Lost in the Movies: Musicians of the Road House (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #31)

Musicians of the Road House (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #31)

The TWIN PEAKS Character Series surveys one hundred ten characters from the series Twin Peaks (1990-91 on ABC and 2017 on Showtime as The Return), the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), and The Missing Pieces (2014), a collection of deleted scenes from that film. A new character study will appear every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday through mid-August before pausing again, although patrons will have immediate access to each entry a month before it goes public. There will be spoilers.

Providing a passage between past and present, plot and periphery, "reality" and dream, the Musicians offer a chorus to express a confused community.

Chromatics perform "Shadow" on Saturday, September 24, 2016
The weekend Road House buzzes with energy and activity, youthful in its sense of restlessness but exuded all around by characters in early middle age. A quiet biker, injured in an accident, darts nervous glances at a beautiful woman in a booth with her friends. The women discuss how one of their daughters' marriages is in trouble, and wonder if the biker is weird or cool. That worried mother takes a moment off from familial concerns to smile at a suave silver fox by the bar, drinking his beer and cocking a mock-gun finger with a sense of playful danger. And over this poignant scene redolent of bittersweet Gen X regret, Chromatics preside: a singer in crisp white blouse and sheer blonde bangs, a chiseled guitarist in black leather, a bassist with rolled-up sleeves and emo face paint, a drummer hidden behind the trio's tableau, dedicated to the throbbing rhythm. Almost untouchable in their cocoon of immaculate cool, there is certainly a youthful sharpness to their appearance but they carry themselves with the weight of maturity, thirty- and fortysomethings who've been around the block even if it hasn't quite worn them down yet. Their lyrics cast a glow of anticipatory regret (or regretful anticipation) over the crowd. Eager attendees bob and sway before them, but there's a sense that they aren't crooning for the hipsters who came to watch and listen up front but for the townies in back, ignoring their onstage presence while swimming in the atmosphere they create. Is the band providing the soundtrack for the patrons? Or are the patrons manifestations of the emotional states already crystallized in music?

The Cactus Blossoms perform "Mississippi"
On an uncertain evening - perhaps a weeknight, the ambiance now quieter and more relaxed than the frenetic, longing angst of a Saturday - a tastefully arranged country band plays in yellow light as their audience twirls and slow-dances with one another. Wan yet sturdy, jacketed but with open collar or bolo-tied rather than fully buttoned-up, the singer/guitarists float atop their unrushed sound with the grace of a sturdy raft weaving down the river of their title.

Au Revoir Simone performs "Lark"
Another anonymous, casual night at the venue, and three ladies behind keyboards are bathed in red light. Unintimidated by the intensity, they retain an affected yet earnest composure, absorbed in their own craft rather than a rapport with the spectators. They seem as if in any moment they might wander away but they hit every vocal and instrumental note with a precision that belies their distant fa├žade. An engaged warmth emanates from the synthesized, understated rapture onstage.

Trouble performs "Snake Eyes" on Sunday, September 25, 2016
By contrast, even the end of the weekend carries an edgy, unsettled charge. A quartet, just slightly more unkempt than the other groups, jams against a driving riff. In a booth across the room, as if manifested by the dirty rock and roll, a venal asshole ashes his cigarette in front of a no-smoking sign, belligerently challenges a bouncer, hands a pack full of cash to a corrupt cop, and egregiously harasses and assaults a teenage moth who flits too close to his flame. All the while, Trouble wails indifferently away, the guitarist absorbed in his fretwork, the saxophonist closing his eyes as he sprays blistering jazz across the dancefloor, all of them caged by ever-increasing strobes. Hardly anyone bothers to intervene for the poor girl held in a chokehold, the band's excuse being that they're too absorbed in their own driving, dangerous rhythm to interrupt another (which maybe rhymes with their own as well).

Sharon Van Etten performs "Tarifa"
Mellow and melancholy, a lonely singer stands against the distinctively red curtain (illuminated by white light to accentuate the crimson). Lonely...but not alone, as she is backed by other musicians, one of whom wails in exquisite harmony. Nonetheless, in her flowing, wispy dress, guitar slung across her waist and oft-closed eyes shaded by her loose jet-black shag as she leans into the microphone, Sharon Van Etten feels out front and vulnerable - pleading and defiant as she recalls, perhaps, a lover's quarrel. While not as indifferent as Trouble nor self-contained as Au Revoir Simone, she is isolated from the crowd who listens quietly, respectively, not dancing but moving gently.

"The" Nine Inch Nails perform "She's Gone Away" introduced by the MC
Who knows when - or even where - this song is unleashed. An ordinary day at this small town performance center? A Black Lodge-adjacent space awaiting the dreamer/voyager's arrival? A metauniverse commenting upon a larger fiction, serving as a gateway between a death and a resurrection, a dirt road noir set in 2016 and an epic meditation on twentieth-century trauma set in 1945, a nineties soap opera world and a teens premium cable experiment? Let's not wander too far offscreen. A new figure, a Master of Ceremony with an outsized personality and oversized tuxedo, speaking into a microphone stand punctuated by a large pinecone, "proudly" introduces one of the biggest rock groups in America. For over four minutes, on a dark stage illuminated only dimly by a gridlike, slightly psychedelic light scheme, a singer clad in leather and dark shades toys with, throttles, and devours his microphone; an anonymous guitarist with sharp long hair jutting across his face crouches over his instrument near feedbacking amps which he forces to holler across space and time; a purposefuly nondescript bassist and deeply shrouded drummer keep up the rhythm; and an alluringly unmoved backup vocalist - clad in raven-black tunic, sleek opera gloves and equally sleek leggings, thin choker, long lashes, and cascading wavy hair - chants and slaps her tambourine. The borderline mosh pit crowdmembers near the stage jerk and weave their bodies in ecstatic endorsement, while waitresses carry orders across the floor, impervious to the demonic forces being summoned mere feet away.

