Published by JB on 6/2/2016
The Fruit Bats / Andy C Jenkins at Woolys – Des Moines, IA – May 31st, 2016
Eric Johnson may go down in indie history as one of the more underrated singer-songwriters that your music friends have never heard of. And that’s a shame. Off the heels of a truly stellar 5th album under the Fruit Bats moniker, Johnson delivers delicious indie-pop/alt-folk melodies in large, syrupy quantities. His tracks simply drip with beautiful chord changes and tiny hooks. Coupled with his distinctive lead voice he’s one of the more consistently great, yet lesser known rock acts of the past decade-plus.
Aside from the Fruit Bats history of catchy tracks, Johnson has learned a great deal from touring as part of the Shins and Vetiver – and most recently going rogue as the EDJ solo act. But all of that outside work doesn’t add up to the increasingly fulfilling Fruit Bats catalog. There isn’t a bad disc in the bunch and Johnson has become an indie folk lover’s dream come true. His unique voice is not only consistently perfect, it’s the catalyst that carries his melodies from merely being catchy to something truly seminal.
Playing in front of a modest but adoring crowd in downtown Des Moines comes with perks – if you walked 8 feet out from the front door you’d capture a thrilling view of the Des Moines capitol building (see below). And Johnson and the Fruit Bats were spot on all night. Playing nearly 20 tracks spanning the entire Fruit Bats discography, it was an elite show with Johnson leading the charge – sometimes as a solo act, and all other times as the bandleader of an incredibly tight unit. Jumping from cloud-pleasers (‘The Ruminant Band’) to more recent Fruit Bats gems (‘You’re Too Weird’) and culminating with the outstanding ‘Humbug Mountain Song’ (off the new album, Absolute Loser) it was much more than just a greatest hits run through. Johnson is still his prime and the show was a 90-minute lesson in how indie pop should sound at its best, delivered by one of its elite.