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Lynch’s Festival of Disruption beckons you into his bizarre world

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Model of ticket booth for Lynch's coming Twin Peaks show stands in front of the Ace Theater in Los Angeles at his Festival of Disruption .

Sharlene Celeskey, Contemporary Culture Editor, Puma Press

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“I feel like I am a pawn in David Lynch’s World,” said singer Debbie Harry.

As I enter the neo gothic theatre at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, on Oct. 8, 2016 I feel I will be changed forever. This 1927 remodeled movie theater looks like garish 18th century rococo threw up on a pseudo gothic style church.  I see the brightly lit colorful marquee with the words, Festival of Disruption Curated by David Lynch, and know this all fits perfectly into the Lynch’s bazaar world.

Lynch, known for his surreal cult films, organized a two-day event, Festival of Disruption, with the proceeds going to his foundation.  The event includes the screening of several Lynch films, a myriad of musical guests, a variety of speakers and a photography exhibition. Tickets sell out in 15 minutes.  I go to hear legendary singer Robert Plant but will be excited to hear architect, Frank Gehry and Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of the band Blondie. I have no expectations and am open to what I may encounter. The schedule of events is released at the last minute. I miss several events but see select short films and enjoy seeing his multifarious styles that give me a glimpse of his strange world.

Day 1

The first day, I miss several events, and when I enter the theatre, I see DJ Questlove playing neo soul hip-hop in the lobby. The dance beats blast over the noisy crowd hanging out in the lobby standing in the long line for the bar.

First on stage is electronic artist Jon Hopkins who plays trance music on his synthesizer while a moving slide show projects floating abstract images. The best part of his show is the two melodic songs he plays on piano.

The crimson-lit theater is full when musician St. Vincent (Annie Clark) hit the stage.  She performs with dancers that pose and mime during select songs. Two female dancers come on stage like mirror images in metallic silver shifts. They dance and act out a scene from Lynch’s film, “Blue Velvet,” and almost steal the spotlight. St. Vincent is a highly proficient and respected guitarist, and her lyrics are very meaningful and often tell a story. When she rocks out a psychedelic sounding song, she proves just how highly skilled she is.

I then watch several of Lynch’s shorts that range from surreal to commercial to haunting. Several of his music videos are entertaining and thought provoking, while his film trailers tease you into his eerie world.

Music icon Plants takes the stage, receives a warm reception and launches into his first song, “Turn it Up.” Plant at 68 still keeps his mane of curls long. The crowd is a strange mixture of nerdy Lynch fans, trendy hipsters and old Led Zeppelin/Plant fans. Why is he here in the strange surreal world of Lynch? Apparently, Lynch picked some of his favorite musicians to play the festival.

Plant refuses to join fellow Led Zeppelin members for a reunion but still performs several of their classic songs. He reworks them to sound vastly different and are crowd favorites as they respond with bombastic shouts and claps. Plant is charming and speaks to the audience throughout. This weekend, the “Desert Trip” is being held in Coachella, Calif., where megastars of classic rock like The Rolling Stones and The Who, performs at premium prices. Plant says, “We are lucky to be playing here instead of in the desert,” much to the amusement of the audience. Plant sounds excellent, performs with passion, and is the highlight of the festival for me.

   DAY 2

I arrive at the theater that looks even more macabre in the daylight and wait in a long line to get in and hear Lynch fanatics discussing Lynch’s films in meticulous detail.

Jason Bentley interviews Debbie Harry and Chris Stein from the band Blondie, and it is a lively and often funny interaction. Harry, a former style icon, at 71 keeps her new wave style and wears a gray art print shift with matching leggings and platform sandals.

About yesterday’s festival, Harry replies she really liked St. Vincent’s performance and Stein says, (re: Plant’s show) “Robert Plant really f***ing nailed it.”

Stein discusses the photography he has on exhibition. (Both Lynch and Stein are exhibiting their photographs.) Many of Stein’s photos are of Harry in the 70s when they were a couple and part of the New York Punk scene.

Both Harry and Stein are very engaging with a good sense of humor. When asked about the word disruption Stein talks about its importance and says, “The Punk Scene came along and disrupted the music scene of the time.”

Blondie will be working on releasing an album soon according to Harry. She says, “The creative process is very satisfying but it can also be frustrating. But is exciting when it works.”  She also talks about after learning the purpose of Lynch foundation to bring transcendental mediation to young people, veterans and prisoners, she may start practicing it herself. When she asked Plant about is, he told her he did not know much but now wanted to learn more.

The mood in the Ace Theater becomes more serious when highly regarded architect, Frank Gehry appears on the stage. Two of his more well known buildings are the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles, Calif., and Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. He first met Lynch when they collaborated on a proposed project in Poland that fell through.

Gehry remembers being very young when he heard Adolph Hitler on the radio and how he frightened he was. He then admits he feels the same when he hears Donald Trump speaks. The interviewer Christine McKenna relays that Gehry has turned down projects proposed by Trump multiple times.