Hudson Mohawke performs "Human" & Au Revoir Simone performs "A Violent Yet Flammable World"
Shooting staccato sonic darts from his turntable, DJ Hudson Mohawke is not at all severed from his audience; he appears to float atop them, buoyed by their enthusiastic movements. A couple worse-for-wear girlfriends commiserate in a booth as he wraps his act and the sound system seamlessly transitions to the next act, as if they were waiting patiently behind him, or standing on a rotating platform ready to perform. The members of Au Revoir Simone, outfits unchanged since their "Lark" number, lean even further into a hyper-stylized yet deeply passionate routine, allowing serpentine synthesizers and competing vocal runs to spill across one another to potentially chaotic, yet exquisitely organized, effect. The lights appear to be keyed to their fingerings, shifting from cool purple backlight to hot pink saturation, and eventually they all fall into perfect sync, gripping their microphones and staring intensely at no one in particular as they protest too loudly that "it's a whisper."

Rebekah Del Rio performs "No Stars"
Clad in a black and white zigzag dress, Rebekah Del Rio and her backing band effortlessly command the stage and envelop the space around them. Singing in English and Spanish, the singer caresses the microphone, projecting and murmuring in turn as she shares a song of solemn loss for a long but absorbing seven minutes. The quietly swaying crowd gathering at her feet is neither dramatically ignored, as similar spectators were by many other acts, nor directly appealed to by Del Rio. Her actual audience is much larger - the whole world - and much smaller - just herself. This is both the loneliest and most communal song offered in the Road House.

Chromatics perform "Saturday"
This time the band recedes into pure background rather than cultivating a commanding presence. Dressed in similar clothes as before, their lead singer - mute and focused on finger placement - strums a guitar between the lead guitarist and bassist. Chromatics are content to weave an instrumental track that rises and falls in anticipation without ever quite reaching a moment of full deliverance. If "Shadow" openly contended with the personal dramas swirling around the pulsating soundtrack and evocative lyrics, "Saturday" has no such ambitions. Another couple booth patrons, eventually joined by a jittery third, gossip about others who aren't present. They barely seem to be aware of the music on a conscious level and likewise the musicians, with their downcast or vacant gazes, seem entirely uninterested in the conversations of anything other than their instruments.

The MC introduces James Hurley on Thursday, September 29, 2016
Once again proud to present, despite his next guest being less of a marquee name than Nine Inch Nails, the MC welcomes a local talent to the stage and the crowd enthusiastically applauds.

Lissie performs "Wild Wild West" introduced by the MC
The MC's loud declaration is observed by yet another couple women absorbed in their own drama in a distant booth. They continue to watch the subsequent performance, a few darting glances aside; this act is not meant to serve as background but to dominate and draw the attention of everyone present. The singer Lissie, wearing a loose red rolled up shirt with jeans, strums her guitar and shakes her long blonde hair, playing to the audience as intently as possible while they respond in kind, dancing and cheering her on. The chorus is a rhapsody of assertion; unlike most other Road House songs, Lissie expresses active pursuit rather than passive longing. By song's end she's sweaty and taking deep breaths, confident that after giving her all, she'll "be fine, fine..."

The MC introduces a recording of ZZ Top performing "Sharp Dressed Man"
As if warmed up by Lissie (the other night or the same; as with most of these performances, we can't be sure), the crowd gets down to ZZ Top with unusual zeal. Sure, the guest tonight is just a classic rock staple on the "Road House playlist" but the song gets the full introductory treatment from an enthusiastic MC, who stays onstage for a few seconds this time, to dance himself.

The Veils perform "Axlotl"
Wearing a wide-brimmed hat, the band's singer lurches forward with each lyric, holding his microphone so close that it produces feedback. Behind him, on syntheisizers and a guitar respectively, two longhairs provide a throbbing backbeat: a man in a light brown fringe jacket and a woman in a long black overcoat (her face mostly hidden by said hair). In an eerie parallel to the (earlier?) Trouble performance, there is a physical altercation in which aggressive men grab a young woman - in this case, with perverse gentleness, burly bikers lift her from a booth and place her on the floor. Once again, the band and the rest of the audience take no notice but as the music builds to a crescendo, the patron crawls right into the center of the crowd and screams. As if that scream pierced something (a veil?), the music echoes into another, perhaps supernatural space before finally fading into a moody night.

