Two different days, two different sets of two different dudes playing the same two instruments in two totally different ways. All in Rochester via LA.
First up, Sunday night with the Ninja Academy. They announced the opening of their set by banging a gong out in the bar area, donned entirely in black ninja gear mind you. Most band names these days are so obscure as to their origins that people don't even bother to ask anymore. Ninja Academy on the other hand are exactly what they say they are. Two ninjas schooling their audiences in the ways of ninja rock. Their weapons of choice? Bass for Indo-Ninja and Drums for Out-do Ninja. Most every song was introduced with a ninja yell, and many were ended in the same way. This was raw power punk (mostly) instrumental rock with some very nice melodies driving it all through and more variety than you might expect. And in character, always in character.
Crush the Junta opened up for them with a two-song thirty minute set of noise rock. Not quite as good as the last time I saw them, seemed a wee bit off (perhaps it was exactly what they were going for, what the hell do I know?) It was enjoyable nonetheless.
Then on Tuesday night it was back to the Bug Jar for more of the same, except completely different. It was the quick return of El Ten Eleven to Rochester, ye of KitschDork's top shows of 2008 fame. The crowd was no bigger than it was in November which surprised me, I thought the buzz would have grown from their last performance. Guess not enough people are reading this blog! Anyway, I don't know if that affected their playing, or if it was the continual and multiple technical difficulties they were having with all of their 1's and 0's, but the performance did not match the energy and excitement of November's show. Still, it was awe-inspiring.
As I watch Kristian Dunn manhandle his bass I just wonder, does it even matter that it is a bass? Seems like it could be any instrument after all the effects he is running it through. It was also amazing to me the way he has such control over the multiple loops with their perfect starts and stops and ins and outs. I love it when he gets a thick 3,4,5 part melody going and then just sits back and rocks the bass line for a bit underneath it all. And then you have a guy playing a freaking bass guitar on stage yet at times the drummer is the one playing the bass line through his loops. Ridiculous. They pulled out a couple of new tunes which was more of the same from them, which is to say they sounded awesome.
The contrast in style to Ninja Academy was fun to see and appreciate with the shows placed so closely together. Where Ninja Academy really used their instruments closer to their original intent to evoke a raw and powerful sound, El Ten Eleven brings the bass and drums to completely new territory for a much more refined and clean sound. Ninja Academy made your head rock, El Ten Eleven made your ass groove and your feet shuffle. Power rock vs. Techno rock. Fight to the death! as Ninja Academy would (and did) say.
The Indras opened. They would have fit in great with the early 90's jam rock scene. I don't mean that as an insult (quite the contrary), and I don't mean to say they sound like any band in particular, they just have that aura about them and the music was jammed out but not to the annoyance that it is with most jam bands these days. I could just see them playing on bills with the early Widespread Panics, Blues Travelers, The Hatters, and Spin Doctors of the world. They had a surprising mix of sounds, played a great instrumental tune in there, and just seemed like the genuine, laid-back, taking it as it comes kind of group. Their set got hurt somewhat by a drum heavy and muffled mix, with the vocals sometimes completely disappearing.