At David Lynch’s Festival of Disruption, the filmmaker wants artists with ‘knowledge and mystery’

David Lynch's Festival of Disruption returns to downtown Los Angeles with an eclectic lineup of music and meditation.
David Lynch’s Festival of Disruption returns to downtown Los Angeles with an eclectic lineup of music and meditation.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

As a fairly recent acolyte of filmmaker David Lynch, musician and comic Reggie Watts decided to indoctrinate himself: first with the 30 episodes of the original “Twin Peaks” TV series, followed by the film prequel “Fire Walk With Me,” before diving into this year’s 18-hour revival “Twin Peaks: The Return.”

“I really feel like I know the planet that he’s drawing from,” said Watts, an improvisational, free-associating artist also known as the leader of James Corden’s late-night TV house band. “He’s got a great dark sense of humor.”

Watts and others will be diving ever deeper into the director’s surreal universe this weekend for Lynch’s second Festival of Disruption amid what the comic called the “very Lynchian gothic melted vibe” of the Theatre at Ace Hotel.


The downtown event will mix forward-leaning music acts with art and film, including the warm folk of Bon Iver, the pointed guitars of the Kills, the adventurous rock of TV on the Radio and the emotionally enveloping work of singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten. There will also be onstage interviews with Lynch and painter Ed Ruscha — all to raise funds for the David Lynch Foundation’s mission to bring Transcendental Meditation to schools, military vets and others.

The weekend’s art and music was curated by Lynch and will be “in the spirit of disruptive practices for creativity,” Watts predicted. “I’m going to see as much as I can. I’m super stoked about it.” There will be visual art exhibits by Lynch, Ruscha, photographer William Eggleston and Brian Eno, and DJ sets by Shepard Fairey and Moby, whose early hit “Go” incorporated samples of “Laura Palmer’s Theme” from the original “Twin Peaks.

“I’m the pretty face out front,” Lynch joked by phone from his studio this week. “There’s music, there’s art, there’s talks. It’s an interesting mix. ... It’s a weekend of different things hitting people and hopefully thrilling people.”

The Festival of Disruption has its roots in a 2015 musical tribute to Lynch, also at the Ace and likewise a benefit for the foundation he launched in 2005 to promote Transcendental Meditation. His twice-daily meditations have been a lifelong practice and instrumental in leading him to the “big fish,” or what he calls the larger creative ideas that end up as films or other creative works.

“It’s the same for me as for anybody else that practices this technique,” Lynch explained.

He said Transcendental Meditation has also been shown to help students from high-risk areas relieve stress and improve school performance. “The side-effect is negativity starts to recede. So they see things like stress and anxiety and tension and sadness, depression, hate, anger, fear start to lift away automatically,” said Lynch. “It’s like gold coming in from within, and garbage going out.”

“He’s the real deal,” said Bob Roth, executive director and co-founder of the David Lynch Foundation. “He’s never missed a meditation, believes deeply in it and is obviously a great creative force. He’s the embodiment of this — creative, compassionate.”


Along the way, the foundation has drawn major support from the creative community. A 2009 concert in New York headlined by a rare joint appearance by former Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr was an early high-profile event. And on Oct. 18, Tom Hanks and Mary-Louise Parker host a fundraiser in New York to bring Transcendental Meditation to active-duty military and those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.

While the famous names draw the headlines, Roth noted, “Maybe there’s 50 celebrities, but we’ve taught a half-million kids to meditate.”

The Festival of Disruption is now planned as an annual event in Los Angeles, and will expand into New York and Nashville in coming years, said Jessica Harris, an executive producer of the festival. “It continues to inspire him because he sees its magic and he sees the ripple effect of it,” she said.

Lynch, who is also an active painter, is the final arbiter of what is presented at Disruption. Much of it involves artists he’s worked closely with: this year has singer Rebekah Del Rio (from Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive”) and “Twin Peaks” actress Sheryl Lee. Others on the bill practice meditation or simply create music, art and film that grabbed Lynch’s imagination.

As the talent was being planned, he repeatedly told executive producer Erik Martin during their meetings: “Erik, it can’t be boring, and they have to leave with some knowledge and mystery.”

“He’ll listen to their music, and if it has that feel and it hits him in the gut, they’ll be invited,” said Martin of the music acts. “It all stems from his mind.”


After the initial “The Music of David Lynch” tribute, followed by the first Festival of Disruption last year, the filmmaker was moved by the response. “It really energized him to see these sold-out crowds that were really happy and excited,” says Martin. “We asked him, should we do it again? And the answer was always yes.”

The artists who participate are drawn not only to the cause, but the chance to collaborate with a cryptic movie auteur, a distinctive force in both sound and vision. He’s released two solo albums as a music artist and has produced records for singers Roy Orbison, Julee Cruise and, most recently, Chrysta Bell.

After his many hours submerged with “Twin Peaks,” Watts sensed the filmmaker’s careful use of music and sound. “It’s something I noticed right away,” said Watts. “The way he uses sound to kind of manipulate emotion and create an environment is genius.”

For his Sunday performance, Watts will be winging it, as usual, responding to the environment and the crowd in front of him. He doesn’t practice Transcendental Meditation, but said he sees a connection to his style of performance.

“When I perform, I’m improvising,” Watts said. “And when you’re improvising you go into a state that is very meditative.”

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David Lynch’s Festival of Disruption with Bon Iver, the Kills, Sharon Van Etten, Reggie Watts and more


Where: The Theatre at Ace Hotel, 929 S. Broadway

When: Saturday and Sunday, doors open at 9 a.m.

Cost: $249 — $999