It should come as no surprise that Twin Peaks have gotten as big as they have.
This year alone, the young Chicago five-piece has risen to the top of the oversaturated 60s-revival scene with a fantastic third record, Down In Heaven, and an overwhelming hype surrounding their rowdy live shows.
Chances are high that you’ve heard of Twin Peaks by now.
The band performed at Pitchfork Music Festival and Bonnaroo, released a collaborative beer with Goose Island and hosted a party bus from the brewery, headlined a new Half Acre festival, performed on Conan, and recently opened for Wilco at Pritzker Pavilion.
The kicker: these guys are 22 years old.
I admit I got into these guys late, but have investigated the band with limitless curiosity since Down In Heaven’s release.
If the question is whether their performances and music lives up to the hype, the answer is absolutely.
The band performed an intimate set at the Hideout on Tuesday as a part of XRT’s StudioX sessions, offering a now-rare glimpse of the band in the kind of small setting they used to play.
With phenomenal sound and a visibly excited audience of roughly 75 people, Twin Peaks’ half-hour performance proved exactly what makes the new record truly outstanding.
Recently released single “Butterfly” opened the set as a skuzzy singalong, an infectious melody shouted in unison by four band members. Simplistic, dirty organ chords sat atop gruff, garage-rock guitars, a focus on rhythmic progressions instead of riffs or solos until a short breakdown midway.
With two guitarists, a bassist and a keyboardist sharing writing and vocal duties, the band switched singers for the first four songs. Despite this, they share a cohesiveness fitting neatly yet creatively under the 60s garage umbrella.
“Walk To The One You Love” boasts a chugging Rolling Stones-esque guitar riff, simple yet infectious. The vocals share the same influence, with timeless lyrics always returning to the question, “Who is the one you love?”
Unlike the many bands attempting to tackle a similar sound, Twin Peaks’ songs sound organic and natural, never trying too hard or over-thinking a track. This infectious simplicity is exactly what made early Kinks or Stones recordings so successful.
Twin Peaks isn’t emulating comparable bands. They’ve reached the sound the same way their influences did.
“Getting Better” was the perfect example of this, the song’s lackadaisical vibe carelessly bouncing along, piano chords and psychedelic guitar riffs filling the space between the bassist’s lead vocals.
“Keep It Together” paired well with this, the keyboardist adding a third guitar to the mix, creating a massive, sloppy rock sound with an explosive refrain and solo section.
XRT’s Marty Lennartz interviewed the band before and throughout the set, touching on the group’s performances at underage house parties, influences, record collections and recent gigs. The group’s demeanor matched their music, never taking themselves too seriously.
Perhaps the best joke of the day was the guitarist pointing out that Twin Peaks’ members were born the year that Wilco was formed.
The group closed with “Wanted You,” an aggressive rocker that bridges the more aggressive sound of their previous album with the laid back, mature sound of their new material, the band’s members screaming the chorus in unison and eventually using a microphone with heavy reverb and effects to create backing melodies.
The song would have fit onto hundreds of records recorded between 1966 and 1970, but featuring a dense compositional maturity practically unparalleled today.
Though the Hideout set didn’t touch on the rowdiness of their typical shows (i.e. Clay Frankel’s writhing around on the ground during solos at the previously mentioned Pritzker performance), the intimate performance certainly shed light on the band’s greatness.
Each member’s vocals were delivered with deliberate intonation, jumping dynamically from a soft singing to a hoarse scream when needed, short yelps and wordless melodies often added to the songs’ breaks. Members traded both vocal duties as well as lead roles, musically, giving the group an ego-less feel. One guitarist managed to break multiple strings during the five-song set, and the other’s guitar was stained with blood splattered from prior shows.
Twin Peaks have managed to reach the point of greatness by the age of 22, and Chicago can only hope they keep it up in the future. Hopefully there’s a long road ahead of these guys still, and fans can only wonder what heights they can reach in the next decade.
Read the setlist and watch "Keep It Together" and "Holding Roses" from their recent Pitchfork Music Festival appearance below.
2. Walk To The One You Love
3. Getting Better
4. Keep It Together
5. Wanted You
"Keep It Together:"
"Holding Roses" (with horn section):