Last Night: Fruit Bats, Death Vessel at The Loft

Fruit Bats, Death Vessel
The Loft
September 1, 2009

Better than: Staying at home watching the Rangers sweep a double-header from the Blue Jays.


With temperatures hanging blissfully in the upper 70s, the deck of The Loft was certainly a nice place to spend a Tuesday evening. The view was amazing, as always, and I can't remember the last time the month of August ended so moderately.

Trouble was, if you wanted to see a band, you had to go inside the venue.

Starting at 8:15 p.m., when very few souls had yet to venture out, opening band Death Vessel put on a great show to about 25 faithful. Main Vessel Joel Thibodeau has one hell of a voice, a soaring soprano that sounds a hell of a lot like a female Appalachian folk singer; if you didn't look at the stage, you'd swear that sweet singing didn't belong to a person possessing family jewels.

Hailing out of Rhode Island, Thibodeau and his current set of accompanying musicians played a tight set of hardcore Americana that really deserved a headliner's starting time. The band's most recent effort, 2008's Nothing is Precious Enough for Us, is recommended for those looking for a darker version of Fleet Foxes.

Eric D. Johnson's Fruit Bats hit the stage at a little past 9 o'clock--about the time the crowd swelled to around 100 or so. Concentrating on songs from the band's great new album The Ruminant Band, Johnson did his best to keep the small but enthusiastic crowd locked in on his singing and songwriting abilities.

About midway through the set, Johnson surprised everyone with a straight on cover of "Never Tear Us Apart" from INXS. I noticed several bemused smiles on folks who thought they were being filmed in a sequel to The Wedding Singer. For the encore, Johnson and crew delivered a more characteristically county cover, Dylan's "You Aint Going Nowhere."

16 songs into the evening, Johnson claimed this particular audience was the best one his band had ever had in Dallas and then he said good night.

By 10:35, I was in my car heading home, humming along to the Fruit Bats' song "Flamingo."

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
Both Death Vessel and Fruit Bats are now on the Sub Pop label. I remember the day when only the grungy likes of Mudhoney and Nirvana called that label home.

Random Note: I haven't gotten home from a show before 11 since, well, I don't know, forever. Kudos to The Loft for allowing me to get in a healthy eight hours of snoozing last night.

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