Vetiver and Fruit Bats | 09.19.11

These two songs back to back were more than sufficient to win me over for the rest of their hour-long set.

Off Broadway, St. Louis
I saw Vetiver the last time they were in town at Off Broadway a couple of years back; it was a good, easygoing show, and when I heard they were coming back, I was enthusiastic to see them again. Sadly, I was terribly single-minded about it. I knew they were playing with Sub Pop label mates Fruit Bats (who I was aware of but not overly familiar with), but assumed Fruit Bats would be the opener, and failed to recognize that they were actually co-headliners. So when I got there and actual opening band Fairchildren opened, Vetiver played second, and Fruit Bats played last, I was thoroughly confused. I’m not good at dealing with change.
Luckily, it all turned out well. Fairchildren were a pleasant surprise; too bad hardly anyone was at the venue early enough to see them. They’re from Denver and just released their debut EP, Crumbs for Flints; the music’s atmospheric and well-suited to being played live at a noir-ish bar (which Off Broadway is not, but it sounded great there regardless). They aren’t poppy or country-inflected as Fruit Bats or Vetiver are, respectively (imagine Tindersticks with a female vocalist, and you’re getting close), and I’m not sure how they wound up on the bill, but they’re a find nonetheless.
And while I was disappointed that Vetiver didn’t have the closing slot, they did play the longest set of the night, so it balanced out in the end. While I count myself a pretty big fan, Vetiver for me is one of those bands who has one fantastic album and the rest of their stuff, while perfectly acceptable on the whole, never lives up to the high standards of that earlier album. The earlier album in question is 2006’s To Find Me Gone, so at this point we’re kind of reaching back—you can’t rightfully assume that five years and three albums later, they’ll still be playing much of it live. As such, the first handful of tracks they played (mostly from their new album, The Errant Charm) didn’t do a lot for me, but about four songs in they played “Everyday,” the standout track from 2009’s Tight Knit and frequent crasher of my Top 25 Most Played list on iTunes, and then followed it up with slow jam “You May Be Blue,” the only song of the night from To Find Me Gone. Even so, these two songs back to back were more than sufficient to win me over for the rest of their hour-long set, though in the back of my head I couldn’t help but wonder if it would kill them to play “Red Lantern Girls.”
Fruit Bats were touring on their new album Tripper, and had been here more recently and in a more prominent location than Vetiver: They played LouFest in 2010. Perhaps this is why they got the better slot of the night. Regardless, while I had no problem sticking around for their set, they didn’t exactly make a fan of me, either. They’re touring with a large band (I counted seven guys on Off Broadway’s small stage), but they struck me as kind of needlessly busy. Their sound wasn’t particularly full, and the backing vocalists didn’t do much to smooth out lead singer Eric Johnson’s yelp-y singing style. They played for 45 minutes (not counting a two-song encore), which felt short after Vetiver’s hour. The highlight of the show came in the form of the last song of the encore, where the entire band left the stage sans Johnson and his guitar, who played “Seaweed” from 2003’s Mouthfuls at the request of a well-prepared Twitter user. This iteration of “Seaweed” had the heart and resonance that seemed somewhat lacking from the rest of their set, but still, they won over me in the end, and that counts for something, doesn’t it? | Pete Timmermann

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