Day N Night Review
Two days of wonder. Two nights of blaring music. Two days of simmering heat. Two nights of horribly backed-up traffic. Two days of reprieve from daily monotony. Two nights I experienced collective imagining, the flashing color from the stages running across the crowd in a waking dream. For all the reports of the logistical problems that plagued The Observatory’s first move at a major music festival, Day N Night was worth it.
When I pulled up to the one-way road of Oak Canyon Park Saturday afternoon, there were several other groups of attendees walking along the outskirts of the road toward the festival. The sun beat down on us but we pushed through. Who could blame us, really? Looking at the line-up for Day N Night proves once again why The Observatory has become the HQ for hip-hop in the OC music scene. At the entrance, amidst cars and scuttles of shade, attendees waited in line for the oncoming attractions, and others waiting to test their luck at sneaking into the event. If you happened to take a glance at the line, the congregation was composed of all ethnicities, the occasional white girl sporting dreads. Primarily, the fashion was a colorful affair, some dressed in streetwear, tie-dyes and artist merch while some were foolish enough to pick a fight with the sun wearing all back or jeans.
Inside Day N Night, the real action started: almost unbearable 90 degree weather, set delays, risk of dehydration, wickedly sized moshpits and amazing performances from not just the bigger names on the line-up but also the lesser known talents. Beginning of Day 1 saw the full throttle of Maxo Kream’s wild set and Father’s surreal trap soundscape, Dragonball Z flashing on the screen behind him. Not to mention Lil Yachty, whose music I low-key disliked, demonstrated why he’s become such a major name as of late in the rap circuit. The crowd danced as if possessed by religious exultation, pushing closer to get a chance to glimpse Lil Boat. Even the middle-aged security guards standing at the side station on stage smirked with amusement at the kids’ excitement. Around 7:00 I made my way to the Weed Maps Stage to catch $uicideboy$. In the middle of their set, the duo amped the excitement over the usual moshpits, instead splitting the crowd for the “wall of death.”
An hour later there I was back at the main stage, just in time for Lil Uzi’s performance of “Money Longer.” After Post Malone’s pretty average set, YG appeared on stage, taking (nearly) inhuman amounts of strength from yours truly from being trampled on by the crowd as they pushed toward the front. The southern California rapper ran through hits from My Krazy Life and deep cuts from his latest release Still Brazy, “Fuck Donald Trump” a common chant from the crowd while they watched YG dance and groove on stage.
Look back at the first night of the festival and catch the beautifully staged performance of first night headliner A$AP Rocky. Rewind a few moments before he appears above a giant LED screen bathed in light; people are exiting, racing to their cars or for water, others looking at the billowing figure in awe. Then he appears. L$D floats through the night air, Rocky a spectral shadow embedded in a thick, red cloud, manufactured wind blowing his flannel’s hoodie as he croons the opening lines. His set was electric, his performance paired with beautifully curated graphics that’ll keep rattling in your brain for days, the ecstasy of it all too much to even process until it pops up in memories and wild conversations language couldn’t completely grasp.
The next afternoon was still burning. The sun was a white, menacing blob of radial heat. Except, the security seemed to catch onto the risk of dehydration among those camping out at the Night Stage, walking along the rails spraying water on overhead and some kind enough to give a drink or two. Every other set or DJ intermission I noticed asked the crowd who loves smoking weed or mistaking Oak Canyon Park for Santa Ana. There were more set delays. 21 Savage was rescheduled four hours later than his originally posted set time. Some attendees were angry, others not so much. When 21 strolled on stage it didn’t seem to matter, the moshpits had already opened.
“At least 21 Savage’s set was as hard as he claimed to be,” I heard an attendee say sometime after the performance, in response to the rapper’s late arrival.
Panning across the festival grounds on the outskirts of the stages there would be groups bundled in small circles sitting in the shade, smoking a blunt or drinking beer, others in line for water or overpriced food, attendees who had fainted at the medical tent and the attendees trying not to faint.
Back to the music, Vic Mensa played an awesome but extremely short set. A highlight being his rendition of “16 Shots,” Vic Mensa pretending to be shot and laying on stage in mock-death with three menacing cop cutouts standing in the background. Then there was Seshollowaterboyz, the closest rap performance I’ve seen ever seen that reaches the intensity of a punk show.
“Pick up your comrades,” a guy with shades screamed right before two extremely large moshpits conjoined into a mythically proportioned circle of thrashing.
Each member performed with frightened madness. Halfway through the gig, the ‘wall of death” rears its head once again. Throughout the act, a bunch of white girls angrily kept asking who elbowed them as they lined the pit, tried to make their exit or held through for Bryson Tiller. For those who waited, Bryon’s set paid off, bringing out Travis Scott toward the end for “Antidote” and “Pick Up The Phone.” Young Thug closed Day N Night, playing cuts from “Slime Season 3.”
Each night the lights sprawled along the festival grounds. Purple and red glow made its ascension through the trees. In the night’s progress the festival was a tiny microcosm, insular and grand, aflame with orgiastic color, blurring any memory of problems like set delays, if only for a moment.
That moment lasted longer for others unfortunately, especially if you happened not to drive to the music festival. Making my exit from the festival on Sunday I came across a couple who said they had left at 10:30p.m. Saturday and had not exited Oak Canyon Park till 5a.m. The parking seemed disorganized, lacking any clear supervision. Cars exiting through the one-way road of Oak Canyon stood at a halt. Many had to walk great lengths down Santiago Canyon Road looking for their ride or be blessed with an available Uber. The commuter limitations of Oak Canyon Park’s geography were made worse by an accident shutting down the road Sunday night.
Yet despite the nearly overwhelming problems of parking, that couple that waited hours just to exit Oak Canyon were optimistic. They believed the following year would be better.
No doubt, right? This year had flexed an incredible line-up at its inaugural. Solve the parking problem and Day N Night should be a hellishly cool festival for Orange County.
Review submitted by: Raymond Pelayo
Pictures by: Raymond Pelayo, Joe Almand, Efren Onate, and Beatriz Cabral