Review: El Ten Eleven at The Republik
BY GENE PARK / Special to the Star-Advertiser
El Ten Eleven is likely to be among the most unique rock acts to hit Honolulu in recent years. For starters, none of their songs have any singing.
All of the music is performed live by two men. Composer Kristian Dunn plays a double-neck guitar with bass with a row of effects pedals that ensures full use of all his limbs, as Tom Fogarty smashes away on an electric/acoustic drum kit.
The band uses heavy looping and vamping, as Dunn adds layer upon arpeggio-filled layer as he noodles up and down his guitar with fret taps and hammer-ons. His technique and focus is impressive and a sight to see.
Good thing too, because otherwise last night’s show at The Republik wasn’t much of a show at all. They call it shoegaze rock for a reason — you’re basically watching two technicians at work. The venue’s stellar lighting rigs had to do much of the heavy lifting on this night; it’s also a good thing, then, that many of El Ten Eleven’s songs are danceable, like LCD Soundsystem tracks without the vocals.
When not admiring Dunn’s technique, I spent much of my time watching a pair of fellows who gyrated and danced throughout the entire 80-minute set, stopping only to take one of those “This is the best night ever!!!!” photos that’s likely already on Instagram.
El Ten Eleven indulged in a little bit of showmanship, however, when Fogarty took his drumsticks to Dunn’s bass, creating a looping track that sounded synthesized.
“When was the last time you saw that s–t?” Dunn asked. “Never is right my friends.”
Never was right — it was a sight to behold, and the aural results were fantastic. They even took the time to do a beautiful instrumental cover of the Radiohead opus, “Paranoid Android,” and an impromptu Joy Division song they never rehearsed before. It’s too bad the audience didn’t even fill half the venue.
The band closed out its set with two songs that ran well over 10 minutes. One of them, “Transitions,” off their latest album of the same name, started out beautifully but became a little repetitive after the seventh minute. Most of El Ten Eleven’s music is thankfully devoid of jam band indulgences, but the set closers veered dangerously close.
It was a delight for me to see the opening act, Sing the Body, a local rock duo who use similar tricks to El Ten Eleven — except there’s singing, and they tend to rock harder.
I’ve followed their career closely since seeing them play in Chinatown, and The Republik’s acoustics and sound system are a perfect home for their thunderous sound and fury. They may have been the opening act, but I see Zack Shimizu and Elijah Oguma being headliners soon enough. They already sound like it.