Fruit Bats Bring Folk Pop to Williamsburg

September 15th, 2009

Fruit Bats – Music Hall of Williamsburg – September 14, 2009

(Photo: Annie Beedy)

(Photo: Annie Beedy)

I’m not sure there is a more feeble way to describe a band than to say it “sounds like Dylan.” I mean that covers quite a bit of ground. That said, Fruit Bats sounded somewhat Dylanesque last night at Music Hall of Williamsburg, like Bob Dylan at his most electrified and countrified. Well, at the start of the show they did, with a solo number from frontman Eric Johnson—a rollicking version of “Primitive Man”—and a really smart, well-rehearsed segue from one of their newer songs into a reworked version of “Union Blanket.” But as the set progressed, things shuffled from smoldering singer-songwriter fare to something more along the lines of pop mastery.

There was a fun, freewheeling dichotomy in their repertoire: campfire tunes characterized by fat bass and up-tempo drums interspersed with groovier hits carried by Johnson’s crystal-clear vocals. Although it was plenty rocking, this was the most restraint you’ll find with three guitars onstage. The crowd was smallish but dedicated and pushed in close with “we get it” kind of shout-outs and plenty more dancing than you might have expected. Fruit Bats obliged their enthusiasm with a three-song encore that started with (surprise!) a cover of Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” and ended with Johnson alone onstage once again—just his voice and his Stratocaster. It was Fruit Bats gone electric. —A. Stein