“We love it when you guys sing along” was the quote of the night from Kristian Dunn, the bassist and one half of the duo El Ten Eleven. That’s typical of the humor the instrumental band displays, not just in their occasional between song banter with the audience, but also within the songs titles like “Adam And Nathan Totally Kick Ass.” And every bit of it was on display at Union Stage recently.
After the opening act left the stage on April 15, Kristian and drummer Tim Fogarty quietly slipped onto the stage with no fanfare, tuning up before officially starting their set. After some of the audience realized what was going on, a bit of applause broke out and the band erupted into the titular track of their latest release, New Year’s Eve.
Stream New Year’s Eve by El Ten Eleven on Spotify:
The crowd got as energetic as the band did, right off the bat. It’s pretty easy to do when the music is as infectious as El Ten Eleven’s is. Entropy was next, from the band’s pandemic era triple album, Tautology. The audience stayed right with Kristian and Tim as they kept the energy up with Jejune, another track from the Tautology series. It’s a song that showcases Tim’s talent and cements his place as one of the most underappreciated drummers in music today.
The band went a little further back into their catalog with the song “You Are Enough” from 2018’s Banker’s Hill. This was a crowd-pleaser, with the crowd mimicking Kristian’s bass line, vocally! IT is a rare experience to hear an entire club’s worth of concert-goers humming a riff with nary a word to be heard. “You Are Enough” was the first instance of the phenomena this evening, but it would not be the last.
With only two musicians in the band, there is nowhere for the musicians to hide. Fortunately, there is no need for that. They craft an amazing variety of music with two guys, a bunch of bass guitars, drums, and some electronic effects. Kristian’s wide variety of basses includes a Wal Mk I that sounds as good as it looks.
In addition to the Wal, Kristian travels with his new Aria Pro II SB1000-RI and a Shergold Marathon six string bass. It’s an imposing instrument, to be sure. But it gives Kristian a couple extra strings to work with which opens up so many more sonic possibilities, which he puts on display on the next song, “Three And A Half Feet High And Rising.”
While these guitars look and sound incredible, especially in Kristian’s capable hands, the instrument that really stands out and puts the band in a class all their own is the Carvin DB630 Double Neck bass. This is the bass guitar that really allows Kristian to experiment and still play the complex songs live. It truly is amazing to watch him play basically two guitars at the same time while building loops through his pedal board and hopping around the stage.
El Ten Eleven really does have an amazing chemistry on stage. If you can stop yourself from bouncing and swaying along with the music, you may catch the subtle glances and cues Tim and Kristian use to signal each other. There is not much going on verbally during the show; either between Kristian and Tim or between songs. And that is just fine with me.
In addition to the innovative bass playing, the drumming is a wonderful, organic mix of analog and electronic equipment. Tim mixes the two effortlessly, creating the perfect backbeat for this unorthodox band. A great example of this is the song “Hot Cakes” from the album Every Direction Is North. It showcases Tim’s mix of drums as well as the aforementioned double-necked bass!
El Ten Eleven powered through a very high-energy show that lasted just a little under two hours. Before they played what is arguably their best-known song, “My Only Swerving,” Kristian gave the crowd the disclosure that he announces at every show. El Ten Eleven does not do encores. The final two songs they played would be the final two of the evening. When the song began, the crowd once again hummed the bass line, which prompted the opening quote from Kristian. When the final song was over, the band waved, enjoyed the applause, and left the stage.
- New Year’s Eve
- You Are Enough
- Three And A Half Feet High And Rising
- Hot Cakes
- The Time Knife
- Adam And Nathan Totally Kick Ass
- You Are A Piece Of Me And You Are A Piece Of Her
- My Only Swerving
Here are some photos of El Ten Eleven performing at Union Stage on April 15, 2022. All pictures copyright and courtesy of Marc Shea.