Live Review: Say Hi with Unlikely Friends at Barboza 12/12/14

all photos by Brittany Brassell

Holy shit, Say Hi knows how to get the party started on a Friday night at 9PM! I honestly think I saw more empty drink cups and shot glasses lining the Barboza shelf of subwoofers tonight than I’ve ever seen at their weekly Saturday night dance gigs. In a city on a hill where we show the Rocky Horror Picture Show weekly and regularly have Twin Peaks themed dance nights, I guess it’s really no surprise that Seattle knows how to get weird. But to welcome Seattle native Eric Elbogen back to a local stage after more than forty dates between now and the beginning of his tour in support of new record Endless Wonder, things got very fun very fast. But of course, that’s no surprise at all – it’s just Eric doing what he does best in the way that only he could do it. Together with budding Seattle supergroup (technically!) Unlikely Friends, Say Hi brought the house down at the Barboza for his second to last show of the year.

If you aren’t familiar with Seattle threesome Unlikely Friends yet, you’d best start familiarizing. The band has been playing shows in the Seattle area for since October and will drop their debut LP Solid Gold Cowboys in January. The band is made up of D. Crane (of BOAT), Charles Bert (of Math and Physics Club), and Chris Mac (from lots of Seattle stuff). The lead single “(I’ve Got A) Soft Reputation” is pure gold. Also, being that they (supposedly) played the entirety of the LP in their set here tonight, along with an incredible medley of one track with the B-52’s “Love Shack” and a song about pizza crust, our guess is the rest of the LP will be too. Chris Mac’s Beat Happening shirt was not an accident – Unlikely Friends rock Northwestern rock vibes through and through. For the crowd present tonight, celebrating both them and our favorite Northwestern synth pop connoisseur Eric Elbogen, this wasn’t a problem at all. If you see them in the near future, make sure and fill out one of their comment cards.

Unlikely Friends:

Last fall, Say Hi debuted a whole new kind of live set for his contribution to Barsuk 15, an incredible four day celebration of the label’s 15th birthday. A far cry from the rock arrangements of old, Say Hi’s ever evolving live identity found Eric decked out in a suit, manning a trigger pad and a microphone, knocking out punchy synth pop renditions of his massive collection of tracks like that’s the way they always were. Opening with a bass heavy, bouncing rendition of “One, Two… One“, Eric was all energy and dance moves. Good thing for us, Eric apparently liked the new setup. His new record Endless Wonder, the follow up to 2011’s already excellent Um, Uh Oh, goes full synth pop above and beyond to outdo its predecessor. Every track on this gem is unadulterated pop bliss, with a quirkiness and self-awareness that only Eric brings to the table.

Eric knocked out the best of Endless Wonder in dazzling form here tonight at the Barboza. The suit returned, as did a repurposed money clip on the tie – great touch. The cynical punchiness of “Such A Drag” was followed by the introverted melancholy of “Figure It Out”. Then after tugging on heartstrings over a pounding bass beat with “When I Think About You”, Eric calmed the room for a solitary moment of reprieve. Loading up his trigger pad with all harp samples, Eric laid down a bare-bones version of “Critters” that put shivers down your spine. Yes, some of us may know Say Hi as the guy who writes loves songs about vampires and androids and would rather talk about spaceships, but when Eric belted out that chorus, the room quieted to an awed standstill. “But I guess I didn’t know it when I saw it”, Eric sang, bringing all of the pent up resentment of that excellent track to full life here tonight. Then, as the song faded and the applause rang out, Eric queued up “Like Pears Like Apples” and said, “Ok, this next song is about butts”. Say Hi, ladies and gentlemen – always the mystery man and the charmer.

Through a pretty massive 17 song set, Eric navigated the far corners of the Say Hi catalogue to appease pretty much everyone in the room. “Devils” and “Take You Dancing” appeared from Um, Uh Oh. “Back Before We Were Brittle” and (because Seattle) “Northwestern Girls” appeared from 2008’s The Wishes and the Glitch. Then, Eric went heavy on the Oohs & Ahs classics playing “November Was White”, “Maurine”, and of course, “Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh“. He also attempted to host several David Bazan-esque Q&A sessions, which mostly dissolved into telling groaner jokes. We did find out that the first two cassettes Eric ever bought were DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince and Guns N’ Roses, though – that’s pretty rad. Closing out with “Let’s Talk About Spaceships” and “Super“, Say Hi bid everyone farewell with as much reserved charm and tact as ever. Barboza was an early Friday night house party from beginning to end.

Say Hi:

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