David Lynch’s Festival of Disruption 2017: The 10 Best Moments

Bon Iver, Sheryl Lee, Bill Hader, and Sharon Van Etten cut loose in Los Angeles

Photo by Heather Kaplan
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Photography by Heather Kaplan

“I believe in a family-type atmosphere, where people are free to experiment,” a boyish David Lynch says toward the end of Guy Girard’s fascinating 1989 TV documentary, Don’t Look at Me. Decades later, that belief hasn’t changed: Tinkering, thinking, prodding, and pulling at the seams all bring a smile to the auteur’s face. It’s a practice that’s informed his work since the very beginning; the idea of searching, of finding something, and walking away with a new perspective. But you have to remember, that perspective belongs to you, and no one else, and that’s a vital element of any search, because if it were the other way, and things were black or white, well then life would get very dull very fast.

That sense of experimentation is something that’s been sorely missing from music festivals across the board, which is why Lynch’s Festival of Disruption is such an exciting prospect for the festival industry. It’s an experience that says as much about the mind of the curator as it says about the world at large. Reason being, society is constantly starving for some form of discovery, the problem is that it’s often spoon-fed these revelations, namely through technological means. But as Lynch told everyone on Sunday afternoon during his talk, “New technology are just beautiful things to make life better for us,” and that’s why it’s up to us to keep finding new challenges over leaning upon the niceties.

With the Festival of Disruption, Lynch wants everyone to walk away with something, to ask questions long after they’ve left, to feel like they’ve been involved with an event that has a meaning — a purpose. That’s the conceit behind his two-day soiree, which has now taken over the Ace Hotel and Theater in Downtown Los Angeles for two consecutive Octobers. Granted, much of that purpose involves his Foundation and their inspiring, charitable efforts to bring Transcendental Meditation across the world, from living rooms to school yards to Capitol Hill, but as with anything Lynch does, there are multiple layers to parse through, and this year’s festivities were no exception.

Once again, the festival offered signature musical performances, star-studded conversations, left-of-the-dial screenings, Lynch-related clips, and a number of exciting activations. This time around, though, they upgraded the amenities, adding an ideal food truck area, which came fully stocked with an eclectic roundup of offerings (from Yeastie Boys’ inventive Cooper bagel sandwiches to Pico House’s healthy grain bowls), and a more intuitive collection of galleries. Those looking for a tranquil reprieve could now take in reflective works by William Eggleston, Brian Eno, and Lynch himself at the Ace as opposed to down the street. A minor touch, sure, but a wise move nonetheless that allowed for a stronger unified vision, seeing how the hotel, with its industrial tapestries and Parisian-style restaurant, looks like something straight out of Lynch’s mind.

The only time anyone had to venture outside the Ace was across the street at the Bold gallery, where Polaroid resurrected the infamous Red Room for a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity. With the exception of the R&R Diner, the Red Room is the most iconic set from Twin Peaks, which is why this activation proved to be such a win-win for the fans — and they really went the extra mile. Not only did they rebuild the famed location, but they also used the same props from the show, which meant that everyone got to sit on the same two chairs as Sheryl Lee, Kyle MacLachlan, Laura Dern, Ray Wise, and the list goes on. Coming face to face with on-screen magic is always a joy for fans, but interacting with that magic is a rarity unto itself, and the combination of the two proved to be far more integral than anything the pop-up shop was selling.

In some respects, the Red Room also fell in line with one of the themes being discussed at the festival, particularly that of anti-mimesis, or rather the philosophy that life imitates art. Two of the films screened — Thom Andersen’s 2003 video essay Los Angeles Plays Itself and the aforementioned Don’t Look at Me — comment on this marriage in subtle and not-so-subtle gestures. Andersen’s nearly three-hour breakdown condemns Hollywood filmmaking for marginalizing an entire city, while Girard’s fly-on-the-wall documentary uses footage of Blue Velvet, The Elephant Man, and Eraserhead in an attempt to crack into the inner psyche of our noted auteur. Not everyone was on the same page, as artist Ed Ruscha, when pressed by host Kristine McKenna on his thoughts about the arguments being made in Andersen’s film, shrugged it off, saying: “Movies are movies.”

