A few days after Brian Fest, a celebration of Brian Wilson’s career, Los Angeles’ second tribute concert of the week slipped out of the sunshine and into the shadows for a night honoring the cinematic and pop music of David Lynch. While Brian Fest was a jam session with a booze sponsor, Lynch’s event couldn’t have been more different: moody, atmospheric, nuanced, and essentially a faithful musical interpretation of his cinema.
The evening brought a few singalong moments, like Duran Duran’s dance party-inducing closing run of “Ordinary World” and “Hungry Like the Wolf”, and Moby’s requested audience accompaniment for “The Perfect Life”, but mostly it was a night to sit back and let the synthesized orchestral music of Angelo Badalamenti and the voices of Karen O, Jim James, Zola Jesus, Lykke Li, and Sky Ferreira dazzle the dapper, spirited audience at the Theatre at Ace Hotel.
The event benefitted the David Lynch Foundation, which we covered last year at a dinner honoring Rick Rubin. The nonprofit aims to teach transcendental meditation to inner city children, and a few times during the night, the audience was encouraged to donate money to the foundation, though it never became an overbearing shakedown. The cause is of the highest importance to Lynch and even the biggest skeptic would have to admit that it is worth trying out in schools and with people suffering from PTSD, especially when other treatments and educational techniques are consistently failing.
It may be surprising that the surreal darkness present throughout Lynch’s art isn’t necessarily reflective of his worldview. On the contrary, the filmmaker is committed to making the world a better place through humanitarian work, and his personal outlook is more optimistic about humanity than many of his films. There is something intriguing in this duality; it almost demands a reexamination of his art seen through the lens of a hope for civilization’s betterment.
Regardless of its cause, the evening’s task to celebrate the music and inspiration behind Lynch’s art was met, and any expectations for what these kind of all-star benefits can be was far exceeded. Beyond the musical joys, of which there were many, was the personal pleasure you could see in the artists playing Lynch’s music for him, with the director in the front row watching.
Wayne Coyne gave a speech about recording some of the sounds for his band’s contribution from construction workers across the street and mentioned how “fucking excited” he was to meet Lynch. He then followed with a jaw-dropping, emotional, and inspired movement of songs from Eraserhead and The Elephant Man. Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran also gave a speech about how influential Eraserhead was to the band when they were young men. Moby admitted to being beyond inspired for “Go”, claiming to have just ripped Lynch off. But Coyne might have summed up everyone’s relationship with Lynch’s art best when he said simply that he “believes” Lynch. In art, that’s everything. That’s what separates the good from the bad: Do you believe it?
Fortunately for the audience, it was easy to believe in all the singers’ delivery of Lynch’s music. Moby and Karen O both moved feverishly around the stage for their presentations, while Sky Ferreira and Zola Jesus were statuesque and composed. For her unbilled rendition of Chris Issak’s “Wicked Game”, used in Lynch’s Wild at Heart, Lykke Li sang the number in a relaxed, sensual tone, only to raise her pitch to its highest point for the second verse. She showed a rarely exhibited part of her range, and earned a massive and deserved ovation. For a song that has been sung by many people, Li made it memorable and new again.
Maybe the neatest aspect of the night was the payoff for Lynch aficionados. To hear Angelo Badalamenti perform the music from Twin Peaks, even doing the “that gum you love is going to come back in style” bit during “Dance of the Dream Man”, or to watch Rebekah Del Rio perform “Llorando” to a silent crowd, singing just as she does in Mulholland Drive, or to witness Karen O get to offer up a rare rendition of her Crazy Clown Time collaboration with Lynch, “Pinky’s Dream”, was all the sort of stuff that caused those in attendance to reflect on the privilege of being there. Early in the night, it was said that a concert like this has never happened before, and would likely never happen again. By the end of the night, with Lynch reciting an ancient verse to close the show, that declaration seemed likely true.
Laura Palmer’s Theme (from Twin Peaks) – Angelo Badalamenti with Kinny Landrum
Love Me Tender (from Wild at Heart) – Donovan
Swing With Me (from This Train) – Chrysta Bell
In Dreams (from Blue Velvet) – Tennis and Twin Peaks
Llorando (from Mulholland Drive) – Rebekah Del Rio
Blue Velvet (from Blue Velvet) – Sky Ferreira
Sycamore Trees (from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me) – Jim James and Jim Bruening
Pinky’s Dream (from Crazy Clown Time) – Karen O
Dance of the Dream Man (from Twin Peaks) – Angelo Badalamenti with Kinny Landrum and Jim Bruening
Dark Spanish Symphony (from Wild at Heart) – Angelo Badalamenti with Jim Bruening
Falling (from Twin Peaks) – Angelo Badalementi
Wicked Game (from Wild at Heart) – Lykke Li
Go – Moby
The Perfect Life – Moby
In Heaven (from Eraserhead) – Zola Jesus
Soundscape from Eraserhead (with music from The Elephant Man) – The Flaming Lips
The Chauffer – Duran Duran
Ordinary World – Duran Duran
Hungry Like the Wolf – Duran Duran