I’m going to start off with a fact: before I saw them at Great Scott on Saturday, I had been trying to see El Ten Eleven for five years, always having been kept away by work, school and other lame obligations. Well, OK, four-ish. But still!
I first heard them somewhere towards the end of my senior year of high school. I had been getting heavy into shoegaze for a little while around then, and a friend played me “Sorry About Your Irony,” a track off their 2005 self-titled debut. Now, it wasn’t quite shoegaze, but it was incredibly beautiful nonetheless. Lush yet spacey, fluid and just a little funky, all held together with a killer drum track, it sounded like Sigur Rós… if, you know, Sigur Rós played normal instruments.
And then I learned that there were only two people in the band.
You see, Kristian Dunn and Tim Fogarty, the dudes who compose El Ten Eleven, don’t need no band. Not when they have a bazillion loop pedals, drum pads and double necked bass-guitar hybrids, at least. Listening to the studio albums, it’s cool to know this, but a little hard to hear. Everything meshes together so well that there might as well be a separate person playing each instrument, which is why I missed it at first. But live, like at Great Scott last night, well, it’s quite a different story.
As guitarist/bassist, Dunn switched through his selection of instruments multiple times as he crafted each song, pulling out this fretless bass for this rhythm and that guitar for that tone, occasionally utilizing a bow to create chilling drones. He looped everything as he went, accumulating the sounds that formed the songs the packed venue seemed to know so well. Fogarty pounded his way through it all, holding everything down as Dunn summoned up the songs. Behind the duo, a projection screen played images of disco ball and boxing matches, sometimes showing the footage from a fish-eye camera set up above the pedal boards, giving an up close peak at the foot work of Dunn.
And damn, did he tap those pedals fast.
The set featured both newer and older songs, but they took the time at the end to play a few songs off their first album. When they finished with the album’s bittersweet closer, “Bye Mom,” I knew I had made peace with my years of longing. And it was good.