There is nothing better than a pleasant surprise. What’s more, there’s not much better than seeing a band you’ve never heard of at a music festival and being completely blown away and confused by what you experience.
This was my experience with El Ten Eleven this past weekend at Seattle’s Capitol Hill Block Party. After checking out the Lumineers and Phantogram at the main stage, we retreated to Neumo’s to see whoever ended up on stage. All that was set-up was a large collection of pedals and a half-acoustic, half-electronic drum set in a reversed arrangement. El Ten Eleven, composed of Kristian Dunn and Tim Fogarty from southern California, utilize this rig with a double-neck guitar or fretless bass combined with some heavy looping to create ambient, dancy indie tunes that you simply didn’t expect to hear.
The tunes end up being layered as each of the duo record and loop beats and riffs from their electric instruments and then play overtop of those tracks. The loops are altered throughout the song as the tunes develop, creating several acts for each play. El Ten Eleven’s tunes are catchy and upbeat, making you tap your foot or get off your feet and dance, as was the case for most of the Neumo’s crowd on this Sunday afternoon. The entire crowd was incredibly responsive to this band. Songs would start and a third of the crowd cheered with anticipation of the coming tracks.
To any musician, El Ten Eleven were as visually pleasing as they were audibly infatuating. Dunn would play both necks of this double-neck guitar at the same time, utilize a bow to play his bass like a cello, or have Fogarty hit the strings with his drum sticks to play different notes. Fogarty played his drum set with a reverse rig, having his left foot on the kick pedal and right foot on the hi-hat with an electronic kit and recording rig to his right. He would frequently record one beat and play another on the acoustic set.
Fogarty and Dunn are masters of their craft, making seamless transitions between stages of each song which creating an overall musical experience that is unparalleled. Capitol Hill Block Party has boasted some strong artists in anticipation of their popularity, such as Japandroids in 2009 and the Lumineers in 2011. Their clear savvy for up-and-coming artists gives me confidence that El Ten Eleven is an artist to watch moving forward.