by Caleb Calhoun
Photos by J. Scott Shrader Photography
It’s 2am and I’m wide awake, pecking at my keyboard, trying to get the thoughts down while they are still fresh in my mind. I’ve seen Fruition a few times, but this is the first time seeing them headline and I’ll be damned if they weren’t built for this. Tonight, under the full lights, the volume turned all the way up, these cats showed a nearly sold-out crowd exactly why they have had the privilege of opening for some of the best bands in the business and, why they aren’t opening anymore.
Not that anyone who has really listened to their new record “Watching It All Fall Apart” could have any doubt about the brightness of their star. Easily my pick for the best release of 2018 thus far: the album showcases all of the best qualities of this band. Still, seeing them headline and bang out nearly 150 straight minutes of world-class (and almost entirely original) music really drives that point home.
But I am way ahead of myself and I’ll be damned if I haven’t already given away the ending. Still, if you will indulge me I’ll tell you all about it.
It all starts off pretty low-key with a solo-acoustic set by Elephant Revival’s Daniel Rodriguez. It seems a little light as an opener for the party that Fruition will turn out to be, but he is impressive and engaging, using his looping tastefully and playing songs, many of them his own, with incredibly solid melodies. As his set is drawing to a close he brings up the members of Fruition, finishing off strongly with a turbulent take on Elephant Revival’s The Garden.
The upstairs section of Asheville Music Hall is really beginning to fill up as we wait for Fruition to take the stage so I head downstairs to find a place to compose my thoughts. AMH, right in the heart of Asheville’s downtown, is really two venues. The upstairs venue holds about 350 while the downstairs venue, which has free shows five nights a week, holds about 175 and serves farm-to-table food until 2am.
I’m excited to find out that one of my favorite local bands, The Freeway Revival, will be playing a late set downstairs when Fruition finishes up. As usual another perfect pairing from Matteo and Sara at AMH, and the building blocks of a night you would have to try hard not to enjoy. I chat the guys up a little, ribbing drummer Cartwright Brandon about not being a hardcore enough deadhead, but hustle back upstairs as soon as I hear the first notes.
I’ve never seen Fruition in this environment, but this is clearly the environment they thrive in. The crowd is loyal and energetic and by the second song it is clear that the members of Fruition are feeding off of that significantly. After calling on the crowd to sing along on I Can’t Stop, and getting about the best response possible they bust through a towering version of I Don’t Mind.
As the song draws to a close they invite Zeb Bowles of Hot Buttered Rum to come up and play the fiddle for a few songs. They launch straight in with Never, and when they finish they take a turn into Space, which they take directly into Early Morning Wake Up, a number that starts out as honkey-tonk and ends with Jay Cobb Anderson belting out pure psychedelia from his guitar. They finish out the guest slot with Fire, a country sounding song at the start it moves to some sort of Old-Time fiddle driven Appalachian fire, and then resolves into an early 90’s hair-metal riff. It’s spectacular.
As Bowles exits the stage they head in to a more reflective portion of the set moving through Northern Town, I Should Be, and Fallin’ before crushing a smoking hot Boil that leaves no doubt as to why the song is named that.
The audience, sweating along with the band in this packed out club, are now feeding off of the energy of the musicians and they have no trouble digging a little deeper to keep up. The thing is, I don’t think anyone was ready for the energy and the vibrations that this crowd and band shared this evening, even the band members themselves.
Talking to Anderson after the show he tells me: “When you are on the road and playing a bunch of random places you don’t always know what it is going to feel like when you get up on stage. In Asheville we have come to expect that the energy will always be high, but tonight was a different level. The kind of energy and feeling that we were getting from the crowd is the kind of energy you always dream about.”
And that is what it feels like in the audience too as they leave Boil and move in to an Eraser that is deep and full of life. It builds and builds until the end, leaving most of the crowd with at least wet eyelashes, if not cheeks.
As the set winds down Fruition plays plays F.O.M.O. but it’s a total lie – if you aren’t here you absolutely are missing out. You absolutely did miss out. You absolutely need to get your fucking act together next time they come through.
After one hell of an encore chant for a Thursday, night Fruition obliges us with a three song mini-set of The Meaning, an unscripted Santa Fe by request, and a powerful Labor of Love.
This is my home venue, the place I spend more time at than anywhere else, and I can’t remember seeing a better show here. If this band is coming to your town do yourself a favor – cancel any other plans, call up all your friends, and buckle up cause this is one of the best rides going right now.