Making my way into the mosh pit: Twin Peaks energized youthful crowd Friday night
Despite still being a few days away from turning 20, it was hard not to feel like the oldest person in the room at the Twin Peaks show at the Frequency Friday night. But don’t discount Twin Peaks because of their age or fan base. They still put on a raucous, energized set driven by a complete disregard for the legal drinking age.
(Not that I was counting, but bassist Jack Dolan plowed through three PBR tall cans in a relatively short 45-minute set).
Considering the members of Twin Peaks, it’s no surprise they drew a young crowd. Composed of four 20-year-olds from the Chicago area, the band plays an infectious brand of pop-garage-rock that is prototypically youthful in nature.
When the band ambled on stage a little past 11:30 p.m., guitarist Clay Frankel nonchalantly proclaimed, “We’re gonna start with a fast one,” and they did just that. The band warmed themselves up with the incredibly fast-paced song “Out of Commission” from their 2013 studio debut Sunken.
Without stopping for much more than tuning, the band charged through three standout tracks from their newest album Wild Onion, “Strawberry Smoothie,” “Telephone” and “I Found a New Way.”
And that’s when the gates of hell broke loose.
The horde of high schoolers making up the first four or five rows heard the vaguely punk instrumentation and as if it were an automated response: MOSHED!!! This exposed my rather square tendency of being a part of the outer ring of the pit whose main concern is fending off the human projectiles.
But I had to take advantage of the situation. Standing in my spot in the back of the mosh pit, I surveyed the whirlwind of 15-17-year-old bodies, weighed the pros and cons, mapped out a path and eventually pulled the trigger. I deftly navigated to the center of the pit and miraculously wound up right in front of the stage.
There I stayed for the rest of the set. The whole thing wasn’t nearly that dramatic, but I’d like to think it was.
Regarding the show, the guys from Twin Peaks absolutely delivered. They played a tight, concise set drawing largely from Wild Onion. Tracks such as “Flavor” and “Making Breakfast” translated very well live and injected the crowd with a distinct energy.
The most theatrical member of the quartet is guitarist and vocalist Cadien Lake James. Last time I saw Twin Peaks at the Pitchfork Music Festival this summer, James was relegated to a wheelchair for an apparent foot injury. This didn’t prove to be a hindrance to him rocking out at that set, but seeing him Friday standing on his own made me realize all the power stances and general antics I missed out on this summer.
Near the end of the set, Frankel announced they had three songs left and then said they were all Coldplay songs. It’s this type of humor that can be used to characterize the nature of the band.
Overall, the best way to describe Twin Peaks and their live show is fun. Of course, they don’t have the most original material. Despite this, Twin Peaks brought a certain element of fun that may be lacking in other bands of the same vein.
As they were largely brought up and supported by acts from their hometown of Chicago, now that they’ve “made it,” they find it important to try to help other Chicago bands out in the same way. That’s why they brought three Chicago bands along for the tour, VARSITY, The Liqs and Ne-Hi. I only saw the latter two and neither were too noteworthy.
Overall, Twin Peaks played a show where it’s hard not to throw your hands up, thrash your head a few times, pound your feet and, most importantly, smile.
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Twin Peaks Expand Their Musical Reach
Twin Peaks | 7th Street Entry | Thursday, September 25
The Midwest, and Chicago in particular, has been cranking out a slew of precocious young talent around the intersection of garage, power pop and punk in the past few years. The City of Broad Shoulders gave birth to groups like The Orwells and Twin Peaks, who all share a good-natured, class-clown camaraderie and a knack for releasing fully-realized albums before any of their members have reached the legal drinking age. Twin Peaks just dropped their new LP, Wild Onion, last month, and the record’s bound to keep your summer good times rolling long after Minnesota goes all tundra on us. We caught up with guitarist Clay Frankel to talk about debilitating tour injuries and their ties to the Midwest.
Gimme Noise: First of all, how’s Cadien’s leg healing up? I’ve never seen anybody rock a wheelchair quite like he did at Pitchfork this year. How’d that happen anyway?
Clay Frankel: It’s going slowly but surely, he broke it right around the time of SXSW and now he’s out of the cast. First he was just walking around, and then he got put in a cast, and then he’s out of a cast now and he’s in one of those boots. So he’s healing! I mean, he can walk now.
