With a camera, a rooftop, and the foggy San Francisco skyline, a group of music lovers is lifting up rising indie artists in the Bay Area.
Every month, Twin Peaks Sessions films live, unplugged performances of musicians playing from a rooftop facing downtown, and posts the recordings on YouTube. The group aims to give local and touring artists a platform to produce and promote their music.
“Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged is one of the best albums ever,” says co-founder Mike Donnelly, explaining the inspiration behind Twin Peaks Sessions. “It’s live, so you hear the raw voice and instruments. And it’s stripped down, so it’s different than what you’d hear on a studio recording.”
Twin Peaks Sessions is run by Donnelly along with Rianne Garrido and John Abrams, who run all the creative vision, photography, videography, and operations themselves. Since January 2019, the group has recorded and published more than 50 sessions, featuring 2-3 songs each, by artists like Spanish Love Songs, Heart Attack Man, and Rome Hero Foxes.
There are no limitations on genre but, to keep noise levels down, drums and heavy bass usually can’t be accommodated. Instead, Twin Peaks Sessions focuses on acoustic sessions, including folk, “punk-turns-acoustic,” and indie rock.
Though the all-ages rooftop sessions are only open to friends and friends of friends to attend, everyone is invited to watch recordings of the performances online. Additionally, Twin Peaks Sessions has branched out to host fully electric shows at public venues throughout the Bay Area, including Bottom of the Hill and the Honey Hive Gallery in San Francisco, 924 Gilman in Berkeley, the Golden Bull in Oakland, and the Longboard Margarita Bar in Pacifica.
It’s this connection to local venues and artists that fueled the creation of Twin Peaks Sessions, along with the recognition that new artists depend on smaller venues to reach a wider base of fans.
“The music scene was dying out,” said Donnelly. “You heard about bars or music venues closing down every month. We’re trying to get into different spaces and do the best we can to deliver more local music and keep it alive.”
Donnelly gave the example of Los Angeles-based punk rock band Spanish Love Songs, who played Hemlock Tavern before it shut down in 2018 and then opened for The Wonder Years at the much-larger Great American Music Hall earlier this month. With more and more smaller venues around San Francisco closing their doors, Twin Peaks Sessions hopes to fill the void, helping emerging artists and bands get a footing and grow their audience.