Maybe, maybe not, it doesn’t really matter. The fact that anyone’s even having that debate — at a music festival, no less — only proves how removed Festival of Disruption is from the homogenized fluff that turned the industry stale long ago. “Something got created here this weekend,” said Bob Roth, CEO of the David Lynch Foundation, on Sunday night. “This is what life is — differences and epiphanies.” That’s not to say everyone was sitting around like a bunch of pretentious scholars, tapping pencils on their chins like they were in a graduate course. No, not at all; in fact, those who did the whole enchilada, as Gordon Cole would probably say, woke up at dawn and partied until dawn, thanks to the swanky DJ sets that kept the festivities going late into the night atop the Ace. These ranged from Dean Hurley to Yacht to a last-minute addition like Flying Lotus.

It’s just further evidence that people of all different callings — and not just those who spent every Sunday night this past summer categorizing notes on the number “315” and names like “Richard” or “Linda” — want something more from a festival. They want to explore, they want to discover, they want to grapple with something they may or may not already understand. The good news is that they will, according to Roth, who announced that the Foundation has plans to expand the festival into more markets. Soon enough, there’ll be a whole lotta shakin’ going on in New York, and possibly Nashville, and maybe, if things really go to plan, in South America. Until then, Lynch will focus on one experiment at a time, but he’ll never stop dreaming — and neither should we.

Click ahead for the 10 best moments from this year’s Festival of Disruption.

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Island Empress 

Laura Marling

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“I hope we meet again,” Laura Marling sang alone on Saturday night, sending shivers down the necks of those who finished Twin Peaks: The Return. Without spoiling too much, that line is the last thing Special Agent Dale Cooper says to his friends near the end of “Part 17”. Of course, it’s just a mere coincidence, seeing how Marling wrote the as-yet-titled composition for Robert Icke’s play, Mary Stuart. But hey, coincidences are a beautiful thing, and this was one gem out of many in the career-spanning set the English singer-songwriter unpacked. After swimming through three tracks off this year’s Semper Femina — specifically, “Wild Fire”, “The Valley”, and “Next Time” — Marling dialed back the clock with favorites from 2013’s Once I Was an Eagle and 2010’s I Speak Because I Can. All were quite emotional, but “Breathe” was something special, especially the way Marling stretched the song way past its five-minute mark. Even so, the reception was rapturous, to which Marling appeared grateful of: “Thank you. It’s a long song.” Fortunately for her she was surrounded by Lynch scholars, who all know a thing or two about patience.

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Revisiting The Return

Twin Peaks Collaborators

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At last year’s inaugural festivities, everyone was chomping at the bit for information surrounding Showtime’s Twin Peaks revival. And while there were a couple of vague teasers, all of which you could find online, Lynch kept the mystery up in the air. That’s where he likes it to be, though, so nobody was too surprised when they shuffled out of the Ace at the end of that weekend without the faintest clue how things would turn up in 2017. (Hell, at the time, we still didn’t even know when the series would drop.) This year, however, was a total 180, as the cat was out of the proverbial bag, which is why host Kristine McKenna was able to pluck the many strings that made this puppet show a reality, speaking to producer Sabrina S. Sutherland, special effects supervisor Gary D’Amico, cinematographer Peter Deming, editor Duwayne Dunham, and sound mixer and music supervisor Dean Hurley. Sadly, casting director Johanna Ray had to back out last minute, but it’s hard to imagine they would have had much time to talk to her anyhow.

Like a pro, McKenna came prepared with a litany of questions to warrant resourceful dialogue. Sutherland went over the complicated scripting process behind The Return and how it confused Showtime, who were expecting episodic television. “We didn’t know how long it’d be,” she admitted, explaining that once it came time to actually roll, the production went on for 140 nonstop days, which broke down to six workdays with one left for planning the following week. She also extrapolated on Lynch’s process, and how some things were left ambiguous on paper until it came time to execute, referencing the atomic bomb sequence of “Part 8”, which went back and forth from being 16 or eight minutes. “He wants to experiment,” she added, “If an idea comes, he wants to be able to shoot it.” Sutherland also reminisced about her time on-screen as Brett Gelman’s Las Vegas assistant, insisting that “David was kind of getting back at me,” for not wanting to play a role by constantly changing the total sum of Mr. Jackpot’s winnings.

