12/7/16 – The Sinclair

It isn’t every night that a warning sign is affixed to the Sinclair door: “No crowdsurfing or moshing.” Nor are there usually teenage girls in Jackson Browne shirts in the crowd and men with hair just as long on stage.

But in 2016, Chicago’s Twin Peaks – with their punk-tinged, beer-goggled, classic rock revival – aren’t usual suspects. With Golden Daze and Together PANGEA in solidarity, the Twin Peaks dudes brought raucous rock n’ roll back to Harvard Square.

Golden Daze, not to be confused with other dream pop bands with “daze” in the title, played… well, dream pop accented rock. A Harvard polo wearing acoustic-electric guitarist, close to inaudible in the mix, offered visual variety, but otherwise Golden Daze mostly contributed coherent but unremarkable sun-soaked LA vibes to an increasingly full Sinclair.

Together PANGEA, unlike Golden Daze, refused to recede into the background, playing blaring bro-rock that seemed to be a mitigating factor in one young dude leaving the venue on one leg, supported by two friends, through the emergency exit. Between a strange cover of the Cranberries “Zombie,” and the questionable lyrics of “Sick Shit” (“My heart is lost/My dick is soft”), Together PANGEA was an incoherent jumble. But their FIDLAR-esque garage-punk did get the crowd moving — for better or for worse — and the motion didn’t stop until Twin Peaks was through.     

After coming onstage with little fanfare, Twin Peaks launched into the rock n’ roll “woo woo woo’s” and “ba ba-ba ba ba’s” of “Butterfly.” With 2016’s Down In Heaven, Twin Peaks evolved into a decentralized band, with the distinctive, once-frontman Cadien Lake James sharing vocal duties all around. Jack Dolan on bass and in a Cubs jersey sang “Getting Better”, while Clay Frankel on guitar led the more mature, reflective “Wanted You.” Colin Crooms on keys and occasional guitar had his turn too. But Twin Peaks were at their rowdiest, jocular best when everybody had a hand in the vocal mix, like the gang vocals of “Making Breakfast.”  

Twin Peaks’ rock n’ roll and punk influences unite at the site of creation: the garage. Some of their garage rock rawness, however, was compromised by the pesky Sinclair staff pulling crowdsurfers from the stage and ostensibly onto the street in the middle of songs. Eyes wandered from the stage to another sort of performance – the cat and mouse game between crowdsurfer and staff. At least once, security scurried across the stage only to have the offender washed back into the crowd and out of reach, the mood-killing price paid when a band emerges from the house show circuit.

Distractions aside, Twin Peaks showed that they have leveled out over the years, growing out of their youthful rawness. The bluesy “Walk to the One You Love,” with its repeated glissando guitar slide, was a more mellow standout that saw James at least momentarily stop wagging his head around.

Still, even on new material, Twin Peaks brought vigor, like on the encore performance of “Wanted You,” which perfectly bridged newfound reflective maturity and youthful angst through classic rock lyrics like “I wanted you, but you didn’t want me/Good lord, heaven knows I’ve been beat up.” Clay Frankel seemed to seize on the microphone, and the whole venue could feel that he was feeling something.

After a nod to the original rock n’ roll dudes — a cover of the Rolling Stones “Dead Flowers” — the night ended with the boisterous psychedelia of “Strawberry Smoothie.” An impassioned James took the mic, but everybody joined in at the end of each line (“In the snow!”). The Wild Onion single sounded like the result of taking acid in a garage and playing punk rock: an encapsulation of Twin Peaks at their best.

Getting Better: Twin Peaks
  • New Twin Peaks Maturity
  • Old Twin Peaks Rowdiness
  • Pesky Sinclair Staff
  • Ill-Fitting Openers
7Overall Score

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