San Francisco – Jackson Phillips – the mastermind behind dreamy guitar pop outfit Day Wave – has made a lot of, well, waves, within the indie music sphere, the past year or so, especially for someone who has yet to release a proper full-length LP. He and his outfit have enjoyed moderate success following breakthrough singles like “Drag” and “Come Home Now,” and now, on the eve of the release of Day Wave’s second EP Hard to Read (their first EP, Headcase, was released last year), the band is the toast of the town. San Francisco has hosted the multi-venue festival since 1993, and with this year’s edition (boasting such acts as Metric, DIIV, Carly Rae Jepsen, and the Mountain Goats, among others), Day Wave is front-and-center…literally. Day Wave is not only featured on the cover of the festival’s program, they also celebrated their first-ever headlining show as part of the festival, this past Wednesday at the cozy Rickshaw Stop.
The classically trained jazz drummer (an alumnus of the prestigious Berkelee School of Music in Boston) briefly toyed with synth-driven compositions before finding his niche as a singer-songwriter and guitarist, and the result is soothing, provocative, and downright enthralling. Following sets by fellow local acts (Day Wave is based just across the bay in Oakland) Dot Vom and Hot Flash Heat Wave, as well as the key-heavy sounds of Los Angeles’ indie pop outfit Harriet, Phillips and his band of players took to the stage to treat his hometown crowd to a slew of songs derived from Day Wave’s small but nuanced catalogue.
With Hard to Read being released the first week of March, Day Wave used the headlining slot at Noise Pop to showcase songs from the new collection as well as favorites from previous EP Headcase, opening their set with the first two tracks from the latter, “Nothing At All” and “Total Zombie.” The sound was as breezy, haunting, and sneakily complex as Day Wave studio recordings, but with perhaps a tad bit more resolve, as the pressure of performing a headlining show at a major music festival tapped into a current of energy that has possibly lain dormant within Phillips’ spidery fingers. Conversely, the aura of mystique that had clouded Day Wave’s shadowy songs was fanned away as Phillips’ face was finally attached to the airy vocals and trickling guitar heard through laptop and stereo speakers, but the revelation was welcome, as we finally saw Day Wave’s raw humanity, personified.
In addition to newer material – including the song “Stuck” and the newest single “Gone” – Day Wave hit on a few one-off singles (“You Are Who You Are” and “Come Home Now”) and even some unreleased songs (“Wasting Time”). Early on in the set, Phillips let loose with a tender, pensive cover of New Order’s “Ceremony,” that would make the members of Real Estate blush with envy. Day Wave cleaned up their hour-long set with three old favorites: the ever popular “Drag,” title song from their debut EP Headcase, and finally “We Try But We Don’t Fit In.” The crowd that remained applauded with enthusiasm as Day Wave reached the end of the set, especially after Phillips’ declaration that the band would be hanging with lingering devotees after the set concluded.
Much like Courtney Barnett’s The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas, Day Wave’s newest EP, Hard to Read, will be paired with Headcase in a special combination edition of the two EPs, and may as well be treated as the band’s debut LP. However, Day Wave’s first album is reportedly in the works and will undoubtedly pack a hefty dose of Day Wave’s signature thoughtful songwriting, as well as some new surprises. As the literal poster child of Noise Pop and the festival’s native son, Phillips – along with his crew of players – has cemented a place in the festival’s history, enjoying new life. Phillips will no doubt one day look back on this, his first headlining show, with a wry and knowing smile.
Day Wave’s Hard to Read EP will be released March 4th via Grand Jury. The 2015 EP Headcase is also available, and the two are available as a package deal. Day Wave is set to appear at some summer festivals, including Atlanta’s Shaky Knees Festival and New York City’s Governors Ball. For more information visit the Day Wave Facebook page.
Photo credit: Corey Bell