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Fruit Bats And Vetiver Struggle To Connect At Lincoln Hall

By Eric Hehr in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 10, 2011 7:00PM

Vetiver at Lincoln Hall. Photo by Greta Morgan

Sub-Pop label mates, Fruit Bats and Vetiver, played Lincoln Hall Thursday night, churning out their folky brand of back-to-basics songwriting and classic Americana rock ‘n roll to a sea of plaid shirt-wearing twenty-somethings. Both bands are currently on tour in support of their new albums -- Tripper by Fruit Bats, and The Errant Charm by Vetiver -- and both sets were largely dominated by new material, which didn’t seem to upset the crowd at all. In fact, it didn’t seem to make the crowd happy either.

Both Fruit Bats and Vetiver played to a completely still and silent Lincoln Hall, often struggling to connect with the crowd by employing some forced in-between song stage banter, as if the whole night was more of an awkward first date than a concert. At one point, Eric D. Johnson, lead singer of Fruit Bats, thanked the crowd for being “so polite and respectful.” The submissive crowd was indeed attentive to both bands sets, but all the conscientious observation led to an insipid amount of energy projected by both the bands and the crowd. There were points in time - such as Fruit Bats rousing cover of “Don’t Let Me Down” by The Beatles - when the night caught a second-wind of much needed energy, but these moments were few and far between.

Granted, the sonic and aesthetic merits of both Vetiver and Fruit Bats do not warrant a rowdy, vociferous concert. Eric D. Johnson of Fruit Bats was actually once an instructor at The Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, and Fruit Bats began as a folk rock outfit. Vetiver has been part of the folk rock scene since their debut in 2004, and while 2011's The Errant Charm is a minor departure from their previous work, it is still an acoustic heavy album focused on traditional song-craft. Both acts also present an inconspicuous aesthetic, looking more like guys who would work at your local coffee shop or used book store than play a packed concert at Lincoln Hall.

There is no sense of sensationalism to either acts - just conventional, straight-forward performances; performances that would seem right at home in the warm, intimate setting of the back-room of a coffee shop or a small bar, but seemed too tame and uninspired in a mid-size rock club like Lincoln Hall.