Fruition: An Emerging Portland Ensemble

Kellen Asebroek has a voice, a guitar, and he’s in a band called Fruition, a talented group of musicians from up Portland way. He is 27 years old, and I met him at the High Sierra Music Festival last summer where his band was among a couple-dozen acts booked to play over that four-day event. Kellen writes songs and he has things he wants to say—feelings and impressions and a young man’s evolving insights. So the words well up in him, and he forges them into songs, and then hits the road to take those songs to people he hopes will hear them. He spends lots of time riding in vans, moving from gig to gig, sleeping on other people’s couches, enduring the boredom of the road, all to feed the hunger to be heard—that soul craving all musicians know.

But telling one’s tale is seldom easy. Up at the High Sierra Festival, Kellen’s band got scheduled to play in a time slot that put them up against Robert Plant, a rock n’ roll giant who drew nearly every warm body to the Grandstand arena. So Robert Plant got to tell another chapter of his tale to seven or eight thousand music lovers, but far across the fairgrounds, a couple of football fields away, Fruition played for less than a hundred loyal fans, friends, and family.

“I’m a professional van rider,” Kellen had told me during a brief interview after that appearance. “The van riding is the job part, the music is the fun part. We spend six or twelve hours on the road in order to get to play for an hour. That’s the life.”

Fruition is blessed with the extraordinary chops of the band’s mandolin player, Mimi Naja. During a soundcheck before their High Sierra appearance, Ms. Naja put on a head-turning display of mandolin magic. “I call her the Shredder,” Kellen said, with obvious admiration.

“We really want people to hear our lyrics,” Kellen said. “If I had to pigeonhole us as to genre, I’d place us somewhere between folk and soul. Gillian Welch and David Rawlings kind of set the bar for us. We try to create that stripped-down sound, that combination of honesty, frailty, and presence found whenever Rawlings and Welch are on stage.”

Later, when I spoke by phone to Crissa Requate, who works for Mason Jar Media—a firm devoted to gaining attention for emerging musical acts—Ms. Requate was effusive about the band. Publicists are paid to be effusive, but it was easy to tell that her enthusiasm was genuine, not the empty hype writers sometimes get from publicists. The band put out a new album earlier this year (Just One of Them Nights). If they catch a break, you might find it hard to get into their shows a year from now. In the meantime, Fruition is coming to fruition, and you can catch the band on Monday, November 4 at the Sierra Nevada Big Room where they’re opening for Greensky Bluegrass. They take the stage at 7:30pm.

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