Friday's Damn Fine Music Festival rolled the dice and came up sevens. Members of 19 Dallas bands were scrambled and assembled into five new ones for the Twin Peaks-inspired concept concert at Three Links, and the result was a surprisingly cohesive show that paid tribute to David Lynch's iconic nighttime soap and attracted a large turnout.
"Pretty soon, we're going to have to start worrying about capacity," one Three Links employee remarked toward the end of the evening while surveying the crowd of people sporting trench coats and thick red-framed glasses.
Before the concert began at 9 p.m., some of the night's talent — selected from bands of all genres — expressed concern that their groups should have practiced more or come up with a more detailed concept. Others, like The Arm band’s guitarist, Kenneth Pritchard, were excited to present the three months of work that had gone into the one-off performance.
Damn Fine Music Fest offered Pritchard, who normally fronts the rock band Dead Mockingbirds, the chance to show fans a different side of himself. It also created healthy competition between Pritchard and Dead Mockingbirds drummer Matthew Crain, who played drums in the Killer BOB band.
Whether nervous or excited to perform, these eclectic, one-night-only supergroups performed sets that seemed polished and at times even effortless.
"The show just gets better with each act," one concertgoer who had recently moved to Dallas from Georgia said. "Everybody has represented their character perfectly."
Another attendee, who follows the local music scene closely, described the evening as "an awesome exhibition of all the talent Dallas has to offer."
The bands used costuming, visuals and even a bit of acting to communicate their characters. Members of the Log Lady band, which played first, wore the character’s signature red-framed glasses, and the Laura Palmer band members dressed themselves in clear trash bags meant to resemble body bags. The Dale Cooper band rocked an FBI-chic look.
The Killer BOB band perhaps did the best job developing its character, which was main focus of the performance. Midnight Opera’s Teddy Waggy, who provided guitar and vocals for the band, said the group had “wanted to start in 1960s Roy Orbison territory and end with a more destructive, metal tone.”
“Lyrically, we wanted to move through BOB’s possession of different characters,” he said, which was accomplished in the set’s finale with the members exiting the stage in a haze of distortion to scream in the faces of audience members.
Each band was accompanied by a local artist who combined clips from the TV show with original imagery to add a visual element to the performance. Most of the artists chose to work digitally, but The Arm band’s Michael Morris projected film manually from his Eiki Slimline projector.
“It’s more of a challenge,” Morris said, “but it provides a better texture, I think. That, and because I’m using short pieces of film, I can loop images and connect with the music more through improvisation.”
The Dale Cooper band employed the help of professional actor Garrett Smith to pull its concept together, leading the audience through Cooper's many stages on the show. He begins as a bright-eyed, doughnut-eating, coffee-sipping agent and ends as a bloody mess.
Damn Fine Music Festival could have been a cacophonous disaster. (Its creator and promoter, Jeffrey Brown of King Camel Productions, told the Observer last week that he hadn't heard any of the music.) Instead, virtuosity and innovation ruled the night.
The middle act, the Laura Palmer band, seemed to connect with the audience the best, even getting people to dance along to a funky bass, a noise rock guitar, new wave keys, drums and a hammered dulcimer during its final song. Sammy Rios of Rat Rios said the emotional last song is one she had been working on before being assigned to the Laura Palmer band, but she realized it fit perfectly with the character.
“She never had a fighting chance," Rios says. "Her whole life was this uphill battle, but when she met her death, she finally met her angel.”
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Brown said he was pleased with the result and the turnout.
“Well, well, well… tonight’s performances were beyond my expectations — my very high expectations," he posted to Facebook afterward. "This may have been the best show I’ve ever thrown. Everyone, the audience, the bands, everything has been so positive!”
Brown said he's planning future concept shows.
"I want to make this an annual thing," he said.