He broke it on tour in New Orleans, and the rest of us acted as doctors and said that it wasn’t broken, we told him it was sprained [laughs]. So for the entirety of SXSW he was just walking around like nothing was wrong, and just hanging out and playing shows and stuff like that. By the time we left SXSW and we were heading to Arizona he was like “Alright, it’s not feeling much better,” so he did the smart thing and went to a doctor and they told him it was fractured.
That’s rough. Did he break it onstage?
Well, yeah, we were playing with the Orwells in New Orleans, and we’re good friends and stuff, so he was messing around onstage while they were playing and he tried to get Mario, their singer, in a wrestling movie [laughs]. Like, he put him on his shoulders and then he just fell and had to crawl off stage. He was like, half naked at the time too.
You guys have a really strong connection to Chicago that seems to have fueled a lot of your songwriting and identity as a band. With all the touring and time on the road that you guys are spending these days, do you still feel as connected to your home base as you once did?
Yeah, we still get to spend a good amount of time here. Just recently we were here for a full month, which is something that hadn’t happened in a while. But I still feel the connection to it, it’s not like I’ve grown closer to any other cities stronger than Chicago, because other cities on tour you only spend a couple of days there. Whereas it’s always good to come back to Chicago and see all your friends and go to the places you like to go to. Then go to some great shows that they always are having in Chicago.
Your band is living proof that with the right community and outlets, a group can take off, and I think it’s awesome that you’ve given props to your friends in Chicago in interviews since then. Have you found your circle of allied bands getting wider lately, or do you still roll with the same hometown homies?
Yeah, of course, we’ve met a ton of people. I’ll go to parties and I’ll meet people that have heard of Twin Peaks and then they’re like, “Oh, I’m in this other band,” and then I’ll check them out, and usually they’ll be pretty damn good. Also, just meeting bands around the country. We did a tour that was almost a month long, and we didn’t even stay in any hotels, just because from touring so much we had known so many people in different cities that we just got to stay with friends all over the country. That’s a crazy thing to think about, that I could just leave and go on a road trip and pretty much stay for free. That’s pretty cool!
In a way, that’s a lot like that old school DIY indie circuit thing, where you made a network of friends around the country, and leaned on that to support your tours.
It’s strange how natural it happened. I mean, the first tour was a mess but ever since then it’s seemed to happen very naturally. Now we just have a really good group of people who are willing to help us out.
This album shows just how well you and Cadien work together as guitar players, there’s just a ton of awesome harmony parts and leads that wrap around each other. Do you guys think about that interplay a lot or is it pretty instinctual?
It’s more kind of instinct, but we don’t think of it think of each other in the sense that one guy is a rhythm guitarist and the other guy is the lead, which is usually how bands think of songs. We just think of them as two guitars, and there’s no real reason that anyone has to play the rhythm, which I just call the boring part, and the lead part, which is the fun part to play. We both just come up with things that we enjoy playing that sound interesting and then just kind of bounce ‘em off each other.
Wild Onion just came out last month. How did the songs for that album come together, compared to the ones you wrote for Sunken?
Well, Me, Jack and Cadien all write songs, and we’re all kinda loners when we do it, so we all just write ‘em on our own. We don’t always complete ‘em, but we pretty much come to band practice with a song and then we all just work on it and do it that way. Whereas with Sunken we were just playing a set for a while and a lot of ‘em were just Cadien’s songs, and we just banged ‘em out in a week on Garageband. This time we actually got to do live stuff in the studio, which was great, we got to lay down multiple instruments at one time, which gives it that raw, 60’s vibe sort of thing.
You guys basically doubled the amount of songs from your last record. Were you trying to make a statement with that at all?
No, we just had so many that we all thought were good. Well, we had even more, but we didn’t record all of ‘em, but when we reached what it is now, Wild Onion, we were like “Well…I don’t know what I would cut,” so we just left it that way. We were listening to Exile on Main Street a lot and we were like “Wow, look at the balls on these guys, they fuckin’ made like, an hour long record but it’s so cool! Nobody does that anymore!” But ours is still pretty short [laughs]. It’s got 16 songs but it still all fits on one LP. There’s some short ones on there.
Twin Peaks play Radio K’s 21st Birthday Party at the 7th Street Entry on Thursday, September 25 with NE-HI and Frankie Teardrop.
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