Concert Review: El Ten Eleven
By Drew Parrish
El Ten Eleven
November 17, 2012
Welcome to the Irenic, a small converted church in residential San Diego and home to the last stop on the latest El Ten Eleven tour. Where hard copy tickets are unnecessary, and drinks are sold out of a cooler. It was here, under stained glass windows, that I finally got to experience the brilliance of El Ten Eleven.
When I first discovered their music, about a year and a half ago, I binged. Hard. Every time I opened my computer or turned on my iPod, it was as if my fingers were out of my control and immediately played a selection from El Ten Eleven. I craved their distinct brand of instrumental post-rock, and only more El Ten could satisfy me. So when I walked into the Irenic on Saturday night it was not without plenty of anticipation, and I did not leave disappointed.
El Ten Eleven consists of two members, Kristian Dunn and Tim Fogarty. At first listen, their music may sound like these guys spend a lot of time with their laptops. With electronic sounds, exact layering of loops and precise drums the music has all the makings of an innovative computer artist. However, when these two men walked out on stage, Fogarty sat behind a drum set and Dunn strapped on a double-neck guitar/bass and they proceeded to jam out all their instrumental music live. They brought an incredible amount of energy considering the abilities and tasks required to perform their music; it was quite the display of multi-tasking. Loop pedals for repeating melodies, effects pedals, timing in and out of loops, and playing their instruments all in front of a light set up of flashing colored squares cannot be easy, but they did it masterfully. I could not stop dancing, grooving, and swaying to the succinct precision of El Ten Eleven. Their musicianship was extraordinary; at one point during the set Dunn used a cello bow on the bass half of his guitar creating atmospheric sound to accompany the detailed plucking he would do on the other half. At another point he was able to play both guitars at the same time. It was the kind of performance that has the potential of instilling a certain sense of inferiority in the viewer.
With no lyrics in their music, the band did not say much, however at one point Dunn spoke into the microphone and said that the next song is about being in love. The song “The Sycophants Are Coming! The Sycophants Are Coming!” was a journey through an upbeat soundscape that rocked with huge bass lines, and acoustic drumming, yet was not without those atmospheric low fi tones. It occurred to me at some point in the night that the music of El Ten Eleven just feels good. That point may have been when they played their crowd favorite masterpiece “My Only Swerving.” After they played it, Dunn asked the audience jokingly, “Could we ever not play that song?” Probably not, the song might just be perfect.
Before the guys played “Yellow Bridges” (a song from their recently released album Transitions) Dunn said that it felt good to be home in San Diego, and that the next song was written about the city. When a band plays in the place they call home, something special seems to permeate the venue; it generates excellent atmosphere and connection between audience and performer. It was certainly a special show, the kind of show where the best parts may be when you closed your eyes and it was just mind and music. El Ten Eleven is doing something incredible for the music scene, and they proved it Saturday night at the Irenic.