By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — While session veteran and keyboard/trumpet player Marc Capelle still occasionally sets backsides in motion 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).
In the summer of 2017 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 including Dirty Ghosts guitarist Allyson Baker, Persephone’s Bees guitarist Tom Ayers, drummer Todd Roper (Chuck Prophet, Cake), percussionist Larry Mullins (aka Toby Dammit, who has played with Iggy Pop, the Residents, Swans and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds), singer Karina Denike (Dancehall Crashers, NOFX, the Cottontails), violinist/vocalist Dina Maccabee and saxophonist Tom Griesser (New Morty Show, Brass Monkey, the Cottontails) 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 in 2018 for the first time to perform 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 — featured 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 (who brought down the house with her rendition of the Jimmy Scott song “Sycamore Trees” from the original series), James Marshall and Ray Wise, who stepped into his Leland Palmer character to sing “Mairzy Doats.”
That year, the group presented a second night of music paying tribute to the creative musical curation of director Wes Anderson and the songs used for his films Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums with a variety of special guests. In 2019, the Red Room Orchestra reprised its “Twin Peaks” tribute in addition to delivering a stunning performance of the music from another classic of modern cinema, the soundtrack to the Cohen Brothers’ film The Big Lebowski.
For this return engagement at the Chapel on the second weekend of the SF Sketchfest, the ensemble will tackle a new soundtrack before revisiting the music of “Twin Peaks.” Friday night spotlights the music of director Paul Thomas Anderson’s breakout film, the ’70s porn industry period piece Boogie Nights. An epic tale set in the San Fernando Valley, the film follows the rise and fall of Mark Wahlberg’s character Eddie Adams who goes from nightclub dishwasher to porn star “Dirk Diggler” with the help of director Jack Horner (a role that earned Burt Reynolds an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor), the film established the director as one of America’s new auteurs in 1997.
Packed with an array of funk and disco classics (War, The Emotions, Silver Convention, Marvin Gaye, The Commodores and Hot Chocolate), pop gems (Three Dog Night, Melanie, Elvin Bishop, Juice Newton) and ’80s rock hits (Night Ranger, Nena, ‘Til Tuesday and Rick Springfield) as well as film composer Michael Penn’s orchestral cues, the Boogie Nights soundtrack will give the Red Room Orchestra ample room to stretch out. The group will be assisted by special guests including comedian and regular SF Sketchfest headliner Margaret Cho, stand-up and “SNL” player Chris Redd, member of the band The Long Winters John Roderick, comedian, actor and musician Dave Hill, lauded local songwriter Kelley Stoltz, regular Capelle collaborator Bart Davenport and Porchlight Storytelling founders Beth Lisick and Arline Klatte.
On the second night of the two-evening run, the Orchestra digs deeper to perform some lesser known tracks from “Twin Peaks” alongside music from another Lynch creation, the dark and twisted family drama Wild At Heart that includes everything from big-band swing (Glen Miller’s “In the Mood,” the Casa Loma Orchestra’s “Smoke Rings”), ’50s rock (Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent) and Bay Area rock crooner Chris Isaak. The group receives assistance from returning “Twin Peaks” stars Fenn and Wise as well as special guests Cho, Hill, Stoltz and Lisick.
SF Sketchfest: The Red Room Orchestra
Friday-Saturday, January 17-18, 8 p.m. $40-$45