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Both D’Amico and Deming, longtime collaborators of Lynch’s, had some fun going over the technical aspects of the filmmaker’s work, dissecting a few of the more complicated shots and sequences from over the years. You know, stuff like destroying that cabin at the end of Lost Highway or demolishing that car at the beginning of Mulholland Drive, to which McKenna humorously asked, “Why do you guys like to blow things up?” One fun fact was learning how the latter crash actually cut a hole in the road near Griffith Park, which surprised even D’Amico. With regards to The Return, a couple of the more arduous tasks for the two were trying to visualize the Fireman’s “house by the sea,” as it was described on the script, to which Deming added, “of course, it’s not a house and it’s not by the sea,” and all the driving sequences of “Part 18” with Cooper and Laura, all of which weren’t through towing but strictly free-hand. Still, they would do it again in a heartbeat, as Deming said what every fan has been thinking, “Nobody really wanted it to end.”

McKenna really had some fun with the final two collaborators, Hurley and Dunham, who waxed nostalgic on their long, winding road with Lynch. Hurley, who’s been his go-to music guy since the days leading up to 2006’s Inland Empire, shared a number of fascinating anecdotes. One such revelation was how Lynch instantly knew to slow down the Muddy Magnolias’ cover of “American Woman”, to which Hurley added, “It’s all about twisting it to get he wants it to do.” He also brushed on his time in the studio with Lynch and how it really boils down to “two guys jammin and dicking around” with an “ecosystem of possibilities.” You can tell his mind is just as mathematical as Lynch’s. On the other hand, Dunham has been working with Lynch since 1986’s Blue Velvet, a project he was initially hesitant about upon reading the script (“I’m kind of a Disney guy”), but one he clearly appreciates. He went into the specifics of everything from this past season’s complicated opening credits to his days on the original pilot, which he calls “liquid gold.”

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As Major Briggs once said, “Achievement is its own reward, pride obscures it.” Rest assured, each and every one of Lynch’s collaborators has a right to be prideful.

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Let’s Rock!

The Kills

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It’s kind of crazy how much The Kills sound like they belong on the Lost Highway soundtrack. We know, we know, singer Alison Mosshart and guitarist Jamie Hince didn’t actually meet and form the rock outfit until four years after Bill Pullman turned into Balthazar Getty. But seriously, there was no mistaking the parallels on Sunday night as the two tore down the Ace’s stage. Christ, even titles of the songs they played look like they were written by Lynch around that era: “Heart of a Dog”, “Kissy Kissy”, “Black Balloon”, “Doing It to Death”, “Baby Says”, and “Tape Song”. Whatever the case, the Kills were in good company for over an hour, as their legion of fans, many of them wearing their limited edition shirts being sold in the lobby, stood up and shouted fore more, more, and more. Mosshart, like a claustrophobic cheetah in a public zoo, prowled about the stage, going around in manic circles as if she were scoping out her prey. It was intimidating, but it was also pretty wicked, and that spooky demeanor gave them quite an edge. By the time she started beating the shit out of the percussion on “Pots and Pans”, she looked ready to rip someone’s head off, proving that mechanical excellence and one-thousand four-hundred horsepower pays off. Then again, I like to remember things my own way.

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Laura is the One

Sheryl Lee

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When it comes to Twin Peaks, there will always be Laura Palmer. She’s the raison d’être of the iconic series, which says a lot given how expansive Lynch and Mark Frost’s world is following this past summer’s The Return. Even though the Showtime revival was promoted with Kyle MacLachlan’s dashing mug plastered across billboards and online ads, it was Sheryl Lee you saw in the beginning of the 18-episode rollercoaster and it was Sheryl Lee you heard at the very end of the ride. So, it only seemed natural that she would be a part of this year’s festivities, seeing how her journey as Laura has ostensibly come to a close, and, like one might have written at the end of Laura’s yearbook, what a long and strange trip it’s been. That feeling, as everyone learned on Sunday afternoon, isn’t lost on Lee, who has lived with the role for decades and had some sobering sentiments to share.

Following the special viewing of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, which swapped in for Lost Highway after Bill Pullman’s last-minute cancellation, host Kristine McKenna asked Lee what she had been feeling back in the early ’90s once work had come to a finish on the movie. After all, it’s a very dark and tough role to play, one that requires Lee to be brutally abused, both mentally and physically, on-screen. “I was so immersed in Laura’s world,” she recalled. “I remember a few weeks after we wrapped, standing in a grocery store, and I had thought — and then I realized … I actually had that thought, that was my thoughts again. I had so been in Laura’s thoughts and Laura’s world and Laura’s energy that it was two weeks before I went, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s space for me again.'” McKenna then detailed the ungodly physicality of the role, something that immediately struck Lee.

