Fruition @ Smith's Olde Bar in Atlanta (2015 10-13)

 By Jarrett Bellini | @JarrettBellini 
 Apparently This Matters 

These days, it's hard to get overly excited about a Tuesday night concert. 

What can I say? I have old gonads. 

And, at home, I also have heavy blankets, ice cream, and Netflix. All within thirty feet of my sofa.

So, it takes motivation to put on pants and leave the house, especially for a band with whom I'm largely unfamiliar. 

But I'd been wanting to check out Fruition for a while. I dig improvisation and the whole progressive bluegrass sound, and was thrilled to finally get to see this Portland quintet on stage. 

I say finally, but according to my live concert list - which, mind you, is something only OCD lunatics keep - it seems I have, in fact, already seen them when they opened for Greensky Bluegrass back in 2013. 

I don't remember Fruition's set. Which says less about the band, and more about my poor late-night decision making. 

Venue & Crowd:
Seeing them upstairs at Smith's Olde Bar at least felt like the first time. And, for the sake of really listening to the music, I was actually thankful the room was only half-full.

It wasn't a typical gig. On this night, they were headlining a special three-artist residency showcase promoted by Communion Music. The openers were Chief Scout and Hero the Band

I heard good things about both of them. 

Unfortunately, right before Fruition, I only caught the last couple of songs by Hero The Band because, as all experienced music fans know, nothing gets you more pumped up for a concert than a televised Democratic presidential debate. 

Which is to say that I sort of got a late start leaving the house. 

"Hell yeah! Foreign policy!"

I'm so rock 'n' roll.

When Fruition finally took the stage at 10:20pm in front of about 150 people, the vibe in the room was a little off. Not bad. Just off. Like when Grandpa says something racist at Thanksgiving dinner.

For better or worse, the showcase was multi-genre (read: not everyone was there for the bluegrass) and the first two bands were local (read: friends and family talking and milling about). 

So, it took the non-Fruition fans about fifteen minutes to either leave or finally realize that there was a really good band on stage.

There was a good band on stage. And it was in those first fifteen minutes that Fruition brought the rock show, as frontwoman, Mimi Naja, actually started off electric on a red Fender Telecaster. I love that guitar, and her tone was beautiful. 

Meanwhile, multi-instrumentalist, Kellen Asebroek, started off on keys, sitting behind a Nord Electro 2 that sounded great and was one of the big highlights.

The rock show lasted about three songs. Naja's Tele was then replaced by a mandolin, and Asebroek's keys were swapped out for an acoustic guitar. This ushered in a strong bluegrass run that lasted the bulk of the set. 

The rock show was great, but this was what I was here for. Mountain sounds. And it didn't disappoint.

Lead guitarist, Jay Cobb Anderson, impressing all along with a Biltmore Herald archtop, traded his Dylan-esque vocals with Asebroek and Naja, and they collectively shined on three-part harmonies. 

Also notable throughout the set was the rhythm section in the back led by Jeff Leonard on bass, and Tyler Thompson on drums. 

Thompson had what looked like a vintage kit, and it had a great, earthy sound. 

I have no idea what that means, by the way. Earthy.  

The point is that more bands should use vintage kits. And, apparently, mallets. I really liked the mallets.

While the almost two-hour set was solid and enjoyable from start to finish, there was, however, a brief three-song moment in the middle where they abandoned the bluegrass instrumentation. And, at least for me, it wasn't working. It sounded like Sheryl Crow.

Ain't nobody got time for that.

Here, Naja went back to the Tele, Asebroek sat down again at the Nord, and Anderson ditched his archtop for a black SG. 

The first song of the three was called "Santa Fe" and it just never connected. The next song also underwhelmed. Though, they did redeem this portion of the set with the third song, which was new and sort of had a cool R&B vibe. Naja's vocals sounded like Janis.

All is forgiven. 

I just think they're better when at least one of the front three is holding some wood

But things got back on track and, toward the end, the band welcomed a local Atlanta friend, Parker Smith, on stage for a couple of songs on the Tele. The highlight was Parker playing slide on a fantastic rendition of Lead Belly's "Cotton Fields."

The final three tunes were highlighted by great harmonies on "Meet Me on The Mountain." And by 11:50pm, the curtain closed in the old music room at Smith's.

A completely reasonable hour for these old gonads.

Hits and Misses:
The night's highlights included fan-favorite, "Mountain Annie," as well as the cover of "Cotton Fields." My other favorite is one they're recording for their upcoming album. I think it was called "Labor of Love." 

Or, you know ... something else.

The pee-break song of the night - because there's always one - was "Santa Fe."

Only, at Smith's it's best not to take an actual pee break. Seriously. The bathrooms are kind of gross, and I'm not sure I'm completely up to date on my tetanus.

In the End:
Fruition has it.

I really liked this band, and it's clear that experience - the kind you get from playing Red Rocks - has taught them how to command a stage. 

Especially a stage as small and vomit-infused as the one at Smith's.

Overall, there's a lot of talent, but I would like to have seen them thin out the 19-song setlist, and jam a little more. 

Anderson, especially, has chops, and I felt like they should all just let loose and go nuts. Shred a little. Make some mistakes. 

We'll all be there at the end. 

Because we sure as hell aren't using the bathrooms at Smith's.


Anonymous said...

Haven't heard of these guys. Adding to the list of bands I have to see!

- Emma in Austin

Anonymous said...

do it. you will love this band. review is pretty spot on - they have room to grow but they can play

Anonymous said...

"I don't remember Fruition's set. Which says less about the band, and more about my poor late-night decision making."

Been there.

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