After three shows in three days, I'll admit I was kind of tired on Tuesday night, February 3, 2009, but I wasn't about to let my second chance to see Fruit Bats slip away. This is another band I learned of early on this musical trip.
Back in 2005, when I knew no one in the music scene, had no acquaintances into this music and didn't listen to any radio, my only avenue to discover indie rock was the tiny TV show on public access called Refused TV. They specialized in showing videos none of the big music channels would show.
Among the videos I saw was one for "Lives of Crime" by Fruit Bats from their CD, Spelled in Bones. It was a witty, clever video and the song was full of great melodic hooks and smart lyrics. I bought the album and liked all of it. I saw them the first time at the Troubadour on April 12, 2006 and thought they were a great live band as well.
After that, nothing... no new CD's, no concerts. Then I heard the lead of the band, Eric Johnson, was joining The Shins on their tour promoting their 2007 album, Wincing the Night Away. I attended their show at the Orpheum, downtown, on April 15, 2007, as I had become a huge Shins fan in the intervening year. I was pleased to see Eric had become a substantial presence in this superb band and that show was great.
The stylistic computability of The Shins and Fruit Bats is undeniable thought they have their own individual sounds. But as time went by I wondered if Fruit Bats would reemerge, or had Eric become a permanent member of The Shins?
As soon as I saw the listing for this Echo show, I got a ticket and eagerly anticipated the return of the Fruit Bats. I got there at 10 as Sera Cahoone were setting up . Once they started they won me over with their pretty alt-country rock. Beautifully played and nice, straightforward singing from lead, Sera Cahoone, who delivers the songs in a deadpan style I found very enticing. Their music is solid and professional and shows a maturity and assurance I find not uncommon to many other current Seattle bands.
I wandered over to the Fruit Bats merch table and Eric Johnson was standing there so I had the opportunity to speak to him and introduce myself. He told me they were playing a lot of new material and a new CD is coming. He also revealed during the show that he just moved to L.A. two days ago. Now Fruit Bats becomes a local band, I couldn't be happier.
The minute they started up I felt like I was hearing old friends. I could tell that they picked up right where they left off. The hook laden melodies, the sardonic, witty lyrics, the wonderful vocal harmonies and the tight playing of an inspired band were all in place.
Eric has an expressive voice with impressive range and most of the members of the band sing as well, creating lush harmonies. They played a mix of old and new material and when they played a cover of Neil Young's "Helpless" Eric invited a friend up on stage to join them. This, of course, was James Mercer of The Shins, who added guitar and vocals and it was a stunning surprise.
Later as Fruit Bats were performing their encores, I spied James Mercer standing toward the back of the club and I said to myself, "don't let this opportunity pass by". Walking up to him, I extended my hand and said, "I would kick myself if I didn't speak to you a tell you how much I love your music." He was most gracious and seemed genuinely pleased someone approached him. After the last song, I told him how pleased I was that Eric was living here now and what a tremendous addition the Fruit Bats will be to the local scene.
Did I say I was tired at the beginning of this post? Well that didn't last long.
It's hard to express how much it means to be able to actually tell an artist you admire what their art means to you. It's something I would never have had the opportunity do do at any other time of my life. I appreciate the opportunity.