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“The hardest part about playing that character is that this happens to our youngsters everywhere all over the world in real life all the time,” Lee said without pause. “That character is a character in a story in a film in a TV show, but knowing that this goes on every day, everywhere, at such alarming statistics … that’s the hardest part.” From there, the conversation shifted to several nuances of the show (yes, that was her scream in “Part 18”) and her relationship with Lynch (she has fond memories of his smile), only to come full circle again when McKenna revisited the same question with regards to her performance on The Return. “The part, again, that’s hard is now, as a 50-year-old woman going, ‘Wow, here we are, this is still Laura’s story, and the real-life statistics are still as high if not higher than they were for victims of sexual abuse,” she digressed. “That’s the hard part for me. I still see Laura’s story, now as a 50-year-old woman and mother, and think, ‘Wow, all these decades have gone by … what do we need to do to heal this? What can we do?”

That question wasn’t exactly rhetorical as McKenna asked her if she had any ideas herself. “I think talking about it is the beginning,” Lee added, “and it starts everywhere.” Again, it was a very sobering moment of the weekend, and a bold reminder that, yes, this series does have its roots in a very real and very terrifying situation that has sadly become a crisis in our society. Hearing Lee talk about this was somewhat of a revelation, adding weight to a role that’s often relegated to simple iconography, that familiar prom photo that smiles now from posters, shirts, canteens, and FunkoPop figures. Ironically enough, Lee would immediately appear next to those very things following this interview, signing merchandise and speaking to fans at the pop-up shop outside the theater. Watching her interactions, you could see how she clearly touched so many people who came to listen (wouldn’t be the first time in her career), and in a weekend filled with leaders and influencers and teachers, it was nice seeing another one stand up.

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Perhaps this isn’t the end of Laura Palmer, after all.

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I’ll See You in One Year

Rebekah Del Rio

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It’s hard to say goodbye. But when the person who’s waving farewell sounds like Rebekah Del Rio, eh, walking away doesn’t hurt as much. Or, maybe it does, depending on how spiritually tied you are to Twin Peaks. For this writer, The Return was nothing short of life-changing, a welcome escape from reality and a reaffirmation that pop culture can aspire to be great and actually be great. When we heard Laura Palmer scream and shatter that world on the evening of September 3rd, it was riveting and yet overwhelming, too, not only because it was so moving but because it was so emotionally draining.

Just like that, it was all gone, as if the proverbial doors to that escape had simply vanished, no different than the entrance at Glastonbury Grove, those curtains fading into oblivion. But, the lead up to Festival of Disruption had maintained that lack of presence, creating this illusion that the escape wasn’t gone and that the energy surrounding Twin Peaks was still alive. So, when Del Rio emerged shortly after The Kills to perform her all-too-fitting Roadhouse ballad “No Stars” — in front of red curtains, no less — it truly felt like we were slowly being awakened, as she sang, “Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid.”

In this world, who can’t be?

Keep going, there’s plenty more to see…

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The Wolves Are Not What They Seem

TV on the Radio

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Seats are often the death knell of any potentially great rock show. It’s an all-too-easy crutch to lean upon, and too many concertgoers get lazy, opting to sit back when they should be standing up and going nuts. So, when TV on the Radio arrived only 20 minutes or so after the quiet elegance of Laura Marling, nobody expected anyone to go a little nuts — especially a crowd at a charity event. But, then you forget about how hard the Brooklyn rockers can boogey, and how their mercurial blend of critically-acclaimed art rock can leave listeners so susceptible to grooving. Songs like “Young Liars”, “Province”, and especially “Golden Age” will do that, and the band were well aware of this power.

“Get up and dance at your own pace,” guitarist Kyp Malone confidently told the crowd. That latter Dear Science cut got people on their feet, but it was really the punk rock blitzkrieg of Return to Cookie Mountain anthem “Wolf Like Me” that turned everyone into little Audrey Hornes, pogoing around between the aisles as if they were in the Roadhouse. From there, the band embraced the silky moods of Angelo Badalamenti, what with the balmy cadence of “Love Dog”, the dreamy repetition of  “Ambulance”, and the dark drama of “Staring at the Sun”. It was a fitting closing medley to an unlikely set that set the bar inordinately high for Justin Vernon, who had to be sweating off to the side.

