Fruit Bats and Vetiver at Middle East Downstairs 9/12/11

Last night the crowd at the Middle East Downstairs was a modest sized one, but at the same time quite large for a Monday night. When I arrived and descended the stairs into the beautiful musical cave that is the Middle East Downstairs, Vetiver was about ready to take the stage. Apologies to opener Citay, I had to watch at least some of the Patriots season opener. I am sure they were just as good as Tom Brady’s laser rocket arm and 500+ passing yards, but I digress.

Once I arrived I grabbed myself a very reasonably priced PBR tallboy and settled in for what I thought would be a mellow night of folk-rock, and man was I wrong. Vetiver kicked things off with “Wonder Why” off of their new disc The Errant Charm and proceeded to deliver a surprisingly energetic set led by frontman Andy Cabic.

The set was heavy on tunes from The Errant Charm and 2009’s Tight Knit, but I wasn’t going to complain about that one bit. The beginning of the set saw the band winding through the ’60s style psychedelia of “Strictly Rule” and the laid-back guitar riffs of “Everyday” off of Tight Knit along with “Hard to Break” and my personal favorite “Right Away” off of The Errant Charm

Near the end of the set they did their best version of Michael Hurley’s frequently covered “Be Kind to Me” and added in “Can’t You Tell,” another stunning track from their latest record. Vetiver’s set was certainly more upbeat and engaging than what I remember from when I saw them opening for Dawes at the Royale last year, and you could tell that the crowd appreciated hearing the band show off their new tracks.

Since this was my first time seeing Fruit Bats, when they took the stage about 30 minutes after Vetiver it was almost like Christmas morning. I had that same rush of opening your first gift and knowing that it had to be the Red Ryder BB Gun you had been asking for all year.

Very much like Vetiver, Fruit Bats setlist was focused on their last two albums, Tripper and The Ruminant Band. Tracks including “Tangie and Ray”, “Heart Like an Orange” and the whimsical “So Long” were featured from Tripper. Although I have enjoyed listening to the band’s latest release I will admit that I am partial to 2009’s The Ruminant Band. That is why I was ecstatic when I heard “Feather Bed”, “Being on Your Own” and especially Eric D. Johnson’s solo performance of “Singing Joy to the World.”

The real icing on the cake though was how Fruit Bats ended their set. First “Primitive Man” then the incredibly difficult to pronounce yet incredibly enjoyable to listen to “Tegucigalpa” and finally the crowd pleaser that everyone knew was coming, “When U Love Somebody.”

As if that wasn’t enough to get your concert chubby going, then there was the encore…

The band took an extremely short break and then came back out joined by members of Vetiver to perform “You’re Too Weird” (see hilarious video below) and closed the night out with my favorite song and what I also believe to be their best, “The Ruminant Band.” Of course the crowd joined in after the line, “You won’t lose the beat if you just keep clapping your hands,” and it seemed to be the perfect ending to the night, leaving everyone in the crowd with a smile on their face as they ascended the stairs back up to the street.

My advice to you if you have the chance to see Fruit Bats– take it. Eric D. Johnson possesses a special songwriting ability and definitely has the chops to entertain a room for the evening. My only regret is that I hadn’t seen them sooner.

Posted on by Eric in Concert Review

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