The last time Say Hi (then Say Hi to Your Mom) played the Beauty Bar, frontman Eric Elbogen felt a bit uncomfortable in his surroundings. For that 2006 show, The Seattle band played inside the venue, with the crowd squeezed up next to the performers.
“There was no proper stage, and I remember being really excited but also really nervous about that,” Elbogen told me in the days leading up to this weekend’s return to town. “When everybody crowds right up front and there’s no delineation between where you’re playing and where people are standing, it’s kind of awesome—more of a party atmosphere—but it can be a little nervous for me to have people right up in my face. I remember it being very hectic.”
At Neon Reverb on Saturday, Elbogen experienced Beauty Bar quite differently, headlining the night’s five-band bill from the raised stage on the venue’s crowded back-alley patio. “I like it a lot better out here,” he confirmed to me afterwards.
While that revelation didn’t come as a surprise, Say Hi’s live sound did. Playing as a trio, without a keyboardist, Elbogen’s poppy bedroom recording project rocked out far more than I expected in its live incarnation. The frontman’s soft voice rang out strong and clear as his guitar leads blazed a path through a set that began with all 10 cuts from latest album Oohs & Aahs and closed with slightly older favorites “Sweet Sweet Heartkiller” and “Northwestern Girls.”
As he loaded gear into his van and prepared for the trek to Tucson, Arizona, a smiling Elbogen waved and promised, “See ya next time.” Outdoors, hopefully.