WRITTEN BY: PAUL BURKE
Chicago garage rockers Twin Peaks stopped at the Union Transfer Dec. 8 on their TPx2 tour. The tour would have been more appropriately named TPx2 + GD, as they brought their pals together PANGEA and Golden Daze along as the opening acts. These two acts featured two drastically different styles. Golden Daze’s reverb & chorus-filled, slacker style tunes put the crowd in a pleasant, mellow state while the punchy guitar riffs and rapid tempo of together PANGEA spawned an aggressive mosh pit and a few failed stage dives. Overall, the two openers managed to embody the potpourri of sounds that would soon come from Twin Peaks’ performance.
After the release of 2013’s Sunken, and its 2014 follow up Wild Onion, Twin Peaks had firmly established themselves with as one of indie rock’s most unique, colorful outfits. Over these two records, the Illinois based quintet managed to blend indie, punk, psychedelic, and garage rock, while still having a cohesive sound. They have cited numerous influences such as The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and the Beach Boys, as well as modern acts like Black Lips and The Smith Westerns.
This year’s effort “Down In Heaven” brought big changes from the Twin Peaks boys, serving as a coming of age record. The majority of the record featured a calmer, more reserved tone, with more tracks centered around acoustic guitars, pianos and auxiliary percussion. Although Down In Heaven may have been a bit of a surprise, and even a letdown for long time fans hoping for another Sunken, this album was essential in the band’s maturity and development.
Now with a collection of calmer tracks, I was very interested to see what the dynamic of the performance would be like. I was expecting the new tunes to dominate the night, with a few strange transitions between the calmer 2016 cuts and the exciting early songs. Before Twin Peaks went on, I bumped into lead singer Cadien James in the lobby, and asked him if they would be playing songs from Sunken, such as Natural Villain, which is my favorite song from their debut. Instead of giving me a definite answer, he said to me, “wouldn’t it be better if it was a surprise?” and smacked me on the backside as he strolled to the exit of the building.
Around 10:30 p.m., Twin Peaks kicked off their set with the lead single from Down In Heaven, Butterfly, a catchy, straightforward pop-rock track sung by the raspy, Mick Jagger-voiced Clay Frankel. Right from the start, fans were bouncing off the wall with thrill and excitement. The opener was followed up by two Sunken tracks, Stand In the Sand and Boomers, which satisfied the desires of old fans and boosted the energy in the room beyond a point I ever thought it would reach. In the first ten songs, the band’s performance jumped from one album to the next with the smoothest of transitions. My initial concern going into this concert immediately vanished once I saw the boys flawlessly execute the change over from Wild Onion’s Telephone, to Down In Heaven’s Getting Better. The toned down piano track managed to transform into a heavier, much more dramatic tune lined with emphatic guitar solos and blaring cymbal crashes. Throughout the performance, each song played from Down In Heaven took on an entirely different form which allowed them to excite the crowd and reveal their explosive stage presence.
The biggest highlight of the night came when the band led the chanting melody of My Boys into the beginning of the psychedelic inspired Natural Villain. Remember when Cadien told me it would be better if it were a surprise? Well, he certainly was right. Coming into the night, there was no guarantee that the Chicago boys would play this 2013 hit, and there was absolutely no way I could have guessed it would start like this. The track starts with slow beats on the bass drum and toms, and is backed by reverb-filled keyboard chords. In its three minutes, it gradually builds over finger-picked chords and vocal harmonies until it reaches its explosive climax where James sings his heart out over a well-timed pause in the instrumental. The My Boys/Natural Villain combo displayed every great quality of this performance. Most importantly it demonstrated the band’s ability to put on a lively, energetic performance, regardless of what the song sounds like on the record. Here and all throughout the night, they kept the crowd on their toes, and strung together an unpredictably diverse setlist. Hopping around from album to album they managed to satisfy every fan’s needs.
For their second to last song of the night, Twin Peaks channeled their inner Rolling Stones (which they seem to do all over Down In Heaven), and performed a bright, fun cover of the 1971 hit Dead Flowers. They then closed the show with an extended version of their hard hitting 2014 cut, Strawberry Smoothie. At the tail end of the song, the group broke it down to nothing but bass and drums, before drummer Connor Brodner broke out into a gut busting solo. The rest of the boys awaited their cue to come back in, and back up keyboardist Colin Croom on his electrifying solo. Next, the solos were passed to guitarists Clay Frankel and Cadien James, who each carried their own face-melter as they surfed through the first few rows of the crowd. The song came to a close and as the group began to walk off stage, James yelled into the microphone, “we love you Philly,” leaving the screaming fans begging for more.
Twin Peaks proved themselves as action packed, relentless performers, demonstrating both their raw musical talent and showmanship. The group destroyed any doubts I had in them, and made me eager to hear what they have planned for the future. In just their early twenties, Twin Peaks still have loads of potential, and are certainly here to stay.