Edward Louis Severson performs "Out of Sand" introduced by the MC
With unusual restraint, establishing the vibe for a melancholy, reflective number, the MC welcomes to the stage a lightly bearded man in a fedora and worn green shirt, sitting on a stool and strumming his acoustic guitar, sharing a song of middle-aged regret and resignation. The crowd cheers appreciatively, not whooping it up but many spectators grinning ear to ear in recognition of his talent. Isolated onstage without any backing band, the singer doesn't seem to take any of this warm feeling in; he's absorbed in the lyrics and the mood they express and might as well be bearing his heart for an indifferent audience in some remote dive bar - not because his delivery is lacking but because he seems so alone. A woman arrives with another man and looks around the bar in desperate, vaguely insecure distress. Perhaps she and the singer are unconsciously calling to one another, but in vain? The sands of this particular song run out; the moment passes and will never come again.

Road House band performs "Audrey's Dance" introduced by the MC
In his most clipped, cryptic intro yet, the MC simply announces the title of the next song, recognized by one of the bar's patrons as her own, and an anonymous band begins to play. The crowd parts, the patron steps into the opening, and a slurpy, snakey jazz number simmers as she sways in the spotlight. A Road House performer's role has never been more clearcut than now: the musicians are providing a backdrop for personal drama - but at the same time, the character herself appears to be completely at the mercy of their music, calibrating her every movement to that sound. And then, an entirely separate drama interrupts the reverie when a marital spat breaks out in the middle of the floor. The music will continue after this - or around? Before? During? We've lost all sense of chronology by now. And so has the band, which is playing "Audrey's Dance" in reverse, inexplicably but as professionally as ever. The Road House has reason to be proud of whoever the Road House, or someone using them as a vessel, brings onstage.

Characters who encounter the Musicians onscreen…

Chromatics w/ James Hurley, Freddie Sykes & Shelly Johnson

Trouble w/ Richard Horne & Deputy Chad

MC w/ James Hurley

Edward Louis Stevenson, MC & Road House band w/ Audrey Horne & Charlie

w/ Road House Patrons

Trouble w/ Charlotte & Elizabeth

Hudson Mohawke & Au Revoir Simone w/ Chloe & Ella

Chromatics w/ Natalie, Abby & Trick

MC & Lissie w/ Sophie & Megan

Ruby w/ The Veils

Impressions of TWIN PEAKS through the Musicians
As I wrote about the only Road House musician featured in the first two seasons (whose season three appearance is included in her own earlier entry), these bands and singers in season three are able to express the underlying mood more directly and viscerally than much of the other material. This is especially true in The Return, given David Lynch's avoidance of a heavy score in favor of a more sparse soundscape. Yet in a surprisingly music-light series, two-thirds of the episodes conclude with a performance, and another three include lengthy numbers earlier in their runtimes. Not all of these interludes are in the Road House - a pianist in a Las Vegas restaurant wraps Part 11 - and even the Road House sets include musicians listed in separate entries rather than here (the aforementioned original series singer played by Julee Cruise, plus James Hurley's winking reprise of "Just You"). But for the most part, Lynch chooses to provide a concert experience with a real-world act as a coda for the weekly experience. This cultivates a sense of the new Twin Peaks as a hybrid series, one foot in its own fictional world, the other dipping into a self-conscious historical/cultural moment (the majority of the bands are fronted by older millennials, though Gen X plays a prominent role as well, while Lynch's own boomer generation is entirely absent). And the lyrics, apparently accidentally, given the artists' extremely limited knowledge of what Lynch and Frost were cooking up, often comments on the action elsewhere in the episode or the series.

As for Twin Peaks the town, these sequences paint a compelling but confusing portrait. How can what is essentially a dive bar in a small community in the Pacific Northwest attract some of the biggest names in the industry? Elsewhere in the third season, we're given the impression that the town has struggled since its primary industry burnt to the ground twenty-seven years ago. Like much of rural America in 2016, it appears to be consumed by rampant drug abuse, economic precarity, and communal fragmentation, but our glimpses of the Road House suggest a more gentrified sheen with hipster cred. Before the new series aired, speculation swirled around whether Twin Peaks had suffered from a general post-industrial decline or embraced tourism as a lifeline and become a bourgie retreat. The appearance of Chromatics, Nine Inch Nails (sorry, "The" Nine Inch Nails), and Eddie Vedder (sorry, Edward Louis Severson) on their stage is one of the few elements to suggest the latter. However, the very final appearance of the round-up subverts that reading by converting the space into an apparent projection of Audrey Horne's own damaged psyche. This itself introduces complications; where does the imaginary end and the actual begin, given James', Richard's and Shelly's presumably real-world visits? But dancing on the border of two worlds only lends these performances further credibility as quintessential Twin Peaks.

