By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — While session veteran and keyboard/trumpet player Marc Capelle regularly sets backsides as the leader of his all-star R&B revue Marc & the Casuals, the busy musician is finding more and more time taken up by another project far more ambitious project: the Red Room Orchestra.
The versatile player frequently performs with groups paying tribute to specific bands or songwriters, but his latest creative outlet has found Capelle and his collaborators recreating a remarkable range of material. The Red Room Orchestra was initially formed to pay tribute to the music featured in ‘Twin Peaks,’ the surreal television show by iconic director David Lynch that saw a revival with ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’ on Showtime last year.
Lynch’s unique cinematic creations have always put music in the spotlight, from the singing Lady in the Radiator from the director’s 1977 debut and the bizarre visage of Dean Stockwell lip syncing to the Roy Orbison hit “In Dreams” in his Oscar-nominated breakthrough Blue Velvet through his use of both ’50s and modern rock in Wild at Heart and Lost Highway during the ’90s. Lynch made music a cornerstone of ‘Twin Peaks’ and its 1992 cinematic prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, collaborating with his longtime composer Angelo Badalamenti on original songs like the hit “Mysteries of Love” sung by Julee Cruise (who would release a full album of Lynch/Badalamenti tunes and appeared in both the series and film).
Last summer after an initial more stripped-down performance at the Chapel bar with a smaller ensemble, Capelle gathered a high-powered group of San Francisco musicians to play the music of ‘Twin Peaks’ and more Lynch-related offerings at the music venue, taking the stage with an expanded group that was christened the Red Room Orchestra in front of a packed house for a transporting night of atmospheric music.
The positive reception of that show would lead the group to partner with SF Sketchfest for two special evenings of soundtrack-related music at the Chapel. The first night — scheduled to coincide with a tribute to ‘Twin Peaks’ featuring cast members from the original show held at the Castro earlier in the day — reprised the songs from the series for another full house of fans.
This time, many of those ‘Twin Peaks’ devotees were in costume and got to enjoy onstage appearances by many actors from the series including Sherilyn Fenn (who helped judge and Audrey Horne dance contest) and actual song performances by ‘Twin Peaks; The Return’ star and local product Chrysta Bell, James Marshall and Ray Wise, who stepped into his Leland Palmer character to sing “Mairzy Doats.”
For the second night, Capelle and his capable co-conspirators tackled a decidedly different body of work, presenting two separate sets paying tribute to the creative musical curation of director Wes Anderson and the songs used for his films Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. While praised for his meticulous visual style and unique storytelling ever since his debut film Bottle Rocket in 1996, Anderson has been equally celebrated for his keen ear and impeccable taste in creating memorable soundtracks.
Capelle and the Red Room Orchestra were joined by a dazzling array of special guests taking the stage at the Chapel for these two sets include local proto punk/power pop legends Cyril Jordan and Roy Loney of the Flamin’ Groovies, Mekons and Waco Brothers principle Jon Langford, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down frontwoman Thao Nguyen and many others to deliver stellar versions of classic songs by the Kinks, the Creation, the Who, Bob Dylan, John Lennon and the Clash as well as tunes from the intricate film scores composed by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh.
For this appearance at the Castro for the San Francisco International Film Festival, Capelle and the Red Room Orchestra will do something different, providing a live soundtrack for an array of experimental, industrial and educational films, home movies, cartoons and other bizarre shorts drawn from the late local archivist Stephen Parr’s treasure trove of “Oddball Films.” A noted San Francisco avant-garde film and video producer, over the decades Parr amassed a wild collection of film and video detritus that received regular screenings at the Oddball Films warehouse prior to his untimely passing last year.
Plenty of familiar faces from the Casuals’ stable of regular players will create what the SF Film Festival describes as “a No Wave/disco score that features as much ABBA as Albert Ayler” for the grab bag of 16mm footage being screened at the Castro. Participants include Persephone’s Bees guitarist Tom Ayers, avant-garde composer and percussionist William Winant, former Cake drummer Todd Roper, clarinet virtuoso Ben Goldberg, bassist Devin Hoff (Nels Cline, Vijay Iyer, Xiu Xiu), Cibo Matto co-founder Yuka C. Honda, Porchlite storytelling series co-founder Arline Klatte, Dirty Ghosts guitarist Allyson Baker and violinist/vocalist Dina Maccabee (Real Vocal String Quartet, Ramon & Jessica). The live music will receive additional audio manipulation by engineers Kevin Ink, Desmond Shea and Monte Vallier.
The Monday night performance and screening at the Castro is just one of several music-focused programs being featured as part of this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival. Other highlights include Chicago-based experimental alt-punk trio Blonde Redhead making a return visit to the festival to provide a live soundtrack for the beloved 1932 Ozu film I Was Born But… at the Castro, A Thousand Thoughts – A Live Documentary presented by director Sam Green (The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller, The Weather Underground) that focuses on and features experimental classical string group the Kronos Quartet as well as traditional documentaries on music figures including founding Runaways member, punk rock godmother and solo star Joan Jett and groundbreaking Shri Lankan rapper M.I.A.
A Celebration of Oddball Films with Marc Capelle’s Red Room Orchestra
Monday, April 9, 8 p.m. $25