The dynamic duo are back again and up to their old tricks, only… better. El Ten Eleven, a two piece post rock duo hailing from Los Angeles, consists of dual bassist/guitarist Kristian Dunn and Tim Fogarty on acoustic/electric drums and drum triggers. They started the first link of their tour at Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix AZ.
Musically their stylings are a strange blend of shoe-gaze post rock, wrought with infectious melodies and complex layering of them, using Boss loop stations. The band takes pride in purity and plays all loops as rendered on-stage, mistakes or no mistakes. El Ten Eleven’s music isn’t complex in any traditional form, but the two piece has found a way to layer simple soundscape over soundscape to produce a sound that makes the majestic from simplicity. It’s approachable yet artful, sometimes leaning into a bit of the “sing song”, almost commercial-esque, but they pull it away from it, and into El Ten Eleven.
Crescent Ballroom is the host to mainly nationwide “indie” acts, so it is a rarity to see the crowd chanting the band’s name before they ever become shadows on the blackened silhouette on the pre-show stage. As the set progressed, El Ten Eleven showed their feathers moving past their 2005 self-titled album’s experimental instrumental onto a more mature sense of composition in their craft. This served as a sonic birthday of the band’s evolution of capturing people’s attention and working with sound and then adding more ear tingling melody. The newer songs held nostalgia to Jaco Pastorius’ runs with bass harmonics, and added elements of composition using a cello bow. It was all good, until they had another fight with the sound man. Dunn calling out through the microphone sarcastically…”Sound guy, sound guy on break, sound guy on break, oh..there he is”.
The band’s nature seemed apologetically playful, commenting on how this was the first show of the tour and they were “scared shitless”. They were met by cheers and acceptance from the Phoenix crowd. The playfulness became more apparent as Fogarty came out from behind his drum kit to tap out a bass line with his drumsticks on Dunn’s Carvin double neck guitar/ bass. During “Indian Winter” the band hit its stride despite the complexity of the human condition of making mistakes. It was pivotal as the crowd cheered as they moved into “My Only Swerving”. The energy in the room made an amazing shift and even though they fumbled through a non-studio version of the song, they did it gracefully and un-apologetically, mixing old school hip hop bass lines with the songs original workings.
Dunn made a short comment on of the whole concept of an encore, and explained that the band was gonna do one more song, without the theatrics of leaving stage and wasting everyone’s time. The encore was a 25 minute version of the song “Transitions”. It was a testament to the bands talented musicianship. Fogarty was able to provide constant complexity in drumming within the confines of his 4/4 regiment, without deviating in tempo. The non-verbal communication between the band was astounding. Dunn, able to create swells and drops by glancing over at Fogerty, turning a 10 minute song into a 25 minute adventure. It was a great encore that never made it into one, but such is the way that El Ten Eleven rescripts the rules with success.