The Musicians’ journey
Can we string together the disparate Road House live performances (excluding Julee Cruise and James Hurley, who get their own individual entries) into a coherent whole? We certainly can't compose a real chronology, given the lack of characters with ongoing storylines. This is especially true once the Audrey sequence climaxes with a revelation that her entire Road House sequence exists on a different plane of reality than other parts of her life. (To add to the confusion, some of these performances definitely do overlap with "real" storylines.) Therefore, any arc is more thematic than narrative, organized by the order in which we're shown this material rather than when it "takes place." The most notable evolution is in the relationship of the musicians to the audience, both the nameless crowd watching in front of the stage and the characters interacting with each other while the music serves as sonic wallpaper. Chromatics' debut sequence - our introduction to the Road House performance motif - is the only one that cranks all these elements up to the max; it's the quintessential moment for these musicians collectively. While the bands don't reference the listeners, nor vice versa, there is a strong resonance between them. Bracketing this are the last two episodes with Road House performances (excluding the oddly anticlimactic Julee Cruise appearance). When the Veils and Ruby collide on the soundtrack, there is a sense that the musicians and patrons can no longer ignore one another. And when Audrey is, first, dogged by an on-the-nose act emphasizing Gen X aging and, second, explicitly called out from the stage (as the active audience who has served as a buffer thus far moves aside), any last barriers between the two worlds dissolve.

Finally, it's a Nine Inch Nails song not performed at the Road House which may best evoke the existential interplay of spectator and performer, ordinary and fantastical, passion and alienation. Cue the ironically-titled (maybe) "Right Where it Belongs":
"What if everything around you isn't quite as it seems? What if all the world you think you know is an elaborate dream? And if you look at your reflection...is that all you want to be? What if you could look right through the cracks? Would you find yourself, find yourself afraid to see? What if all the world's inside of your head? Just creations of your own: your devils and your gods, all the living and the dead, and you're really all alone? You can live in this illusion, you can choose to believe. You keep looking but you can't find the woods while you're hiding in the trees."
Performer: Chromatics
Founded by guitarist Adam Miller at the turn of the millennium with an entirely different lineup and sound (releasing two albums, Chrome Rats vs. Basement Rutz and Plaster Hounds), Chromatics found their identity in the middle of the 2000s with a electropop disco-influenced sound. Leaving behind their punk roots as they incorporated singer Ruth Radelet, drummer Nat Walker, and bassist Johnny Jewel, Chromatics solidified this new incarnation with 2007's hit album Night Drive. Jewel, who'd been performing in groups like Glass Candy since the nineties, took the lead in shaping their image and pushing the band to further heights. He founded a record label, Italians Do It Better, anchored by Chromatics and got their song "Tick of the Clock" into the teens vibe-defining Drive, which he helped score. Their fourth album Kill for Love was highly acclaimed, and Chromatics spent much of the subsequent decade showing up on the soundtracks of hip shows like Riverdale, Bates Motel, and 13 Reasons Why while releasing EPs and singles. In addition to the two songs Chromatics perform at the Roadhouse, Jewel composed several other tracks featured in the new season of Twin Peaks, including "Windswept" which became a kind of anthem for the broken, distant "Dougie" version of Cooper.

Chromatics' ethereality, the sense that their music was just one piece of an elusive aesthetic whole caught only in glimpses, is perhaps best amplified by Dear Tommy, their contribution to that most venerable rock tradition: the long-promised, never released album always shimmering on the distant horizon. First announced in late 2014 (not long after David Lynch and Mark Frost teased a follow-up to Twin Peaks), the legend only grew when it was revealed that guitarist and songwriter Johnny Jewel destroyed all existing copies of a finished LP following a near-death experience in Hawaii around Christmas 2015. Though Jewel seemed to confirm this rumor - spread by his manager Alexis Rivera - others have cast doubt on whether an album's worth of material was actually recorded, let alone pressed into physical editions ready for release until they were obliterated. Jewel promised that everything would be re-recorded in improved form; meanwhile, seven songs from the tracklist were shared over the subsequent years (including "Shadow" itself), more promises were made for an imminent release, and an entire other album (their last, as it would turn out), Closer to Grey, was produced in the interim. As Covid-19 brought the era they'd crystallized in their music to an end, the final desperate hopes for Dear Tommy were snuffed out. Radelet, Miller, and Walker (notably not Jewel himself) declared that the band had broken up, and the project was left behind forever as a wistfully abandoned dream - which it maybe was always meant to be. (album pictured: Closer to Grey, 2019)

Performer: The Cactus Blossoms
While Lynch was certainly the pointman for Twin Peaks' soundtrack, the Cactus Blossoms happen to have a roundabout Frost connection too, hailing from Minneapolis (despite country/bluegrass stylings and the Southern twang of their harmonies). Thirty/forty-somethings like many Road House performers, brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkam were nonetheless among the freshest acts onstage - their first album You're Dreaming (what a Lynchian title!) debuted just a year before The Return. Easy Way followed several years later but then the band paused production in 2020, overwhelmed by the pandemic and the George Floyd anti-police protests which spread from their home city. They returned with the appropriately-titled One Year. Given their frequent comparisons to the Everly Brothers, it's little wonder the sibling singers appealed to Lynch. Jack and Page performed separately for years before they began collaborating, and their touring ensemble now includes another brother as well as a cousin - a true family affair. (album pictured: One Day, 2022)

