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I first learned of Say Hi to Your Mom from a WBAR podcast, when the DJ said: “The next song is from Say Hi to Your Mom, which is hard to take seriously….but you can take their music seriously.” Since then, the “to Your Mom” has been dropped. He (Eric)/They are actually one of my favorite bands at the moment — I really haven’t been disappointed by a single song. But having seen him play live four times, I can state with confidence that his shows are proportionally better based on how many people he brings onto stage with him.
I’ve seen him four times in four different configurations. The first was at the Echo, featuring a drummer and a keyboardist. The second was at Spaceland, all by his lonesome. The third was at the Troubadour, with three additional members, including a girl that contributed vocals. And the fourth was on Friday at Spaceland again, where he only brought along a floppy-haired, cheerful drummer (presumably his occasional partner Westin Glass).
The show was opened by a socially conscious songwriter from Brooklyn, Kevin Devine. I wish I had arrived in time to see his entire set. Clad in a sweaty t-shirt, Kevin managed to elicit a terrific reception from the crowd, and deserved it. His songs built to energetic crescendos, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing him play again.
I can’t say I’ve been all that thrilled with any of the shows I’ve seen at Spaceland. Friday night’s concert was working with a strike against it, because I was pretty exhausted to begin with – I had just flown home from Salt Lake City that afternoon after waking up at 6 a.m. Parking at Spaceland is a nuisance, since most of the local streets have restricted parking after 11 p.m. (although the venue provides valet for only $4). Shows at Spaceland are never expensive, and the drinks are comparatively cheap for L.A.
Eric’s mumbling banter on stage consists of introducing songs with epithets like “This is a song about vampires” (since many of his songs, in fact an entire album of songs, are about vampires). Eric likes to bounce onstage. A while back my ex-girlfriend pointed out that he had “crazy eyes” and although I agreed with her, it wasn’t until Friday that I figured out exactly why they could be classified as such. He doesn’t blink. Actually, he does blink, but not like you or I do. He goes for long stretches without blinking, and when he does, it’s like it’s happening in slow motion. His eyelids slowly come closed, and stay that way for a second or more before drifting back open.
He opened with “Zero to Love,” my favorite song from his newly released fourth album, The Wishes and the Glitch. Four or five of the songs at the show were from the new album, and the remainder were from his earlier vampire-themed album, Impeccable Blahs.
In his own way, Eric is technology’s next iteration of a teenager recording songs in his attic with a cassette four-track, albeit infinitely more talented and interesting than the average kid with a guitar and a Casio. While his synthesizer-reliant tunes are catchy and melodic, the imagery in his lyrics is what is truly fascinating about his music. The subjects of his songs range from ancient vampires who “penned songs for big-haired aristocrats,” to possessed androids, to an ordinary girl at the Laundromat with “chopsticks in her hair.”
Say Hi closed with “These Fangs,” and after the show I was pleased to see him doing a relatively brisk trade in CDs at the merch table. Apparently Travis Morrison Hellfighters played afterwards, but I was just too worn out to stick around. And from what I’ve heard, it doesn’t sound like I missed anything.