In the clubs and under the radar - The Buffalo News

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In the clubs and under the radar

When you see a double-neck guitar, you immediately see it as a signifier. You don’t see it as an instrument. You see it as a bit of iconography redolent of progressive rock bands of the 1970s, the sort for whom a mere six strings was just plain not going to be enough to tell the whole 20-minute, multisection story.

So if you’ve seen a picture of Kristian Dunn, one half of experimental instrumental duo El Ten Eleven, but have never heard the band’s music, you might be forgiven for assuming that the hip-looking Dunn and his twin-necked guitar/fretless bass had been caught by the camera eye midway through an interpretation of Rush’s “Xanadu.” Yes. You’d be forgiven. But you’d also be wrong.

To wit, here’s Dunn, culled from the official El Ten Eleven bio: “The problem I have with most math rock bands or prog rock bands is that they are usually just showing off for other musicians. ‘Ooh! Look what I can do!’ We’re just not interested in that. We want girls to come to our shows, too!”

Hah! That’s all cleared up, then.

So Dunn and his El Ten Eleven partner, drummer Tim Fogarty, aren’t out simply to display their instrumental awesomeness in front of a house packed full of dudes. In fact, what the band does is far more esoteric – a genre-less form of modern instrumental music that begs music critics eager to write about the band to employ many hyphenated descriptives in their honor. I’m not going to do that here, simply because it feels like walking into a trap.

I am comfortable suggesting that, if you are a fan of expansive, complex, ruminative, interesting and dynamic instrumental music, you are likely to enjoy El Ten Eleven’s set at 9 p.m. Tuesday in Nietzsche’s (248 Allen St.). The band will be joined by guest Eliot Lipp. Ticket information is available through 886-8539.

Compass House benefit

One of the more prolific area bands to emerge from the alternative music scene of the late 1990s will reunite for a special show Friday in Nietzsche’s. Last Conservative released two albums on Robby Takac’s Good Charamel label, and appeared poised to move on to national prominence. That never happened, but all involved created significant new music after Last Conservative splintered five years back. Frontman TJ Zindle has been touring as part of the Ragbirds. He’s using a short break from the road as an opportunity to reunite with bandmates Dave Julian, Mike Zeis and Tom McCluskey for Last Conservative’s first show in five years.

The band will be joined by Zak Ward, erstwhile vocalist/guitarist with Son of the Sun, and Last Conservative offshoot Rooftops. Showtime is 10 p.m., and admission at the door is $5. Proceeds will benefit Compass House, an organization that provides shelter and guidance to runaway and homeless youth.

Gig picks

The first Belle Starr Music Festival starts at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Colden Country Inn (8815 State Road, Colden). The event is headlined by Willie Nile and also will feature performances from the Grace Stumberg Band, Stevie Fleck, JT & Jon Law, the Springville All Star Marching Band, Hintz of Thunder Posse and the Billy Brite Band. Tickets are $10 presale or $15 at the door. Visit

Brookly-based indie/experimental duo Graph Rabbit will be joined by guitarist/songwriter Sonny Baker at the Ninth Ward at Babeville (341 Delaware Ave.) at 8 p.m. Wednesday. Tickets are $8 advance (box office, or$10 at the door.

At 8 p.m. Friday, blues-rock virtuoso and former Talas guitarist/vocalist Dave Constantino will be joined by fellow legends Ted and Tom Reinhardt and Dave Pressley as part of the Free Music Fridays at the Hard Rock Café (333 Prospect St., Niagara Falls).


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