Performer: Au Revoir Simone
An indie synth pop trio birthed in (of course) the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, Au Revoir Simone described their debut album Verses of Comfort, Assurance & Salvation as "exploring a secret garden at night with a flashlight." They carried on this quirky, playful, earnest sensibility through follow-up albums The Bird of Music, Still Night, Still Light, and Move in Spectrums. Ten years after that last release, with Annie Hart releasing several solo albums, it would seem the band is functionally defunct...although according to all available sources they never officially broke up. Was Twin Peaks - in which they played music that was itself already a decade past - their last group appearance? (Lynch, incidentally, became acquainted with them when they performed on a re-production of the Eraserhead set in a 2007 Paris retrospective of his work.) No concert bookings show up past 2014; Heather D'Angelo has launched a perfume line and released a couple solo EPs; and Erika Forster (no relation to the Frank Truman actor, despite podcast scuttlebutt at the time) now goes by Erika Spring and hasn't put out new music since a year after Peaks. An Interview Magazine piece from fourteen years ago captures the vibrant energy of their touring and recording years. (album pictured: The Bird of Music, 2007)

Performer: Trouble
The only named group assembled purely for the purpose of Twin Peaks, Trouble recalls Lost Highway with its frantic (if more straightforward than Fred Madison's) saxophone stylings by Alex Zhang Hungtai. Zhang won recognition under the one-man band name Dirty Beaches, preferring samples to sax until his approach shifted while on tour. Initially, Zhang released music purely on cassette-based labels; his albums include Old Blood, Horror, Night City, Badlands (his breakthrough), The Spirit of Crazy Horse, Drifters/Love is the Devil, and Stateless as Dirty Beaches, Knave of Hearts and Divine Weight under his own name, and a number of other collaborative releases. The other two official members of the temporary Trouble - at least according to an interview that leaves out bassist Sam Smith (presumably the same artist who designed the soundtrack album cover) - are quite close to Lynch. One is his son Riley, the second young Lynch to play a part in Peaks after older brother Austin appeared as the first Tremond grandson in the second season. Riley's mother, editor/writer/producer Mary Sweeney, was Lynch's closest collaborator for many years and many great films. Like both parents, guitarist Lynch branched off into directing with a crowdfunded short film Black Earth, starring Red Scare podcast host and infamous sailor (ex?-)socialist Dasha Nekrasova (if you don't know that name, prepare for a deep dive rabbit hole). Drummer Dean Hurley has himself become one of Lynch's closest collaborators, crafting soundscapes with him for a couple decades. In interviews with legendary alternative rock Kansas City radio station KEXP, Hurley offers background and perspective on almost all of the Road House musicians. (single pictured: Snake Eyes, 2017)

Performer: Sharon Van Etten
A millennial troubadour born in New Jersey and stuck in Tennessee limbo with an abusive rock musician through her early twenties, Van Etten found her voice in a quiet neighborhood of Brooklyn in the late zeroes. The singer-songwriter ended that decade with her first studio album Because I Was in Love after years of passing personally produced CDs along by hand. A New York Times Magazine story from early in the subsequent decade describes how friends would go out of their way to house and help her as she nursed her fledgling career which blossomed into subsequent albums epic, Tramp, and Are We There. Plans to pursue higher education during a musical hiatus were almost immediately derailed when Hollywood came calling. Though she hadn't been looking for an acting career, the creators of The OA invited her to play Rachel DeGrasso on their cult mystery Netflix series. Around this period (also the time of Peaks) she scored the film Strange Weather in a space shared with Wally Brando himself, Michael Cera. After this very busy five-year "break", Van Etten released the album Remind Me Tomorrow followed by, just last year, We've Been Going About This All Wrong. She's also continued to act, with roles (and contributions to the soundtrack) in the films Never Rarely Sometimes Always and How It Ends. (album pictured: We've Been Going About This All Wrong, 2022)

Performer: J.R. Starr
A Naval veteran, radio DJ, country musician, social activist, and, yes, actor, Starr lived a long and varied life before popping up on the Road House stage as the Master of Ceremonies. In the seventies he was dubbed "the Charlie Pride of Fresno radio" and appeared on the cover of the Fresno Bee confronting a group of Klansmen, an experience he describes in a lively "20 questions"-style interview recorded several years ago. He also showed up in the album art, intro, and promotional dance appearances for Big Sean's I Decided, and not long before Peaks aired he was a contestant on a Veterans Day episode of The Price is Right, bringing along a loud cheering section and eventually winning a car as his prize. His screen work began when he was around fifty and includes appearances on Murder She Wrote, Scrubs, Dexter, and Southland and in numerous short films and independent features. His next movie will be The Happy Worker, directed by Twin Peaks editor Duwayne Dunham and co-starring Peaks' Candie actress Amy Shiels. (photo from 1970s)

Performer: Nine Inch Nails
Nine Inch Nails (Lynch added the "The", to be cheeky I suppose) has dozens of rotating members but is anchored by its one thirty-five year constant, writer-singer-guitarist-keyboardist-bassist Trent Reznor. Reznor's perfectly-honed electronic sound and raw, wounded lyrics became a key part of the nineties music scene through songs with mantra-like choruses such as "Closer", "Head Like a Hole", "The Hand That Feeds", and "Hurt" (which Johnny Cash covered to tremendous acclaim). He branched out into cinema by producing soundtracks for Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers and Lynch's Lost Highway among other films (Lynch later directed the Nine Inch Nails video Came Back Haunted). His first score was for The Social Network, winning him an Oscar along with frequent collaborator (and now only other official NIN member) Atticus Ross. They went on to score numerous David Fincher films as well as Pixar's Soul, winning them another Oscar (the duo also won an Emmy for Watchmen). As Nine Inch Nails, Reznor and his collaborators released the albums Pretty Hate Machine, The Downward Spiral, the soundtrack to the video game Quake, The Fragile, And All That Could Have Been, With Teeth, Year Zero, Ghosts I-IV, The Slip, Hesitation Marks, Bad Witch, Ghosts V: Together, and Ghosts VI: Locusts. "She's Gone Away" was included on the EP Not the Actual Events before Twin Peaks aired, but was written for the show; according to Reznor, he brought Lynch a song he thought was more classically Peaks-ian and was told to come back with something harder. Onstage in the Road House, the band consists of Ross, Roin Finck, Alessandro Cortini, and guests Joey Castillo and Reznor's wife Mariqueen Maandig - plus, of course, Reznor himself. (album pictured: The Downward Spiral, 1994)

