Say Hi, Big Scary Fitzgerald's May 8, 2014
Because Eric Elbogen's personality is naturally charming and warm, his solo project Say Hi's set downstairs at Fitz Thursday night felt as personal as it gets. It was as though a group of close friends had decided to gather for an intimate evening of drinking and dancing rather than attend a standard indie-rock show.
At times during his first Houston stop in three years, Elbogen would ask for crowd participation to help sing fan favorites such as "Blah Blah Blah" (where he asked for finger-wagging) or "Yeah, I'm In Love With An Android" (a chorus). The entire room effortlessly accepted the challenge.
But first up, openers Big Scary took the stage around 9 p.m., and fans got a nice surprise when Elbogen filled in on bass for the first part of their set. Typically Big Scary consists of Tom Iansek and Joanna Syme and revolves around the duo's harmonious vocals, so it's hard not to immediately fall in love with their sound.
With a set heavy with tracks from most recent album Not Art, including "Twin Rivers," "Luck Now" and "Belgian Blues," Iansek bounced around from keys to guitar as Syme stole the show with her drumming. The songs had an underlying ballad feel, making it easy enough to get swept away in the music being produced by the fingertips and vocals of her bandmate, but her performance was nothing short of mesmerizing.
Whether working through challenging start-stop patterns or performing an entire song with one hand and using the other for additional percussion, Syme played each song with an enthusiasm and intensity that felt as enjoyable for her as it did for the crowd. It was a different kind of satisfaction -- one you don't often encounter -- but her pride and genuine demeanor made Big Scary's set that much more endearing.
Shortly after, Elbogen took the stage in more dapper attire, opting to ditch his glasses and trade in a T-shirt in for a suit jacket and tie (though he opted to stay in a pair of black-and-white Sauconys). Because much of his music is created with the use of computers, Elbogen didn't require much to get started and armed with a microphone, his laptop and a loop pad, he soon had the crowd (and himself) dancing.
The set kicked off with "One, Two... one," off his 2009 album, Oohs & Aahs, before jumping into "Take Ya' Dancin'" off of 2011's Um, Uh Oh. Because Say Hi (formerly known as Say Hi to Your Mom) has a lengthy discography, it wasn't long before the requests came pouring out, including one from a woman who wanted to hear "Spiders."
"I personally love song requests," smiled Elbogen, "but my computer does not like them and so unfortunately we have to play the set list that I've already made."
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But he didn't disappoint. Though Elbogen couldn't perform the song live, he sang a line or two before asking the woman if she'd like to join him onstage to sing it. (She declined.)
Though the crowd was on the smaller side, Elbogen blossomed as he smiled through the lyrics through "Like Apples Like Pears" from forthcoming album Endless Wonder. It's a song about butts. And in his own endearing way, he owned the stage alone, swinging his hips and bouncing up and down with the crowd while he sang in perfect harmony to every song he performed. It was also fun to hear him introduce his tracks as "songs about vampires" or "songs about robots," allowing fans to pinpoint which album each song came from.
And despite my own personal desire to hear tracks like "Devil" and "Let's Talk About Spaceships" performed live with the assistance of drums or a bass, Elbogen found a way to translate them into electronically-driven tracks that didn't alienate the album version. Still, I hope Say Hi's next tour features a full band so I can watch him stretch his musical legs.
Personal Bias: Elbogen wasn't able to perform any of my favorite tracks live, so it was nice to not be distracted by excitement and instead embrace my first Say Hi live experience. It definitely did not disappoint -- I just need to wear better dancing shoes next time.
Overheard In the Crowd: Not heard, but seen: couples taking selfies with the band's gear before the show started. I guess there's a first time for everything.
Random Notebook Dump: Elbogen said he's not a sports guy, and now all I can think about is how he came up with the concept for "Unless The Lakers Game Was On."
The Crowd: Smaller, but lively. Almost everyone in attendance was part of a couple, so I guess Say Hi is for lovers.
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