Review: Dayglow's awesome, cool, dope 'Austin City Limits' debut freakin' rocked
A few years ago, Sloan Struble ate sandwiches in the old “Austin City Limits” studio on the University of Texas campus at his freshman orientation. Just a couple years, millions of streams and a “Tonight Show” appearance later, he stood on the stage at ACL Live performing as Dayglow, taping his first episode of the venerated music show.
The 21-year-old Austin artist’s take: “Kind of awesome,” he said. “This is dope.”
We first profiled Struble in early 2020, right as his meteor was entering a higher orbit. The son of Aledo created a delightful bedroom pop album in his actual teenage bedroom, and after uploading it to the information superhighway, “the algorithm did its thing,” as Struble put it. The pandemic stymied his tour last year, but not his momentum, and he’s emerging from our annus horribilis with a new album, “Harmony House,” and seemingly more buzz than ever.
“This is really cool,” Struble said early on in the May 25 taping, the first of many “cools” and “awesomes.” “This is our biggest show ever,” he said of the socially distant (but still healthy) audience at ACL Live. He was every part the Local Kid Done Good, a bouncy and ultra-chill Renaissance dude proud to finally sing his songs for an audience, which on Tuesday included his family on the floor. He danced like he was still in the bedroom where he wrote, recorded and mixed his top-tier pop songs.
After the year we’ve all had, it felt so good to see someone like Struble get their moment.
The taping opened with infectious “Harmony House” track “Something,” giving Struble ample time to shake off the nerves via head bobs and floppy hair flips. He introduced his full band before launching into “Medicine.” By the third song, the cowbell came out. Business time.
You could see Struble shake off the cobwebs as the set progressed. He urged the audience to “dance in your seat” to “Hot Rod,” the first of several clap-alongs on Tuesday night. (This rhythmically impaired writer’s first clap-along since … a long time, guys.) As Struble played “December,” it felt like watching a baby star find where he best shines. His voice is a mellow and expressive instrument, not given to belts or abrasive rock howls, so midtempo numbers like this one seemed to suit both the singer and the song.
In fact, on the title track from “Fuzzybrain,” Struble’s mellow indie-rock croon really shined in front of more spare instrumentation. It was almost enough to make you wish he performed with a minimalist set-up, but then you would hear another shiny riff on the keys, or another perfectly executed guitar lick, and realize: “Hey! This music is so good, and he made it all from scratch!” It would be a shame to not give the songs a full enchilada, at least this early into their lives.
Those hooks, and the heart-swelling melodies, were on display on “Woah Man,” around where we got this great proverb from the Book of Dayglow: “Toss your worries to the wind, man.” The train gained even more steam: Struble shifted gears into a staccato, punk-adjacent vocal delivery for “Can I Call You Tonight?” as beachy surf guitars bent into the atmosphere and dreampop synths caught their twang in mid-air.
“I probably shouldn’t point out when I make mistakes,” Struble said immediately after pointing out a mistake he made on stage. Nevertheless: “Let’s,” dramatic pause, “freakin’ rock.”
“Harmony House” MVP “Crying on the Dancefloor” marked a wormhole in the taping, through which Struble and the band passed and immediately hurtled into another dimension. The song’s a smooth rock reinvention, this year’s best example of the kind of sad bangers that have given people like Robyn a career. Not that “Crying on the Dancefloor” has much in common sonically with Swedish pop — it’s Struble at his most emotionally honest and vocally clear, with keyboards straight out of Kim Cattrall classic “Mannequin” and a sax solo from Marshall Lowry that the audience had been waiting for all night.
“It’s not the moment that I would have chosen,” Struble sang, a line heavy with meaning for a sensation-in-waiting who had to wait a little longer than he should have over the past year.
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The main set wrapped up with “Into Blue” and viral single “Close To You,” an instant classic. The Dayglow gang returned to the stage for an encore (and a couple re-recordings that “Austin City Limits” taping regulars know all about).
“To be with people is really awesome,” Struble said. “As cheesy as it sounds, it really could not happen without you all here.” “Austin City Limits” was “definitely a bucket list moment,” he said.
A splendid cover of Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World" merged into Dayglow’s own “Run the World!!!” The punk side came back, and perhaps emboldened by adrenaline and bucket list moment well done, Struble tore into the best falsetto of the night.
“My cheeks hurt,” he said at the end, one smiling face in a concert hall full of ‘em.
Dayglow's 'Austin City Limits' setlist
- "Something" (live version)
- "Hot Rod"
- "Moving Out"
- "Woah Man"
- "Can I Call You Tonight?"
- "Crying on the Dancefloor"
- "Into Blue"
- "Close To You" (live version)
- Encore: “Everybody Wants to Rule the World" and “Run the World!!!”