Performer: Hudson Mohawke
The only DJ to perform at the Road House (other than when the MC needle-drops - or rather presses play on - ZZ Top), Hudson Mohawke is also likely the youngest performer aside from Lynch's son. A Scotsman, he broke through in the British "wonky"/"purple sound" subgenre influenced by video game soundtracks and the popular club drug ketamine, a sound which the BBC described as "slightly out-of-phase beats and synthesisers that wobble woozily, like they've warped after being left out in the sun." Hudson Mohawke began DJing as a teenager, becoming the first UK finalist in the international DMC competition to be born after the contest was formed in the mid-eighties. He's released the albums Butter, Lantern, and Cry Sugar in addition to the soundtrack for the video game Ded Sec - Watch Dogs 2. A year ago, his 2011 song "Cbat" - a parody of dubstep which listeners have described as "robot dolphin sounds" and "an inflatable clown toy falling down the stairs" - went viral thanks to a Redditor's post about its inclusion on a "sex playlist" ruining his relationship. (album pictured: Butter, 2009)

Performer: Rebekah Del Rio
Alongside Trent Reznor and (obviously) Riley Lynch, Del Rio has the deepest history with Lynch of any Road House musician. Her unforgettable Spanish-language performance of Roy Orbison's "Crying" as "Llorando" (an uncanny lip-sync to her own vocal track) anchors perhaps the most crucial sequence in Mulholland Drive. Lynch originally shot the scene as a "closed ending" for a rejected ABC TV pilot, much like the Red Room scene for the (not rejected) original Twin Peaks pilot. In this case, he used it as a hinge between the two parts of the feature film fashioned from the pilot and new material: Del Rio is introduced by her real name at the red-curtained Club Silencio, she sings so passionately that the main characters begin to weep in the audience, and then she collapses as her voice carries on without her. The song had been recorded long before the movie but led to further collaborations with Lynch and writer/guitarist/producer John Neff, including "No Stars". Lynch decided to dust the song off for Twin Peaks with electronic music legend Moby miming guitar onstage behind her (Neff was quick to point out that he, not Moby, played on the actual soundtrack). The result is the longest Road House performance in the new season. In an interview with superfan and personal friend Josh Eisenstadt on the Creamed Corn and the Universe podcast, Del Rio relates the ups and downs of her life and describes how her sorrow and joy manifest in her music. (film pictured: Mulholland Drive, 2001)

Performer: Lissie
Like the Cactus Blossoms, Lynch fave Lissie is also geographically linked to Mark Frost; in this case, she lived in Frost's adopted hometown of Ojai, California around the time he was writing the new season with Lynch via Skype (she's since re-located to Iowa). The singer-songwriter grew up in the Midwest and made her name on My Space with lo-fi tracks like her twangy cover of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance". She toured with Lenny Kravitz, penned a song ("The Longest Mix") whose remix went on to be nominated for a Grammy, and her first EP was on Paste's list of "Eight Most Auspicious Musical Debuts of 2009"; she went on to release five albums: Catching a Tiger, Back to Forever, My Wild West, Castles, and Carving Canyons. According to Dean Hurley, Lynch responded to her emotional rawness when selecting Road House performers and was particularly struck by her presence in a live concert. "She's one of these people that almost can't be contained on a recording," Hurley commented, "because she's the fullest realization of herself live." Politically as well as musically passionate, Lissie was a vocal Bernie Sanders supporter in 2016 and 2020, performing at rallies for him before the Iowa caucus. (album pictured: Catching a Tiger, 2010)

Performer: The Veils
The son of a rock musician who played keyboards for XTC among other groups, Finn Andrews spent his adolescence bouncing between the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, before being signed to a major record label in London while still a teenager. The band that recorded The Veils' debut album The Runaway Found with him was gone a year later. Andrews replaced the original members with old school friends, most of whom have stuck with the group over subsequent decades. Nux Vomica, Sun Gangs, Time Stays, We Go, and Total Depravity - featuring "Axlotl" and produced in part by Dean Hurley - followed in the zeroes and teens. Though there were other members at the time, only Andrews, bassist Sophia Burn, and keyboardist Uberto Rapisardi appear to be present at the Road House although the KEXP interviews report that Run the Jewels' El-P is on the track as well. Lynch raved about the song sounding like "Gene Vincent produced by a hip-hop guy"; for his part, Andrews was a Lynch fan who marvels at being invited to a studio by Hurley, only to discover upon arrival that it was "the house from Lost Highway." A pep talk from the director lifted the band leader's spirits when he was down. After a break of seven years, during which Andrews published solo work, The Veils finally released their seventh album this year: ...And Out Of The Void Came Love. (album pictured: Time Stays We Go, 2013)

