As pretty much anyone who reads EvilSponge knows, we're big fans of Seattle's Say Hi. Since we first encountered them about a year and a half back, I've made an effort to see them every time they've played in Atlanta. On this evening, instead of playing The EARL like they normally do, they were at The Drunken Unicorn. Likewise, I was eager to see the opener, Jukebox the Ghost, as I had been fairly impressed by the parts of the their set we caught at this year's SxSW.
As I pulled up to The Drunken Unicorn, I was really surprised to find the parking lot already full. It was a Wednesday night, after all, and I hadn't expected to see much of a turnout. After finding on street parking a couple of blocks away, I came into The Drunken Unicorn to find it already fairly crowded. However, when I realized that the first opener was local Atlanta band Sleep Therapy, things became a bit clearer, as it was obvious that many of the folks loitering around were there to see them.
Without much of a wait, Sleep Therapy took the stage. Although I saw them more than a few times a couple of years back, I have to confess that I hadn't caught this act in quite a while. It wasn't that I didn't like them, but rather that their show schedule had never quite coincided with mine, especially since I've more or less given up week night shows. As Sleep Therapy began to play, I noticed that the first song involved a lot more reverb than anything I had heard previously. I mean, we're talking about Rock*a*Teens levels of reverb here, which is always welcome in my book. So, not surprisingly, I rather liked this tune.
Sleep Therapy, on just another ether Sunday....
However, from there, the sound mix really started to impede my enjoyment of the set. You see, not only was the volume exceedingly loud, but also the bass and the drums were particularly over-emphasized, so much so that I couldn't pick out either the guitars or keyboards. Truly, although I thought some of the songs may have been older ones with which I was familiar, I couldn't place anything due to the overly loud rhythm section. I think Sleep Therapy were tighter than I recalled, and it certainly seemed like they were having a good time up on stage, but honestly the mix was so atrocious that it feels like an insult to discuss their music. Luckily, their set was not over long, and my eardrums had a chance to rest prior to the next act.
Up next were the afore-mentioned Jukebox the Ghost, a three piece from Washington D.C., who we first caught opening for The Winter Sounds just about a year ago. I wasn't particularly impressed with them at the time; however, as I mentioned, we saw part of their set at SxSW, where I enjoyed them. So, I was interested to see if my good impression held up. From the first, even as they were loading in, Jukebox the Ghost charmed me. As The Drunken Unicorn's sound guy sort of wandered aimlessly around the small stage, the band kept setting up around him, moving him as necessary to make things more timely and efficient. And then, once they started to play…
Jukebox the Ghost were, simply put, amazing. This trio somehow manages to construct almost epic-sounding narratives which emphasizes the interplay between guitarist Tommy Siegel and pianist Ben Thornewill. Likewise, both gentleman sing quite nicely with Siegel's voice being more traditional and Thornewell's being more…well…quirky.
Ben Thornewell, in an introspective moment.
As an example. this band has a three part song apparently about the Apocalypse; at the same time, they also have any number of cute little pop tunes. In fact, when the band played one of those pop tunes, called Hold It In, a large portion of the crowd started singing and clapping along with the band, suggesting that this song is the "single", such as it is. When you combine this musical sensibility with the obvious fun the band was having, as witnessed by their joking stage presence, Jukebox the Ghost ended up coming across exceedingly well, radiating a jubilant and ebullient spirit.
Tommy Siegel, in action.
After Jukebox the Ghost left the stage, Say Hi set up. On this evening, the band consisted of Eric Elbogen on guitar and vocals and two other gentleman, one of whom played drums and the other of whom played keyboards as well as bass.
Say Hi to a three-piece band.
At the beginning of their set, the sound mix seemed more than a little off, with the keys and the drums being particularly loud. However, after a couple of songs, either I got used to the mix or it improved as things bothered me less. Furthermore, just prior to Say Hi, The Drunken Unicorn had began to clear out a bit, as it seemed like most of the crowd had been there to see Jukebox the Ghost. Still, within a few songs, several new folks came in from other parts of the venue. These new folks began to dance along with the band and eventually left to brings others with them, who also seemed to enjoy everything.
Eric Elbogen says hi to Southeastern Girls...
On this evening, Say Hi played a fairly expansive set. The songs ranged from some of their earlier material through the highlights of both the last two albums, Impeccable Blahs and The Wishes and The Glitch. As I think I've stated previously, the songs off The Wishes and The Glitch come across better in a live setting, with both Spiders and Northwestern Girls (sung apropos as Southeastern Girls) being particular highlights. Likewise, tunes such as Angels and Darlas and the older Let's Talk about Spaceships came across with surprising joy. In fact, throughout their set, Say Hi seemed looser and lighter than they have in the past, as if Elbogen and company had picked up some of the humorous banter of Jukebox the Ghost during their joint tour. Either way, even as their longish set came to a close, I was more than satisfied with their efforts.
Appropriately enough, the new keyboardist in Say Hi
can really dance The Robot rather well.
So, even though the sound mix at the Drunken Unicorn was rather off throughout the evening, I thought it was a particularly good night of music. I remain impressed by Jukebox the Ghost, and look forward to hearing them play live again. Likewise, Say Hi remains one of my favorite live acts, and I look to forward to their new album, which is apparently due out early in 2009. And both bands are definitely well worth seeing live, if you get a chance.