Fruit Bats Are Anything But ‘Absolute Losers’ At LA Show

Fruit Bats

Fruit Bats played Bootleg Theater Sep. 29, 2016; press photo

Over the course of five albums, Fruit Bats have perfected rootsy, feel-good, country-tinged pop, taking up the flame lit by the “cosmic American music” of Gram Parsons and his buddies. After a five-year hiatus, Eric Johnson and Co. came roaring back with Absolute Loser, which served as the anchor of their lengthy setlist at the Bootleg Theater.

“I hope you’re enjoying this assemblage of, uh, mid-tempo, uh, toe-tappers,” Johnson self-deprecatingly said to the packed crowd, after running through standouts off the new album, “Good Will Come To You,” “From A Soon-To-Be Ghost Town” and “My Sweet Midwest”.

Johnson, whose nasally voice perfectly crowns the sense of humor and authenticity that permeate his songs, hasn’t lost a step. His voice along with the accompanying harmonies, were locked in all night, over the length of a 21-song, two-hour+ set.

Though dressed in a wrinkly linen jacket, Johnson could probably get away with wearing a rhinestone Nudie suit, thanks to the Americana spirit and big-blue-sky guitar breaks that permeate Fruit Bats’ music.

“None of Us” was a highlight of the show’s first half. A gently-driving, warm breeze of song, that had Johnson singing to the spellbound patrons of his hope that all their “wishes come true,” was perfect for the intimate setting. Johnson, picking up on the good vibes explained, “I love playing at the Bootleg. I feel like we’re all at a cool party in some guy’s weird house.”

The rest of the set was a discography-jumping mix of old favorites and deeper cuts. The waltzing “Primitive Man” was one of the most graceful romps of the night, while the irresistible “Dolly” saw Johnson putting his guitar down so he could groove around with a tambourine. The band left the stage for a chill-inducing, bare-bones version of “Baby Bluebird,” that blew away the version on record, then returned for fan favorite, “You’re Too Weird.”

For the encore, Johnson was having such a good time he asked for some requests. He did a solo version of “Singing Joy To The World,” then brought the band back for “Born In The 70’s.” Closing out the night was the one-two punch of the thumping “Humbug Mountain Song” and their classic, “When U Love Somebody”. Fruit Bats left the crowd with more than they expected, and everything they wanted.