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The Joy of Meditating with Bob Roth

Pete Holmes and Bill Hader

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Very few festivals can get away by starting at 10 in the morning. But when said early-bird activities involve a little meditation with one of the truest masters of the craft and two of the funniest comedians around, you get your ass out of bed. Such was the case Saturday and Sunday morning as Bob Roth, the CEO of the David Lynch Foundation and an instructor of Transcendental Meditation for over 45 years, hosted hilariously in-depth conversations with Pete Holmes and Bill Hader, respectively. The festival couldn’t have booked either comic at a better time as both of them are currently at the top of their game. In addition to recording weekly episodes of his podcast You Made It Weird, Holmes is heading into the second season of HBO’s Crashing and working on a forthcoming book about religion. While Hader has his hands in half a dozen projects, ranging from IFC’s Documentary Now! to his own forthcoming HBO series, Barry, to a number of other film and television appearances. Needless to say, they had plenty to discuss.

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Yet most of the conversation centered around how meditation helps facilitate their comedy. Without getting too preachy, Roth managed to navigate the discussion so that rather than this feeling like hour-long commercials for TM, it came off like legitimate discussions. True to his introspective spirit, Holmes went deep into how it helps him relax, admitting: “No matter how many times I do it, I still don’t want to do it,” adding that 15 minutes into a session, though, it “feels like you’re wrapped in a marshmallow.” He also ingeniously likened his quest to find his inner calm by pointing to the “green pastures” and “still waters” of his religious upbringing, wondering how he could find that. Hader, on the other hand, explained how his on-screen anxiety at Saturday Night Live prompted him to seek help, and how his fandom for Lynch led him to his book, Catching the Big Fish. Like Holmes, he also wrestles with his daily commitment, but humorously added, “The day that Trump became president, I started doing it twice a day.”

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Naturally, these discussions led to some exceptional anecdotes. Both comics are masters of improv and it really seemed like every second was another laugh as they bantered with Roth or played off the audience’s energy. Holmes is a ball of energy and his random asides were a mile a minute and he went deep with his references, touching upon everyone from Russell Brand to Alan Watts to Franciscan friar Richard Rohr to Jerry Seinfeld. Hader, as expected, torched the theater with his blink-and-you’ll-miss-em impersonations, which seem to be a natural extension of his overall personality. As he shared some great memories from Saturday Night Live, he talked about how he and fellow writer John Mulaney would try to get Lynch on the show, which, of course, led to Hader doing Lynch’s high-pitch voice. When Roth pointed out producer Sabrina S. Sutherland in the crowd, Hader, in his best Lynch, shouted, “He said what? Tell him to go fuck himself! At my festival? He does me? Is he fucking kidding?” He continued to riff on this drawn-up scene, joking that he’s going to come home to find Robert Blake (of Lost Highway) waiting for him as revenge. By then, everyone was rolling on the floor.

And yet, 25 minutes later, they were silent and still and meditating.

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: – ) ALL (Alone)

Bon Iver

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“Yes, it is intimidating going on after TV on the Radio,” Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon admitted two songs into his solo headlining set. Anyone who had seen the Brooklyn art rockers would have agreed with him, but if Vernon was truly nervous, the guy did a hell of a job couching his fears. Because really, it had to take the utmost confidence to conjure up the wall of noise that he delivered to a packed house on Saturday night. No, it took loads of passion and faith, and that was ostensibly gushing out of our woodsy hero, who couldn’t have been more grateful to be there. “Mr. Lynch’s foundation is going after love and understanding,” he emphasized between songs. “That’s something we need more of … we need to go in, stop going out so much.”

If Lynch is, indeed, going after a little knowledge and mystery with his Disruption, he couldn’t have booked a better act than Vernon. Much like the famed auteur, the introspective singer-songwriter is always pecking away at the boundaries of his own work, and that forward-style thinking was all over his performance. In addition to revisiting a handful of expected favorites off his three critical diamonds — you know, like “Calgary”, “Flume”, “Skinny Love”, and “For Emma” — he also zig-zagged through inspired covers by Johnny Cash (“Unchained”), Donny Hathaway (“A Song for You”), and fellow festival pal Sharon Van Etten, who came out to duet on her own ballad “Love More”. The way they embraced spoke volumes about their time at the festival.

