The Day N Night festival was widely criticized as a logistical nightmare in its debut last year at Oak Canyon Park in eastern Orange County. Fortunately, the all–hip-hop festival produced by the Observatory markedly improved this year thanks to a new location. The 2017 iteration, headlined by Travis Scott, Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar, took place Sept. 8-10 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.
In a three-day mosh-pit melee that was far more energized than this year’s Coachella and far younger in demographics than anyone probably expected (think: four high schools' worth of teens packed in and running amok), Day N Night firmly established itself as a Southern California staple. Here are some highlights from the weekend:
Most unexpected set: MadeinTYO
Maybe it was because it was day one. Maybe it was because it was only 5 p.m. and people were waiting for headliner Travis Scott to bring the hype later that night. For whatever reason, festival attendees were not physically or emotionally prepared for the mosh pit extravaganza Tokyo-raised rapper MadeinTYO orchestrated.
In an attempt to escape the organized human thrashing, some people crowd-surfed their way to the front and over the security barricade. MadeinTYO seared them. “I don’t respect any male out here crawling out of the fucking crowd,” he said. “If you wanna be a cool guy [and just stand there], get the fuck out of this bitch.”
After the set, one festival attendee said to his friend, “I think I lost 10 pounds in there.”
Most underwhelming set: Khalid
No one denies that this 19-year-old up-and-comer from El Paso, Texas, is talented. His vocals shine on his debut album, American Teen, and they sound interstellar live. But this is Southern California, the place where the mosh pit originated. The majority of the under-21 crowd was looking to lose their shit. Khalid’s music, consisting of mostly melodic and slow-thumping R&B grooves, seemed to bore everyone except his dedicated fans. Even the rail riders in front were picking their fingernails.
Most bewildering: festival fashion, namely the camo cargo pant
Camouflage was having its heyday at Day N Night. The camo cargo pant — coming in variations of pink and white, black and blue, purple and white, and good old-fashioned camo green — could be seen everywhere on both male and female attendees. It looked hot. It looked uncomfortable. It didn’t make sense. Is everyone preparing for the dystopian wasteland of a collapsed American empire? Are the pockets really that functional? Why is camo in again?
An honorable mention goes out to high-waisted fishnets. These must be worn under pants — not shorts but full-length pants — and be just visible above the waistline. A bizarre choice, albeit a popular one.
Another shout-out goes to Chance the Rapper–inspired overalls, with one strap hanging off the shoulder and a white tee underneath. I respect the effort but can only imagine how brutally warm that outfit became in a matter of minutes. And how inconvenient it must have been to use porta-potties with those on.
Heroes of the weekend: the sign-language interpreters
A hearty round of applause has to go out to the festival’s ASL interpreters. These men and women were forced to sign phrases like “Who’s fucked up right now?!” and “Let me smell the weed!” They performed their jobs with great vigor and even maintained their professionalism when interpreting such lines as “Shorty wanna kiss me, but I know she sucking dick.”
Most spiritually renewing: Chance the Rapper’s set
Chance the Rapper brought Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment with him to Saturday night’s headlining set, giving Southern California the gospel soul it was craving. The Chicago native, who claims to “speak to God in public,” had the entire venue praising Jesus. By the end of the hour, everyone had two hands in the air singing their lungs out to “Glory be to God, yeah!” and “Are you ready for your blessings/Are you ready for your miracles?”
As we left for the night, an oft-repeated theme from departing festivalgoers was, “We just got taken to church.” And of course, despite Chance having some of the most un-moshable songs, the crowd managed to open up the pit not once but twice.
Honorable mention goes to SZA, another crowd favorite of the weekend.
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And the most turnt award goes to: YG
YG might just have the most cathartic show of the year. Not only does his set include crowd-pleasing bangers, he also gives the masses a chance to scream, as one: “Fuck Donald Trump!” YG closed out his set with a Donald Trump impersonator, who came out making jokes about pussy-grabbing and wall-building. Then, as YG burst back onto the stage and started the song, thousands of people with their middle fingers upraised screamed along to the chorus. FDT. Times eight.
At the end of the day, that’s what hip-hop is for. It's not just party music; it's a protest against the machinations of oppression. “As a black man, speaking on racism and bigotry and hatred is of paramount importance,” said Vic Mensa, a Chicago-based rapper who sat with me for a quick chat on Saturday. “Hip-hop can be a weapon in this fight ... and it depends on how you use it.”
Most artists kept their performances apolitical, but a handful of them made reference to the shit storm of world affairs. The message was likely lost on folks who were moshing too hard to care. But for those of us who were listening to the subtext, it was restorative. In some cases, it was church.