Jeremy Hart)
[Kona FM plays at 3:10PM on Sun., December 17th, at the Yellow Stage.]


 

Acid Jeep
Huh. Okay, let’s keep this little mini-theme rolling, this time with an artist whom I’ve seen before but whom I hadn’t realized I’d seen before until I did a little digging. See, Acid Jeep is the current project/DJ name/whatever of Stephen Farris, a guy who’s bounced around the scene here for several years now, but even after listening to some of Acid Jeep’s new album, Rhythm Magnet, I still didn’t realize it was Farris making the music.

The first time I encountered the guy, it was as one-half of gone-too-soon weirdo-hip-hop duo Ghost Mountain, a group I still remember fondly. He popped back up a year or two later on his own, though (college had intervened and broken up the band), and I witnessed him playing some strange, trippy, hazy ambient-noise stuff that I liked a fair bit.

Now, however, with Acid Jeep, Farris is onto something else entirely. Rhythm Magnet is — as his nom-de-DJ might imply — essentially a love letter to the glory days of Chicago-bred acid house, complete with clicky beats, squelchy Roland synth sounds, and never-stopping beats. Unlike pretty much every other EDM-ish person I’ve previewed so far, this is music that is pretty much designed for the dancefloor, and it does its job damn well… (Jeremy Hart)
[Acid Jeep plays at 4PM on Sun., December 17th, at the Yellow Stage.]


 

Rezz
A newer DJ on this list, Ukrainian-born Isabelle Rezazadeh, otherwise known as Rezz, brings a darker synth-house style of music to the table.

Rezz started producing music at a mere 16, before, at the age of 20, releasing her first EP, Insurrection, with OWSLA in 2015. Later that year, she began releasing music with mau5trap, and her track, ‘Serenity’, was featured on the 2015 compilation album We are Friends, Vol. 4. In 2016, she then announced her first EP with mau5trap, called The Silence is Deafening, and then a second one later that year, called Something Wrong Here.

Having been signed with two of my favorite record labels, I’m really excited to see her set this year, and I know her show won’t disappoint. (Abbie Hart)
[Rezz plays at 3:30PM on Sun., December 17th, at the Red Stage.]


 

Alright, y’all — that’s it for now. More to come, real damn soon…


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