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You could tell this was an emotional event for Vernon, and he was relishing every moment. “There are people out there with massive health issues,” Vernon once again spoke favorably on behalf of the Foundation, before admitting: “I’m one of them.” Now, given his heart-wrenching catalogue, it could have been so easy for this to turn into a heady stroll through Bummerville, but he never relented. Instead, he kept things jovial, whether it was gushing over his engineer Chris Messina or humorously imagining a guy at a charity concert storming out over a buggy loop pedal. He was a charmer, alright, enough that one woman even shouted out, “I love my boyfriend, but, oh, Justin Vernon!” The feeling was quite mutual. He had everyone smiling.

Even himself.

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Ladies and Gentlemen…

Sharon Van Etten

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“Okay, I got past the butterflies for a second and now I can say hello,” Sharon Van Etten said with a little humility, some three songs into her heart-warming set on Sunday evening. “This is the first time I’ve performed since I’ve had a baby. My friends Heather [Woods Broderick] and Dave [Depper] helped me reinterpret some old songs, especially for this festival.” And how! Bathed in synths and running on electronic percussion, the New Jersey singer-songwriter stepped right back into our lives with a wide-ranging set of songs we all know and cherish, specifically: “Much More Than That”, “Same Dream”, “Our Love”, “You Know Me Well”, “Tornado”, “Tarifa”, “Love More”, “I Wish I Knew”, and, yes, “Everyday the Sun Comes Up”.

As she said, they all sounded new. They were given another purpose, a fresh perspective, which makes sense when you consider the obvious, that Van Etten is hardly the same person she was on her last release, 2014’s exceptional Are We There. Granted, lots of people change in three years, but Van Etten has really soared to new heights, not only becoming a mother but expanding her reach in pop culture. When her music’s not appearing in shows like Twin Peaks or films like Strange Weather, she is herself, as she proved last year when she popped up as Rachel in Netflix’s mystery series, The OA. Then you remember all those times she recently guested alongside The National, too.

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In a way, she never really left us, but her performance on Sunday had all the electricity of a much-hyped reunion. She was admittedly somewhat timid, but only when the silence settled in. “Almost made it through the set without any calamities that I’m aware of,” she joked after her sweeping rendition of “Love More”, the same track she performed with Justin Vernon the night before. “I feel very honored to be a part of this fest. As crazy as the world is right now, I feel a lot of love in this room.” She wasn’t wrong, there was a lot of love in the room, and it was quite apparent that her connection to her audience is stronger than ever. Still, that didn’t relinquish the butterflies, as she later teased herself after some banter: “Brilliant, Sharon. Brilliant!”

Hey, no argument there.

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The Return of Oz

David Lynch

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Truth be told, no headliner could have taken the spotlight off of David Lynch. When it was first announced that he would be sitting down for an hour-long interview with host Kristine McKenna, it elevated this year’s Festival of Disruption from a “nice-to-attend” to a “must-attend.” Save for an incredibly unlikely resurrection by late greats such as Stanley Kubrick or Alfred Hitchcock, there isn’t a single filmmaker as enigmatic and as universally lauded as Lynch. For decades now, he’s cultivated a personality that’s as mysterious and as elusive as his exhaustive body of work, which comprises films, books, paintings, songs, poetry, sculptures, and we can keep going on until our heads are crushed by woodsmen. But, as anyone familiar with his personality can attest to, he’s one hell of a human being, a sharp and insightful speaker that operates with a mathematical mind. He may be shooting from the hip, as his editor Duwayne Dunham says, but you never get the feeling that what he’s saying isn’t completely genuine. It’s just not in his constitution.