Performer: Eddie Vedder
With Trent Reznor as his only possible rival, Vedder is likely the biggest name at the Road House - at least when credited by his more famous moniker ("Edward Louis Severson," as the MC calls him, was Eddie's birth name due to complicated parentage he would only discover as teenager). He's also the oldest musical performer besides Julee Cruise, an early Gen X veteran who helped define the "Seattle sound" a year after Twin Peaks got the ball rolling on Pacific Northwest cultural dominance. Vedder was a latecomer to the burgeoning alternative rock scene in Washington, responding to an audition call for a temporary band (Temple of the Dog) that morphed into Pearl Jam in 1991. The group became one of the biggest names in the "grunge" craze - among the two or three signature aesthetics of the eclectic nineties - which they helped kick off by releasing their debut album Ten a month before Nirvana's Nevermind. (Kurt Cobain, for his part, was quite catty about the Pearl Jam frontman's persona and place in the scene, though time has been kind to Vedder's legacy.) Ten studio albums followed Ten: Vs., Vitalogy, No Code, Yield, Binaural, Riot Act, Pearl Jam, Backspacer, Lightning Bolt, Gigaton, plus fifteen live albums. Vedder was famed for his vivid stage presence: grimacing theatrically, climbing the rafters, and roaring the lyrics in his unmistakable baritone (Rolling Stone readers voted him the seventh-greatest lead vocalist of all time). The singer's subdued, solo approach to the aging-themed "Out of Sand" is all the more notable given Pearl Jam's central place in his generation's youth culture.

In addition to his work with Pearl Jam, Vedder has released four other albums - two soundtracks (for Into the Wild and Flag Day with Glen Hansard and Cat Power) as well as Ukulele Songs and the recent Earthling. Aside from offscreen composing, his film roles have mostly been limited to documentary interviews and cameos in music-themed works like Singles and Walk Hard (although Bradley Cooper based his character in A Star is Born on Vedder and researched the role by hanging out with him). Close friend Laura Dern may have been key to getting the singer involved with Twin Peaks. According to Dean Hurley, he was given a few keywords and concepts and crafted a swan song perfectly suited to the show's closing arc (and particularly Audrey's bittersweet farewell). The year that The Return debuted, Pearl Jam was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Vedder is one of just four Twin Peaks cast members to appear on the cover of Time Magazine, joining David Bowie (twice, in the eighties and upon his death), Ashley Judd (as part of 2017's #MeToo Person of the Year round-up), and of course Lynch himself - for Twin Peaks.

Performer: Road House band
The most mysterious players on the Road House stage (uncredited featured extras hired to mimic Badalamenti's score forwards and backwards) this makeshift ensemble was composed of actual musicians. "They probably could have played the song," Dean Hurley notes, "and actually kind of between takes they were riffing on things and...you know, they were just Class A session musicians." Their names are, for now at least, lost somewhere in the Lodge...


Chromatics in Part 2 (Showtime title: "The stars turn and a time presents itself.")

The Cactus Blossoms in Part 3 (Showtime title: "Call for help.")

Au Revoir Simone in Part 4 (Showtime title: "...brings back some memories.")

Trouble in Part 5 (Showtime title: "Case files.")

Sharon Von Etten in Part 6 (Showtime title: "Don't die.")

*MC & "The" Nine Inch Nails in Part 8 (Showtime title: "Gotta light?" - best episode)

Hudson Mohawke & Au Revoir Simone in Part 9 (Showtime title: "This is the chair.")

Rebekah Del Rio in Part 10 (Showtime title: "Laura is the one.")

Chromatics in Part 12 (Showtime title: "Let's rock.")

MC in Part 13 (Showtime title: "What story is that, Charlie?")

MC & Lissie in Part 14 (Showtime title: "We are like the dreamer.")

MC & The Veils in Part 15 (Showtime title: "There's some fear in letting go.")

Edward Louis Severson (Eddie Vedder), MC & Road House band in Part 16 (Showtime title: "No knock, no doorbell.")

The musicians are onscreen for roughly fifty-five minutes. They are in fourteen scenes in thirteen episodes. They're featured the most in part 16, when Audrey reaches the Road House. Their sole location is the Road House. They share the most screentime with Audrey. They are among the top ten characters in parts 6, 8, 12, 15, and 16, and the top five characters in parts 2, 5 (as part of a tie), and 10. Chromatics are the musicians with the most screentime. Collectively, the musicians are the ninth-highest ranked characters in the third season and the third-highest who are introduced in that season (fourth if we include Diane despite original series dialogue addressed to her).

Best Scene
Part 8: Boldly interrupting an episode rather than closing one off, the Nine Inch Nails performance of "She's Gone Away" both transitions us toward one of the most radical moments in Twin Peaks history and hints at the otherwise unexpected climax of the entire season.

Best Line
“A little mouth opened up inside...yeah, I was watching on the day she died...”

