Smile Politely

Sweat and wild with Twin Peaks

At this point, I’ve seen Twin Peaks enough times that the members feel like friends. The Chicago Twin Peaks “dudes” are not strangers to C-U, with a Pygmalion appearance under their belt, and a visit to The Accord last March. I saw that show, which was prior to the release of their third album Down In Heaven, and I caught them post-release at Pitchfork as well. Each time, one thing is indisputable: These guys put on one goddamn good show. They consistently blow me away. So when they came back around to The Accord for a set last Saturday, I had faith. I’ll admit that the events of last week left me low – really low – and garage rock and power pop tunes weren’t quite what I had in mind for a weekend activity. But I kept that faith, and I wasn’t disappointed. I left that show wearing the same cheesy grin as I had for the last two.

The band came up onto the stage looking disheveled as hell. Bassist Jack Dolan wore a Cubs shirt, and my guess was that he’d been wearing it since the Cubbies won on November 2nd. I wouldn’t be surprised if any member of the band has bothered much with showers lately, and why would they? It’s part of the game for these guys to be grimey. It was more than dirt, though – they looked exhausted and drained, like they hadn’t slept at all. Of course, being on tour for a year will do that to you, and that’s how you’re supposed to look, especially for the genre. But the guys have looked older and older each time I’ve seen them. They’re all young guys, and they’ve definitely grown in nine months musically and otherwise, but they’ve also aged. The life of a rock star will do that to you, though – especially when lived the way Twin Peaks does.

The guys do seek to slow it down, maybe just a little bit. Down In Heaven, when compared to the band’s previous work, shows that finding balance isn’t always easy. Wild Onion, Twin Peaks’ breakout album, is this band turned up to ten. It’s wild, reckless abandon; it’s forty minutes of unadulterated exuberance. Wild Onion is the band realizing that the boozy jamming they do in the basement is actually pretty good music, and they should probably do something about it. Time to blast those jams as hard as you can. No over thinking or refinement. Just crank out the power pop riffs so loud and fast that your audience can’t think about it either.

Down In Heaven isn’t the dudes forsaking this carefree philosophy, no. (Never!) But it does see them slow things down just a hair, turn inward, and grow their sound. The guys have always talked about their deep roots in classic rock music, and for Heaven, they channelled some of the best musicians from the genre. There is specifically a HUGE Rolling Stones thing going on on that record. The band played Clay Frankel’s “Wanted You” at their set, and for his vocals, Frankel drew out his very best Jagger impression, complete with pursed lips. There’s certainly nothing wrong with being influenced by a great band (especially one of the best). With Down In Heaven, in an attempt to emulate others and also polish their sound, Twin Peaks fell victim to sounding less like Twin Peaks. They sacrificed some momentum for the project, and ended up losing a bit of their punch.

My suspicion of the band’s obsession was confirmed when I got close enough to notice band lead Cadien James’ collarbone tattoo. An amateurish and probably painful job, It reads “LET IT BLEED” in simple, blotchy black letters. It’s admittedly kind of cool.

You can almost make some of it out in this photo.

One of the best things about seeing a young band is that you’re bound to know almost every song in the set. Twin Peaks obliged and played all the favorites, from Down In Heaven’s “Walk to the One You Love,” “My Boys,” and “Have You Ever,” to the best from Wild Onion, including “Fade Away” and “Flavor.” I got an ice cube catapulted directly into my eye when someone tossed their drink for “Making Breakfast.”

Well before the show started, it was clear that many of the people attending were there to freak out. Obviously, not all of them were there for the music, and I think Twin Peaks knew that themselves, and didn’t mind all that much. Sometimes it’s fun to go crazy for the sake of it. In spite of that, I still think it was overblown. I’ll go ahead and age myself right now, but this young, sweaty, smelly crowd got straight up obnoxious. How much stage diving and moshing do you really need? It’s part of the experience, though, and this is just your average show for Twin Peaks. Band leader Cadien James had the job of gently booting the divers off the stage as they came up, before diving into the crowd himself near the end for a brief crowd surf.

Twin Peaks closed out their show by plainly announcing that they had three songs left and would not be doing an encore. They instructed us to consider the first song as their last song, after which Dolan said, “Okay, now pretend that we’ve left the stage and you’re chanting and clapping, and then we come back on. So right now, this is the encore.” They closed out the evening with “Strawberry Smoothie,” and forgoing any encore tease was a merciful choice by the guys, because that crowd had had a week’s worth of cardio in one evening and really needed to pass the fuck out.

Twin Peaks have hit the perfect spot when it comes to fame: People know your name and recognize you enough to be chummy, and you’re making a bit of money. But you can still mess around on the town and not be recognized, or have a smoke with fans like they’re your friends. Get a step or two bigger and the money might be nice, but then you’re talking gaudy tour busses, security staff, and a whole lot of suffocating tedium. These guys know how to have fun and enjoy what they do, and I hope they never change.


All photography by Sam Logan.

Check out Sam’s gallery, featuring these photos and more from the evening.

[gallery Twin_Peaks_gallery]

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