Thursday night at Union Hall in Brooklyn was a homecoming for Say Hi To Your Mom. The borough-born band moved to Seattle in November of last year, and March 29th was their first show in the city since the move.
Playing in between the fellow (but still) Brooklynites, Bishop Allen and +/-, Say Hi wasn’t the same band that went west last fall, but the hometown crowd proved that absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder.
The most noteworthy change in Say Hi To Your Mom was that the guitar was turned up, playing on the same level – if not higher – than the keyboard, a marked difference from their keys-heavy records. Singer/songwriter Eric Elbogen was on guitar, and not the keys around which Say Hi had formed, and that possibly contributed to this. The effect created an interesting mix between indietronic grooves and guitar-driven emotion, one that is not found on any of their records.
There was at least one constant, album-to-stage: Just like on all four of their albums, Say Hi To Your Mom played exactly ten songs. The show was not, however, merely a recitation of their most recent release, last year’s Impeccable Blahs, as only about half of the songs played were off of it. Luckily, those they did choose were all among the top tracks, on the top-notch, Blahs. What’s more, the enhanced guitar made these pieces into truly new experiences: “Blah Blah Blah” turned from lap-pop into a wall of sound, “Sad, But Endearingly So” became a more epic ‘song-about-(casting)-a-girl’, and “These Fangs” grew into some fine indie-rock. Less-pronounced vocals meant that Elbogen’s unusual lyrics (mostly about either vampires or robots) stood out less, but this actually lowered the wall of peculiarity to their music, which might otherwise prevent one from being fully engrossed.
Say Hi To Your Mom began the night, however, with three pieces not off Blahs. They opened the night with a new song that was distinctly Say Hi, and then launched into two older pieces, “They Write Books About This Sort of Thing” (off of their 2002 debut, Discosadness) and audience favorite “Your Brain vs. My Transformer”. Say Hi wisely chose two more crowd-pleasing oldies off of 2004’s Numbers and Mumbles, as no one could resist cheering for the arcade love song, “But She Beat My High Score”, and everyone went wild when they heard that the closer was “about space ships”. “Let’s Talk About Spaceships” also benefited from an enhanced emotional level that night.
While +/- was the headliner, it was Say Hi To Your Mom that drew the biggest audience, packing the downstairs of Union Hall (QRO venue review). Say Hi and the crowd had a closeness that bordered on over-familiarity; the downstairs’ low-hung ceiling, numerous supporting pillars, amps (of other bands) stacked in a corner, standing lamps, and nineteenth-century portraits on the far wall, all made the show feel a bit like watching a really good band in a friend’s basement. Such an intimacy could have been at cross-purposes to Say Hi To Your Mom’s strong guitar and idiosyncratic lyrics, but it all kind of worked. It made the show quite unlike most any other New York City performance: Truly unique.