Additional Observations

• Although none of the artists composing lyrics for their Twin Peaks songs had access to the screenplay (indeed, much of this music wasn't written with Peaks in mind at all), many passages resonate deeply with the material in season three - as numerous fans have pointed out since 2017. Chromatics kick off this trend with a song ("Shadow") whose title echoes the "secret lives" theme of the original series, and the doppelganger motif of the original finale and the new season. "You're in the water, I'm on the shore, still thinking I hear your voice..." they croon, as if singing directly to Laura in the hours before the pilot. "At night I'm driving in your car pretending that we'll leave this town" is redolent of every small town melodrama ever, while "I took your picture from the frame, and now you're nothing like you seem" feels much more specific to The Return, particularly Sarah Palmer's attack on her daughter's infamous school portrait and Laura's transformation into Carrie Page.

• The Cactus Blossoms' "Mississippi" also evokes Laura both at the end of Fire Walk With Me and the beginning of the pilot: "My angel sings down to me. She's somewhere on the shore waiting for me, with her wet hair and sandy gown."

• Sharon Van Etten has one of the less-related songs with "Tarifa" but even so, it's worth nothing this song has the following lyrics: "I could taste your mouth" (recalling Bob in Fire Walk With Me) and of course "Send in the owl."

• I've already noted Nine Inch Nails' "She's Gone Away" lyrics "A little mouth opened up inside" which suggests Sarah Palmer's revelation in Part 14 and "I was watching on the day she died" which hints at Cooper spying on Laura in Part 17. But the song also contains verses evocative of what we've just seen in Part 8. "You dig in places till your fingers bleed, spread infection where you spill your seed," calls to mind the Woodsmen's weird intervention after Mr. C's shooting, and of course the title itself fits a series bracketed by Leland's encouragement to "find Laura", amplified by her disappearance with a scream from both the Red Room and the woods after Cooper "rescues" her, not to mention her more explicitly mortality-related absence in the original series.

• In "A Violent and Flammable World" (certainly a Twin Peaks title), Au Revoir Simone sings - faintly in the background of the Chloe/Ella scene - "Tonight I sleep to dream of a place that's calling me. It is always just a dream - still I cannot forget what I have seen."

• One of the few Road House songs with lyrics written by Lynch himself - albeit at a time when no more Peaks was expected - Rebekah Del Rio's "No Stars" points toward the third season most pointedly on a meta-level (a series revival) as well as an in-world one (the Palmer house, among other examples): "My dream is to go to that place (you know the one) where it all began..."

• Though less on-the-nose than other songs, Lissie's "Wild Wild West" evokes themes of the season with Cooper-resonant lines like "I am so far from my home" and "All that you lost, you get back." And the title fits a series expanding its geography to include Southwestern desert locations in Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas (complete with a cowboy would-be shootout).

• "Axlotl" is also kind of tangential to Peaks themes, but the Veils song does have several Return-related "amphibian" references recalling the frog-moth in Part 8, one of the few drug references (to the diluted opiate laudanum), and - given Lynch's fascination with head wounds - "Another head for the chopping board."

• Finally, Eddie Vedder's "Out of Sand" appears in an episode involving Cooper's return to the world and Audrey's awakening from some kind of illusion. Both are middle-aged characters who appear to have been robbed of their transition from youth (in the same way Twin Peaks the original series was cut off before finding itself revived a quarter-century later), so Vedder's poignant lyrics feel especially applicable: "Now it's gone, gone. And I am who I am. Who I was I will never be again." In a show whose original run began (Josie) and ended (Cooper) by gazing into a mirror, and for a scene which will conclude with another character (Audrey) doing the exact same thing, "I stare at my reflection to the bone" speaks for itself. Finally, prevalent in fan analyses across the internet (although it took digging into Genius footnotes for me to notice it), the last verse muses, "There's another us around somewhere with much better lives." It's doubtful any of the doppelgangers or tulpas in season three have "much better lives" but they certainly live different ones.

• Although David Lynch is himself very much a baby boomer, aside from Julee Cruise (and the offscreen ZZ Top) there are no boomer acts at the Road House. Vedder, Del Rio, and Reznor are very much Gen X. Jewel, despite achieving fame later than those others, is also X. Most of the other musicians are older millennials although many of their birthdates are hard to come by - Chromatics singer Radelet, Lissie, Van Etten, Trouble saxophonist Zhang, and Veils lead Andrews are for sure early eighties babies, while Hudson Mohawke and Lynch's son are even younger. (The MC is actually older than any boomer - born in the thirties, he's solid silent generation.) For whatever reason, Lynch's musical tastes appear to have crystallized in the nineties and zeroes when he blossomed into an unconventional musician himself, so - surprisingly for someone born in 1946 - the Road House line-up is not a sixties/seventies nostalgia fest; it's composed of groups formed when he was already well into middle age. Interestingly, considering how concerned The Return is with the passage of time, almost all of the relatively youthful acts have become middle-aged themselves at the time of this writing.

• I love this photo of Au Revoir Simone's Erika Forster Spring with a fan and I have nowhere else to put it, so here you go:

Next (uncertain date): Nadine Hurley

To immediately read a month of upcoming entries, updated weekly to stay a month ahead...

(at the time of publication, this includes full entries on new or revised characters among #30 - 25)

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