When Chicago-natives Jack Dolan (bassist/vocalist), Cadien Lake James (guitarist/vocalist), Clay Frankel (guitarist/vocalist), and Connor Brodner (drummer) first formed Twin Peaks in high school and went on their first tour senior year, they could most likely be found in the basements and backyards of any locals or friends that were willing to lend them a space. They decided to go on their first tour even before recording their first formal album, producing a tape in James’ basement just to have something to sell, and to provide money for gas and beer. Twin Peaks emerged from the youthful energy of the DIY Chicago scene, and has always been fueled by the pure ambition of delivering the visceral, sweaty, adrenaline-rushing live experience that good ole rock n’ roll should provide. Even after booking formal gigs, they’ve continued to play house parties between shows, never relenting their explosive energy for smaller audiences.
When I walked into the dark, humid bowels of The Joiners that Friday evening for Twin Peaks sold-out show, there was already an apparent palpable, charged euphoria in the air. Jaunty, rowdy teens were already pushing one another around in front as the supporting bands, Minister and Fever, played brief sets, dancing and laughing, and the more reserved clustered themselves around the edges, smiling widely at their delight. The crowd huddled in closer as the time for Twin Peaks to come on approached. Finally, James meandered onstage with Broden and keyboardist Colin Crooms, joking with the fans in front as he waited for his fellow bandmates to join him. Dolan came next, beers clutched in each fist, chugging one down and raising his second to toast with a guy in the crowd who raised his drink to his. Lastly, the Casanova of the group, Clay Frankel, wandered straight through the crowd, fans laughing and clapping him on the back as he climbed onstage, with a booze-induced look in his eyes and a smirk on his face, cheerfully bantering with the fans in front. In that moment, I realized—Twin Peaks wasn’t just the band— polished, untouchable idols for groupie and fanatic worshipping, they were everyone’s friend. They had a way of creating an atmosphere that felt like you were walking into your friend’s house for night of good fun, where it is impossible to go home without feeling a little more in love with the world and the people in it. The Joiners was throwing a party, and Twin Peaks weren’t just hosting: they were the life of it.
The set opened with Butterfly from their most recent album Down in Heaven, injecting the air with the full-bodied rumble of the song’s opening bass and catchy guitar riff, unraveling itself in Frankel’s ragged vocals. Frankel’s power-driven energy was anything but aloof; he had an intensity of delivering vocals that matched the dynamicity of his physical movement, gripping one’s attention. I found myself smiling uncontrollably watching the fun they were having, and looking around at the dumbfounded grins on everyone’s sweaty faces, finding every one else felt the same. Instead of the crowd giving energy to them, they were giving energy to the crowd.
The most unique aspect of the band (having no main front man) holds the risk of one having the ability to outshine another, yet they all managed to present themselves as a power-unit. The sloppy, scuzzy, garage grime has cleaned up considerably from their first album compared to their newest album, but they delivered their cooler, classic rock sound with the same unharnessed, dirty passion. Crooms keyboard work added a sophisticated element to their sound; Brodner skilled drumming reigned in the band’s excited tendencies to rush.
Their performance was a conversation between band and audience that never slackened. The highlight of the night was when they played their fan-favorite, Making Breakfast, screamed out by request from the crowd. A fun-loving song that starts low and bursts forward in its chorus, complete with Frankel’s impassioned yelps sent the crowd into its most excited frenzy. The night ended in a sea of abounding love; the band came down from the stage and shared countless embraces with random fans in the crowd. Frankel grabbed hold of a someone’s face with two hands and they shared an endearing moment of laughter you might witness between two long-time friends. But what made it so special it was a show of mutual, complementary affection that flows from musician to fan, and from fan to musician.
Seeing Twin Peaks perform gives you the gift of an authentic experience which only true, monogamous love for music can do: blur the line between the artist and viewer. There’s no doubt you’ll be seeing them blow up in the near future; Twin Peaks has captured the essence of what will carry and expand their musical career; an infectious, passion for their music that shows in their faces when they play, paired with natural, goofy personalities will have you welling up with the strong desire to just hang out with them. After going to one of their shows, you might as well say you had. If you are fortunate enough to be near a venue they play, don’t miss out on the party.