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The Fruit Bats last played Salt Lake City in September 2005 at Kilby Court with Rogue Wave as the openers. Now, jumping venues almost five years later to the Urban Lounge with fellow SupPop cohorts Vertiver, Wednesday's fans were eager to see what the band's been up to in the meantime.---And, it's no easy feat filling up a venue when, across town, the Black Keys are playing; despite this, the Fruit Bats garnered a decent crowd with enough breathing room for folks to not feel too packed in.
The head Fruit Bat singer-songwriter-guitarist Eric D. Johnson's latest effort 2009's The Ruminant Band has been four years in the making, since 2005's Spelled in Bones. The inbetween must have been marked in deep contemplation because the 11 cuts are impeccable twangy, yet catchy Americana that deserves repeated listening. That same sentimentality towards feeling connected to the music rang true for last night's performance.
Despite subpar sound, Johnson et al brought loads energy to their music, showing off the frontman's well-seasoned touring efforts since the fledgling days as a Chicago four-piece. However, Johnson could stand to interact with the crowd more. With his shoulder length hair covering his face most of the set, he looked like a skinny, rocked-out Mitch Hedberg.
The set, mainly consisted of cuts from The Ruminant Band, started off with mellow-ed out "Flamingo," picked up speed with "My Unusual Friend," then moved into super-catchy "Primitive Man." The four-song, new album medley ended with "The Ruminant Band," possibly the best cut off of that album. For faithful fans of years back, Johnson picked it up with "The Wind That Blew My Heart Away" from Spelled in Bones and "Union Blanket" off of Mouthfuls. The highlight came as the set ended with Mouthfuls' "When U Love Somebody." The band came out for a two song encore, including another new tune, "Singing Joy to the World." For a band (Okay, for Johnson) with such an impressive and sweeping catalogue, I would have liked to hear more than 13 tunes, and certainly more that I've grown to love over the last decade.