Sloan Struble, AKA Dayglow, may only be twenty-one, but as his brand new album Harmony House proves, he writes expert pop tunes like a pro. He’s also moved easily from solo auteur to confident bandleader, as his debut ACL taping (live streamed around the world) can attest.
After a typically rousing Terry Lickona introduction, the stage remained empty, as an electronic pulse teased the imminent arrival of the musicians. The band came on one by one, with Struble himself taking the stage last and bouncing around to the happy energy of album opener “Something.” Struble took a moment to introduce the band, before displaying the modern/nostalgic dichotomy that makes his music sound so fresh: “Medicine” opens with a noisy burst of electronica before settling into a warmly organic 70s pop groove. “This is actually our biggest show ever,” noted Struble. “I know it’s limited capacity, but this is the biggest crowd we’ve ever played for.” The band then revisited the first Dayglow album Fuzzybrain for the Latin-feeling “Nicknames,” complete with ending cowbell solo. Struble noted how cool it was that he first visited the original ACL studio as a University of Texas freshman, and now he found himself onstage at ACL Live recording his own episode. Powered by that giddy joy, there was no choice but to go into the bubbly, danceable “Hot Rod,” frosted with harmony leads from Struble and guitarist Colin Crawford. Saxophonist Marshall Lowry then joined the quintet onstage, adding some deliciously 80s pop saxophone to the melancholy “December.” Struble took to his even more-80s styled keyboard for the song’s coda, segueing directly into the upbeat “Moving Out.”
Donning an acoustic 12-string guitar, Struble explained how he makes his records in his bedroom and how he first got his music noticed through the music-sharing platform Tunecore. That music was from Fuzzybrain, the beautifully tuneful title track of which came next. Shouting out longtime ACL makeup artist Glenda Facemire, Struble, acting on a tip from her, good-naturedly patted away the perspiration while introducing the next acoustic guitar-driven song, Harmony House’s “Woah Man.” He went back to his Strat for the peppy, sweetly melodic “Listerine,” before going into the breakout song that launched his career: “Can I Call You Tonight?,” as perfect a pop song as has hit the airwaves in some time. Unless, of course, you count the next song, the groovy but melody-rich “Crying on the Dancefloor,” also from Fuzzybrain, and featuring Lowry on soprano sax. After two songs in a row from the first album, though, it was time to revisit the new one with the lovely, old-fashioned ballad “Into Blue.” “Thank you for being here – this is awesome!” Struble declared, whose frequent declarations of “Let’s rock” punctuated his enthusiasm. “Definitely a bucket list moment!” The band then closed the main set with the latest Dayglow pop sensation, the effortlessly effervescent “Close to You,” during which the smiling, dancing Struble nearly had more fun than is allowed by law.
Struble bounced happily off the stage, but it wasn’t over yet. The band returned with a delightful surprise: a faithful, heartfelt cover of Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” a song just right for them. Right as it ended, however, Dayglow kicked into an original, the first album-bopper “Run the World!!!!” “I want to run the world!” Struble asserted, and while he may not get his exact wish, as long as he keeps making music this catchy and fun, the music world may well be within his grasp. It was a great show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall as part of our Season 47 on your local PBS station.