There is really only one way to listen to Twin Peaks. Sure, you can respectfully play its recent live album Urbs in Horto over headphones, or even blast it at full volume on home speakers. But unless you find yourself in the midst of a mosh pit, socked in the jaw as you try to prevent the crowd surfer you’re supporting above from falling head-first on top of you as Twin Peaks performs onstage, you haven’t truly experienced its music.
That’s not to say Twin Peaks’ music is better live. In actuality, its lyrics are somehow made further unintelligible (though perhaps what the lyrics are saying isn’t too important), and the experience of attempting to survive an ever-growing and near all-encompassing mosh pit is almost completely distracting. This was the status quo of the Chicago-based, high school-formed band’s April 13 show at The Chapel in San Francisco.
Although Twin Peaks and Spanish girl-group Hinds are presently half-touring together, the two bands do not make the same music. Any parallel between Twin Peaks’ punk rock and Hinds’ beach rock ends at Twin Peaks’ constant tempo changes, exhibited more frequently and stylistically by Hinds. While the verses of Twin Peaks songs are characteristically slower than its choruses, Hinds nearly changes genres in its slow-to-fast innersong transitions. Its “Castigadas En El Granero,” for instance, begins with slow acoustic guitar, picks up in pace with the introduction of vocals and increases in velocity with every repetition of its chorus. Nevertheless, the two bands have performed six shows together on a 10-show joint tour, scheduled around their (separate) Coachella performances on April 16 and 23.
All hell broke loose the moment Twin Peaks struck the first note of opening number “Butterfly,” off its 2016 album Down in Heaven. Did it matter that the song began slowly? No. No it did not. With one guitar strum, the crowd, which had quadrupled in size after the opening act, surged the stage, couples began aggressively making out, shirts were removed and whipped in the air, and heads whipped forward and back at an alarming pace. In the second song of Twin Peaks’ set, a girl crowd-surfed onto the stage, hugged bassist Jack Dolan, then trust-fell back onto the audience. This was far from a singular experience: Fans crowd-surfed throughout the show, encouraged and celebrated by the band and audience alike.
The attitude of its hyper-responsive mosh pit embodied the attitude presented by Twin Peaks’ carefree music. At the risk of being trite, Twin Peaks’ work can be simply summarized as fun: music that naturally corresponds with the characteristics of a mosh pit, in all of its crazed dancing and beer shower glory. Some of its songs are undoubtedly punk rock; others more closely resemble a form of fast-paced, “alternative” country music. Regardless of genre, the audience reacted with almost the same vivid excitement to “Getting Better” (a song with introductory notes that sound like call-on-hold music) as it did to the band’s best-known hit, “Making Breakfast,” an undeniably catchy, enjoyably twangy rock song. The song’s best features include its stable beat and fast-paced chorus, enthusiastically yelled by the band and crowd in unison.
Twin Peaks carried out its set quickly and efficiently, taking only quick swigs of beer between songs, appearing mellow and at ease despite their songs’ fast-paced rhythms. As a crowd-surfer remained in-air between songs, guitarist-vocalist Clay Frankel gently requested, “Don’t let her fall. Let her take a little rest for a while.”
The concert en masse was almost performance art, equal parts exhibited and prompted by the band members on stage. In and around the mosh pit, the crowd could physically experience the music through the rhythm-based movements of surrounding bodies. Every tempo change brought about a stir, a new feeling and accompanying motion, determinedly rendering the music of Twin Peaks wholistically incomplete outside of the concert hall.
Contact Caroline Smith at [email protected].