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December 1, 2008
photo by Jeremy Schnyder

It has been a long time since seeing I have been really, really impressed when seeing a band perform live. Whether that be a consequence of unattainably high expectations, a jaded attitude, or perhaps simply because I'm an asshole, these days the experience of taking in a rock show nonetheless tends to be an average, ho-hum affair. In the current era of media saturation, too many bands are hyped too soon. Recording an amazing album is still quite a feat, but at its heart music is about performance, not recording, and delivering the goods in front of a paying audience is something else altogether.

Having seen El Ten Eleven numerous times before, I knew what to expect. And yet I was still absolutely blown away by their performance in a very odd little art complex in Tribeca on Friday night. Not at all conducive to hosting bands, the space reminded my friend and I of the suburban teen centers we used to frequent in our underage years, where unpracticed punk bands would do their best to pretend they were playing anywhere but a teen center. At least this place had a bar, and if one was so inclined, a cheese plate. Despite the less than ideal setting, El Ten Eleven still managed to keep everyone who was able to disregard the terrible lighting and misplaced columns completely rapt throughout their entire set. Especially the guy exhibiting the exact dance moves that prompt black comedians make fun of white people.

Listening to their albums, it's not hard to El Ten Eleven as a multiple-member band. It can be quite startling for someone familiar with their music, but unfamiliar to the process of how it is constructed, to see just two guys amble on stage. While drummer Tim Fogarty is amazing in his own right, guitarist Kristian Dunn is the quintessential Guitar God for New York's thrift shopping fixed gear/iPhone set.

The real astonishment comes from watching Dunn play multiple guitar and bass parts by himself, occasionally at the same time on his crazy double-neck guitar/bass Frankenstein thing. Aided by an arsenal of delay and effects pedals, Dunn will play one part, loop it, and then start in on the next part. Through this process there are soon multiple layers stacked on top of one-another, all somehow synchronized. If that's not enough virtuosity, some of the songs require him to play both instruments at the same time with different hands.

Whatever terms one attempts to use in describing the band's performances can in no way do justice to their phenomenal display of musicianship. El Ten Eleven are one of those bands that absolutely needs to be seen in person. Other bands might come up with hotter riffs or some asinine stage antics, but they will in no way be able to top the spectacle of the Los Angeles duo. Case in point: when drummer Fogarty leaves his kit to tap out notes on the bass strings with his drumsticks while Dunn frets the bass with his left hand and picks out notes on the guitar with his right hand. Let's see you do that shit, Yngwie.

VIDEO: www.youtube.com/watch?v=taLwyQXYnQI

SEE ALSO: www.elteneleven.com

--
Kevin Alfoldy
An aspiring global adventurer who cut his teeth on the sandy beaches and dirty bitches of Southern California, Kevin Alfoldy now spends his non-vacation days in Brooklyn, New York, where he occasionally finds the time to rub the crust out of his eyes long enough to contribute reviews and feature articles for LAS. A longtime staff member, Kevin also captains the tattered, often half-sunk raft of EPmd, our irregular column of EP reviews.

See other articles by Kevin Alfoldy.

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