Last Friday, A&O Productions brought two rising stars to the stage of Welsh Ryan Arena. The annually held event featured Justine Skye and Dayglow. Justine Skye, a Brooklyn-born singer and songwriter, dazzled the audience with her powerful vocals and R&B influences. She performed songs from her latest album, Space & Time, as well as some of her older hits, such as “U Don’t Know” and “Back for More.”
Dayglow, the indie-pop project of Austin-based musician Sloan Struble, brought incredible energy to the space and rounded out the night of performances. He played songs from his sophomore album, "Harmony House," which features catchy melodies and a sense of nostalgia. He also performed some fan favorites from his debut album, "Fuzzybrain," such as “Can I Call You Tonight?” and “Hot Rod.”
Bedroom pop has never sounded as funky and versatile as it did when an endearingly mop-haired Sloan Struble took the stage at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Friday night. The 24-year-old Texan, known professionally as Dayglow, has become something of a sensation in recent years. His ascent to stardom came after the 2019 release of Dayglow’s debut album "Fuzzybrain," which featured the hit “Can I Call You Tonight?” that soon went viral on TikTok and Spotify. His popularity has only grown since thanks to his consistently innovative beats and infectious, unforced melodies.
When hundreds of Northwestern students filed into a Welsh-Ryan that had been retrofitted for the annual A&O Blowout, I was struck, in the best possible way, by the feeling that I was experiencing an incredibly well-funded high school prom. Something about the bleachers up against the wall, the lacquered hardwood floor, the school-themed purple lighting and DJ Kavi’s (fellow student Kavi Subramanyan) opening act made the mental comparison irresistible. But the similarities ended when singer Justine Skye took over, commanding an impressive, decidedly non-high-school stage presence with her smooth R&B aesthetic and provocative lyrics.
Dayglow’s setlist, however, replete with clever cultural references and familiar favorites recast in Struble’s techno-pop idiom, only served to affirm my initial reaction. Decades collided throughout the night, between the Wii music of the 2000s, the ‘80s anthem “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” blending seamlessly into Dayglow’s own “Run the World!!!” and the band’s Weezer-esque outfits straight from the ‘90s.
Gimmicks aside, Dayglow’s discography is full of gems like the melancholy “Close To You,” a what-if fantasy of an unrealized romance that is likely to figure prominently in my Spotify Wrapped this year, and “Then It All Goes Away,” which is sure to get you moving to its non-stop rhythms. Although many of their songs hinge on intricate digital instrumentation, performing them live without the ability to micromanage didn’t hamper the music whatsoever. Even songs that had never impressed me much, like the eponymous “Fuzzybrain” from Dayglow’s first album, gained a new depth in Friday’s live rendition thanks to the band’s skillful instrumentals and Struble’s voice: sharp and clean, but not to the point of losing its boyish appeal.
Struble proved himself an able, though somewhat offbeat emcee, bouncing around the stage with self-assured goofiness and cracking intermittent jokes about having seen the Bean in Millennium Park or his brief stint studying advertising at UT Austin. His charm created a level of intimacy unusual to high-profile artists.
Keyboardist Norrie Swofford joined Struble in engaging the audience, shedding his Northwestern crew neck after the first song and tossing it into the crowd. The band struck a perfect balance between show and substance, keeping the crowd on their toes without ever taking the spotlight off the music itself.
The show was bookended by another performance of Dayglow’s biggest hit: “Can I Call You Tonight?”, marking the last stop on a very nostalgic musical odyssey. It felt like too soon that Struble was bidding us goodbye, and I found myself childishly wishing for the night to keep going, for more music, more memories. After all, what better praise is there for an artist if not that they make you feel like a kid again?