A friend of mine turned me on to their studio work a couple years ago, so I decided to go check them out and see for myself what he had described as one of the coolest shows he had seen live.
Opener: Tennis System
These lads were a pleasant surprise, and I now listen to their new EP PAIN semi-regularly (“Everybody” is a good starting point). After their short opening set, my buddies looked at me and basically said “well, that was pretty good and pretty depressing, bet you liked it”. Yes, I did. They aren’t quite where they could be yet, but the potential for this band is there.
Headliner: El Ten Eleven
The first thing I noticed when we settled up to the front for the main act was the sheer amount of equipment for this two-man outfit. An electric guitar, three basses, and a dual neck guitar/bass axe, an elaborate drum kit, and pedals galore. I thought to myself, if they use even half of this, it’s bound to be good.
Named after a Lockheed jet airliner, this L.A.-based duo of Kristian Dunn on bass and guitar and Tim Fogarty on drums has been pumping out proggy post-rock soundscapes for over fifteen years. They have released six studio albums, including the solid Bankers Hill from earlier this year. Although there was a mic on the stage, it was merely there for Kristian to banter with the crowd between songs – these are all instrumental tracks.
Throughout the night, Kristian moved from bass and guitar, almost always looping several riffs and sounds atop one another while Tim did the same with both his “standard” kit and electronic pedals. My favorite portions of the show were when they rocked the hardest, but much of the show was more measured and bordered on an almost techno/dance vibe. Their music is often compared to Sigur Ros because of the pretty sonic portraits they paint, but I find them more akin to Explosions in the Sky, albeit a bit less arena/anthem driven.
The highlight of the evening was the couple of songs that included Kristian’s use of a double necked guitar/bass. As he looped the sounds over one another, with Tim banging on his kit like a chimpanzee (deep cut, folks), they genuinely sounded like a five-piece band. That a’int workin’, that’s the way you do it.
El Ten Eleven’s studio work is fun to listen to but really doesn’t do the live experience justice. Even if this music is not totally in my wheelhouse, it was an amazing display of talent and energy to see them perform it ten feet in front of me. Now, at times the show did get a little melancholy for me, and although it is cliché, some of this stuff does “sound the same”. Having said that, I recommend anyone who enjoys bass theatrics, rawk, or just a pretty killer light show to check these fellas out.