Saturday night’s early show at the 9:30 Club was something of a homecoming for Eric D. Johnson and his band, The Fruit Bats.
Not literally, as Eric is from Chicago. If you listen to the Fruit Bats’ track-for-track cover of the Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream, you can hear how his vocal style is influenced by Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkings, another Chicagoan, and I could hear it clearly when they covered the Pumpkins’ “Today” toward the end of their set.
“Back in the day,” Eric said, “when we first hit the road, DC was the first place we played.” They’ve come a long way: After playing “Absolute Loser,” he told the audience, “This goes a lot better than we used to play to 10 people at the Black Cat.”
On April 22, Fruit Bats opened their set with the title track of last year’s LP, The Pet Parade. The set continued after “Absolute Loser” with “The Rock Dock.” “That might be my favorite version of that song,” he said when they finished “The Bottom of It.”
The set continued with “Cazadera” and “See The World By Night.” Soon, Fruit Bats revisited childhood love. “When I was 12 years old,” Eric said, “I had crush on a girl named Mandy from Mohawk, Michigan. That’s the title of this song [“Mandy From Mohawk”]. “River Rushing In” is a track from the band’s latest release, this year’s A River Running To Your Heart; “Baby Bluebird” is an old favorite.
Fruit Bats rounded out the set with “When U Love Somebody,” “The Balcony,” and “A Lingering Love.”
Watch Eric D. Johnson perform “A Lingering Love” for WNCW on YouTube:
When the Fruit Bats returned to the stage for their encore, they gave the audience exactly what it wanted with “Flamingo,” “Shane,” and Humbug Mountain.”
As much I enjoy the Fruit Bats’ records, they’re an even better band live. While what they do might qualify as folk-rock, there’s a strong alternative/indie influence — I’ve mentioned the Smashing Pumpkins — and they really rock out on stage, expanding the songs.
Before the Fruit Bats took the stage, North Carolina’s HC McEntire took the stage with her band. This was my second time seeing her live; she performed in a duo to open for Bob Mould at the Barns at Wolf Trap not long ago. That made this my first time seeing her with a full band, and she didn’t disappoint.
McEntire is a rising star, whose two most recent albums, Eno Axis and this year’s Every Acre, have drawn substantial critical buzz. Her songs are often quite poetic, emphasizing powerful imagery, especially natural imagery. She started with “Shadows,” followed by “Footman’s Coat,” “High Rise,” and “Time Is On Fire. “New View” is from the latest album, while “Soft Crook,” which is as direct as she gets about being a lesbian (praising “the soft crook of a woman’s arm). She finished with “Turpentine.”
Here are a few photos of HC McEntire performing at 9:30 Club on April 22, 2023. All pictures copyright and courtesy of Casey Vock.
And here are some photos of Fruit Bats performing at 9:30 Club on April 22, 2023. All pictures copyright and courtesy of Casey Vock.