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So, you can imagine the energy that ricocheted across the Ace Hotel’s magnanimous theater when Lynch finally surfaced. If you recall, he maybe said two sentences in all of last year’s festivities — fully embracing the titular role of one of his favorite films, The Wizard of Oz — but you couldn’t get him to stop talking this year. Following an expected standing ovation, the rapport between McKenna and Lynch was immediate as the two plunged headfirst into The Return. She asked him about the difficulty in making an 18-hour movie (“It’s all hard work, but it’s so much fun, you don’t realize it’s hard work”), surprising on-screen chemistry (“Hutch and Chantal”, “The Mitchum Brothers”), casting Don Murray (“I love Mr. Mullins and I love Don Murray”), the late Harry Dean Stanton (“Harry Dean, there’s nothing better than Harry Dean”), The Platters’ “My Prayer” (“The lead singer goes high at the end, and before that, you’d think that if it wasn’t for that tremendous last bit, it could have been a more ordinary song”), recognizing bad ideas (“Bad ideas make us do bad things and there’s a law of nature that says ‘what you sow is what you reap’…”), the hazards of electricity (“Like Hawk says, it depends on the intention — like atomic energy, it can be used for good, it can be used for bad”), and the implications of the atomic bomb in “Part 8” (“I don’t talk about things like that, Kristine”).

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Unbeknownst to everyone, the conversation quickly pivoted into an open Q&A, and to help facilitate the questions, Lynch called out Candie (Amy Shiels), Mandie (Andrea Leal), and Sandie (Giselle DaMier). Clad in the same pink cocktail waitresses from The Return, the three actresses stayed in character the whole way through, passing the microphone to each fan who lined up to ask a question. One hilarious recurring bit was how Candie refused to listen to anyone but Lynch, who had to keep reminding her to pass the microphone. But to the audience’s credit, there was hardly a single embarrassing question in the mix, which has to be a feat in the history of public Q&As. Instead, the line of questioning was curiously insightful, prompting Lynch to extrapolate on a rolodex of themes, issues, and trivia. Some came to share personal anecdotes, such as one international fan, who dressed up as Julee Cruise, and emotionally confessed that it was Lynch’s work that gave them agency to feel free. But often it was Lynch doing the storytelling, and one uplifting tale involved the Foundation’s work out in Hartford, Connecticut, where their lessons on transcendental meditation at the city’s worst school actually wound up affecting nearby gang youth. The story ended with the unnamed gang leader in tears, having reached a personal epiphany for himself.

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Seriously, you could transcribe the entire conversation and find inspiring mantras for days, though his take on the mystifying power of love is one that, hopefully, everyone can appreciate and cherish:

“All this love is in us, and I would say, like the transcendent, this field within every one of us human beings is a field of infinite unbounded love. And that field can be enlivened by transcending, by practicing Maharishi’s transcendental meditation. Also in that field is infinite intelligence, creativity, happiness, energy, power, and peace. So, it’s an unbelievably great field and everybody knows if you’re driving down the road, and you’re sitting next to someone that you’ve just fallen in love with, or you’re in love with, and they are are in love with you, and you are in love with them, and you’re riding down the road together. Some car cuts in front of you, zero problem. Someone wants to come out from a parking place, no problem whatsoever. If you’re riding down the road, and you’ve just broken up with this person, and you hadn’t had much sleep the night before, and a bunch of things are going wrong … someone cuts in front of you, you reach for your gun.”

kaplan cos fest disruption sun lynch 20 David Lynch’s Festival of Disruption 2017: The 10 Best Moments

Yet Lynch also has a way with his words, and the manner by which he recalls some things only solidifies the notion that he is, indeed, Gordon Cole. When one person asked him if he had any ideas — or “fishes” — for VR, Lynch said, “There was a gentleman that came by the house last week or a week and a half ago — a virtual reality man — so who knows, maybe that’ll open up a doorway to something like that.” When another fan came to him with a couple of wild theories, undoubtedly prime stuff for r/twinpeaks, Lynch acquiesced: “I can pretty much tell you — basic rash,” he stressed with a smile, shooting down any high concept theories revolving around Sky Ferreira’s manic itching at the end of “Part 9”. When the fan apologized, admitting how he tends to overthink what’s connected and what’s not in his intricate oeuvre, Lynch contended that he knows the nature of his work warrants this kind of thinking. But here’s the thing, he never once appeared frustrated throughout this entire exchange — quite the opposite. Rather, he appeared to be having a laugh with it, engaging in these zany connections, and that was reassuring. It was one of many kernels of truth peppered throughout this conversation, all of which gave everyone a better understanding of their spiritual mentor: the man behind the red velvet curtains.

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For once, we also stepped behind them.

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Photographer: Heather Kaplan

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