Shook Twins to headline Wildfest at Owl Farm
If You Go …
What: Wildfest, presented by Wilderness Workshop
Who: Jimmy Ibbotson, Smuggler Mountain Boys, Shook Twins
When: Saturday, July 2, 5-10 p.m.
Where: Owl Farm, Woody Creek
How much: $25/GA; $150/Gonzo Ticket; Free/kids under 12
More info: The festivities will include food from Slow Groovin’ BBQ, a bar, a communal mural painting with Eliza Rogan and a Kids’ Zone featuring Dizzy Lizzy the Clown and activities like face-painting, magic, hula-hooping and bubble-making. The night will close with a performance by the fire-dancing troupe Dance of the Sacred Fire.
Portland, Oregon-based alt-folk band Shook Twins, led by identical twin sisters Katelyn and Laurie Shook, headlines Widlfest on Saturday at Owl Farm in Woody Creek, celebrating public lands and raising funds for the Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop.
Hosted this year on the grounds of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s Woody Creek home, Wildfest’s music lineup also features local favorites the Smuggler Mountain Boys and Jimmy Ibbotson of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
The Shooks are originally from Sandpoint, Idaho, a mountain town in the northernmost stretches of the state. Surrounded by protected forest lands, growing up there gave the Shooks an appreciation for open spaces and unspoiled forest.
“We’re not super-hardcore, but we spend a lot of time outdoors,” Katelyn Shook said on a previous swing through Aspen, when asked about her experience in wilderness areas. “It’s really important to me to have protected areas and open spaces we’re not tearing up and building condos on.”
They headlined the 2014 “Maroon Bells Birthday Bash” at Aspen Highlands. And locals may have also caught the twins at Bluegrass Sundays shows atop Aspen Mountain. On that stop in town, the band also shot a video for the “Gondola Sessions” Web series, featuring the five-member band (they had a fiddler and a ukulele players in tow as special guests) playing “Jessie” and “Window” on a rainy afternoon in a car on Aspen’s Silver Queen Gondola.
“I didn’t think it was possible,” Katelyn said. “I was like, ‘What? We’re all going to cram in there?’”
Since their debut album, 2008’s “You Can Have All the Rest,” Shook Twins have carved out a unique niche in folk music. They use dual harmonies along with the usual tools of the trade — acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo, upright bass, etc. — but with modern touches like beat-boxing and a looping machine. The result is a sound that both honors the American folk tradition and nudges it into modernity.
The band’s most recent album, “What We Do,” released in 2014, includes touches of electronic drums alongside the strings. Among the standout songs on the record is “Shake,” a boot-stomper with a refrain appropriate for Saturday’s occasion: “The Earth is gonna shake you down.”
The twins started playing together as teenagers, with Katelyn writing most of the lyrics and Laurie composing the bulk of the music.
“We were listing to a lot of pop and folky pop, and we’d just look up certain songs we wanted to learn,” Katelyn said. “Eventually we started playing our own songs that were pretty crappy.”
Steadily, they moved out of derivative pop songs into their quirky brand of folk. Moving to Portland, they found the eclectic sounds of the local indie-rock scene permeating their songs. Then they met Niko Daoussis, who plays bass, guitar and mandolin with the Shooks. He had been in a bluegrass band, and his multi-instrumental additions gave the band a more full-bodied and far-reaching sound.
Over time, the band found itself driven to experiment and willing to sound different. Katelyn began singing with a jerry-rigged telephone microphone, giving her vocals a tinny, otherworldy sound. In 2010, they began playing with a large decorative egg filled with popcorn kernels — a percussive touch that’s become a signature for their live shows.
“Any time Laurie and I write a song together, we try to make it different from any song we’ve written or any song we’ve heard,” Katelyn said. “It’s hard to do, but our goal is always to make it something new.”
They record in the basement of their home in Portland, but Katelyn said they wait for the muse to call them before they write and record new material.
“Whenever we’ve forced ourselves to write a song, they haven’t worked,” she said. “So we just wait until inspiration comes, and when that happens — when it’s like, ‘Oh my God, I need to write this song!’ — a song comes out of us in literally like an hour, and it’s done, and that’s it.”
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