Several of Gehry’s earlier buildings have already been torn down but he understands why some have to be replaced. But hesays, “I would be upset if they tore down the Disney Concert Hall in my lifetime” (it was completed in 2003).

Just around the corner from the theater at a hip retail store, I find the Lynch and Stein photos exhibition. Lynch’s photos, like his films, are haunted, eerie and often sad. All are black and white and often blurry, smoky or hazy which distorts the images and generates an ominous feeling.  Lynch also uses extreme light and dark that evokes harshness.

The portraits and street scenes shot by Stein are more energetic and upbeat.  His breathtaking shots of Harry show how well he captured her beauty. During their interview, Stein and Harry talked about the surreal photo of Harry in a borrowed gown once belonging to Marilyn Monroe. While on tour, their apartment caught on fire. When they returned home, Stein photographed the charred kitchen while Harry in Monroe’s gown held a frying pan with flames coming out of it.

Sunday night is packed when Kyle MacLachlan and Laura Dern speak about their experiences working with Lynch. They both loved working with him and tell of their wonderful experiences.  They both starred in Lynch’s highly acclaimed “Blue Velvet” and have been in several Lynch films. MacLachlan starred in the cult series “Twin Peaks.”

Dern shares that Lynch and cast were like family while she thought of him as her mentor.  “The set was filled with mystery while David created the atmosphere. There was never ego on the set. The ambience lent itself to the mood of the film.” She loved the respect he gave each and every worker.

MacLachlan has similar feelings about his experiences.  He felt safe to try things on set. “David,” he says, “makes everyone feel important. The work is special and you feel part of the collaboration.” He explained when Lynch wanted a certain energy in “Blue Velvet” he expertly mixed a multitude of styles to achieve it.

MacLachlan is happy and excited to be back working with Lynch in the new season of “Twin Peaks.”

Afterwards DJ Bentley plays some decent music in the lobby of the theater while the crowd socializes.  Some of his tunes have a retro sound, and he plays my favorite, David Bowie’s “Suffragette City.”

A video montage of Lynch’s work along with information about his foundation plays. I learn how the foundation brings transcendental meditation to at risk groups. The interviews with intercity high school students are enlightening as they tell how 30 minutes of mediation a day decreased their stress level. One student is inspired to attend college after practicing transcendental meditation at school.

The energy in the theater winds down. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith plays electronic trance while colorful hypnotic slides move behind her, and I try to connect to her music. Shortly, I realize why Lynch scheduled the electronic artists. I relax, watch and listen how the images and the music intertwines and flows effortlessly and find myself in a meditative state and enjoy it.

I look forward to the last act, Rhye’s blend of R&B, soul and alternative music, but their first song lacks energy. I stay for two more songs, but tonight they just do not bring it.

Instead, I explore this historic refurbished theater adjacent to the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, where major renovations are happening. Downstairs a large elegant powder room has a row of full length mirrors with makeup lights flanked by cushioned velvet benches. The dingy pink restroom area looks outdated with two sinks missing. A large partition covers the hole and a sign reads, “This is not working right now, but thanks for letting it hang out you for a bit.” The sign adds to the strangeness of Lynch’s world.

Lynch has used Transcendental Meditation (TM) daily since 1973. After he experienced the benefit it was to: children in inner-city schools, victims of violence and veterans with PTS, he started the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace in 2005. The purpose is to teach TM worldwide to children and adults.

When I leave the theater I see others quickly departing. I look at the three dimensional life size ticket window display with Twin Peaks on it. I believe another purpose of the festival is to promote the highly anticipated third season of Lynch’s Twin Peaks and fans hear eagerly await it’s return to TV, on May 21on Showtime, 26 years after the second series ended.



2 Responses to “Lynch’s Festival of Disruption beckons you into his bizarre world”

  1. Tara G on May 6th, 2017 10:04 am

    Nice post! I appreciate the more in depth account of your experience thorough your image making and storytelling. Would have loved to check this out for MANY reason. Plant! OMG 🙂

    I attended a David Lynch Foundation Conference many years ago in Fairfield Iowa where I was a student at MUM – Maharishi University of Management. It was quite a thrill. With all the less than life supporting event happening in this country it’s heartening to see the DLF is still thriving and sharing the simple goodness of a technique like TM (it rocks my world after 10+) years 4 sure). Then there’s Twin Peaks – can not wait!

    Creativity is alive and it is tremendous to see it playing out through Lynch’s many facets!


    PVCC Author Reply:

    Thank you very much Tara G for your comments. It was a special event in many ways. I feel very fortunate to be able to attend it.
    I also enjoyed the film he showed of how TM was changing the lives of intercity school children. Very inspiring.


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Lynch’s Festival of Disruption beckons you into his bizarre world