Concert Review: El Ten Eleven gives mesmerizing performance at the Black Cat
Amidst steady floods of fluttering riffs and tidal waves of room-shaking bass, the Black Cat was awash in an ocean of sound throughout El Ten Eleven’s Sept. 26 show. The Los Angeles duo, known for using extensive loops and effects in its live shows, showcased songs spanning six studio releases over a 13-year career.
Fellow LA band Sego performed an opening set and earned dozens of new fans with its energetic blend of edgy experimental sounds and catchy washed-out indie-pop. Sego took the stage by storm, and early-bird concertgoers slowly but surely began gravitating towards the front of the Black Cat’s main stage. Sego played songs from its first full-length release, “Long Long Way from the Fringe,” as well as from its debut EP, “Kitsuné: Wicket Youth.” Set highlights included the head-bopping “The Fringe,” chilled-out “Wicket Youth” and finale “20 Years Tall.”
After a brief stage reset, El Ten Eleven took the fog-filled the stage and kicked off its set with “Point Breeze,” a standout single from the band’s newest release, “Fast Forward.”
Guitarist/bassist Kristian Dunn, silhouetted against a hazy blue backdrop, began playing a simple melody. Drummer Tim Fogarty launched a sweeping bass note from a sampling pad and ticked out a steady beat from behind his translucent drum kit. Dunn’s melody, with the help of a looper pedal, doubled. Then tripled. Then quadrupled. And suddenly, without ever missing a beat, Dunn had woven together a full song using a single guitar— with two necks.
Those who have never listened to El Ten Eleven may associate Dunn’s signature use of a double-necked instrument with big-haired arena-rock guitarists of years past. While Dunn is clearly a guitar god in his own right, the densely intertwining music he and Fogarty craft takes off in a refreshingly different direction from most guitar-centric rock. The duo creates all its looping beats and intertwining melodies live— no pre-sampled loops to speak of—and pieces them masterfully into a soundscape that is at once warmly nostalgic yet distinctly futuristic.
The set featured popular tracks “Yellow Bridges” and “Fanshawe.” Songs like “3 Plus 4,” and “Hot Cakes,” both from the band’s 2007 release, “Every Point is North,” were welcome surprises for longtime fans.
As the set progressed, Dunn and Fogarty both suffered from minor technical complications.
“Just enjoy Tim’s beats while I tune this guitar,” Dunn said, “I know there’s some musicians in the crowd, I saw you all wince at that chord a second ago.”
Undeterred, the crowd cheered him on, eagerly waiting for the re-tuned song to start taking shape.
Fighting through the technical complications, Dunn and Fogarty blazed through the set with awe-inspiring musicianship. Fogarty made the rhythmic complexities of supporting Dunn look easy, while the latter skimmed his multiple fretboards with such finesse that many front-row listeners were left with their mouths hanging open.
As the set drew to a close, Dunn thanked the audience.
“Thanks for coming out guys, really. I know it’s Friday night, there’s so much going on, and you chose to come here and see us do our thing. That means a lot, you know?”
The band closed with a back to back performance of two popular songs, “My Only Swerving,” and “Transitions,” both of which feature almost every trick in Dunn’s extensive book. “Transitions,” notably, is around 11 minutes long and flows between multiple keys and time signatures—a feat most musicians regard as impressive with just one instrument. But Dunn was effectively playing three, as he laid down bass lines, rhythm guitar and lead parts simultaneously. At a certain point—and not because of the song’s length—it seemed like the guitar’s twin necks were extensions of Dunn himself as he commanded crashing waves of sonic bliss directly from his fingertips.
Concertgoers left in a noticeable state of awe, with more than a few commenting on the undeniable talent and surprisingly down-to-earth attitude they had just witnessed. One fan mentioned that, even with technical glitches, the duo was the most impressive act he’d seen all year, hands down. Overall, El Ten Eleven not only defended their reputation as one of LA’s most talented bands, but proved their worth in the nation’s capitol as well.Follow @trent_burns44