Live Review: shook twins, aaron guest

Nov. 7, 2013 • wild buffalo

Sitting at the bar at the Wild Buffalo waiting for the show to start, a youngish dude strolls up and starts jawing with me before his second cheek has had a chance to meet the bar stool. He speaks in an excitable rush of emotion… a mix between a child speaking to a best friend about the prospects of this year’s Christmas haul, and a teenager who just found his old man’s Playboy stash. He is AMPED! Appears Mr. Happy was in our fair city for a few days working, stumbled upon a copy of What’s Up! (you can’t make this stuff up, folks) and saw his favorite band from Oregon, The Shook Twins were playing. He immediately extended his stay in Bellingham an extra day and hauled tail to the Buffalo. He exploded into an emphatic rant of the Twins’ best songs, best shows, how he is one of their biggest fans, the “egg,” etc. As he is telling me all this faster than I can fully process, Laurie and Kaitlyn (the Twins) walk right up to him and introduce themselves, having noticed him at previous performances. They wanted to say “Hi” and thank him for coming. The Cheshire Cat himself has never smiled so wide and bright… I love this town.
Aaron Guest started off the evening’s entertainment after the self introduction of, “Hi everyone. I’m Aaron Guest, and this isn’t a Polecat show”. And no, no it was not. Aaron began with just himself, a loop pedal and a 12-string guitar, laying down and layering tracks like he was weaving on a musical loom. Something in the quality and tone of his voice leads one to envision an old ship’s captain sailing cold, wind-tossed seas, singing tales of past deeds and lost women.
After a few solo numbers, Clea Taylor of Rattletrap Ruckus and birthday girl and fellow Polecat member Cayley Schmid joined in the fun. The addition of their cello and fiddle (respectively) with a little change of tempo and attitude found us soon flying over the Irish hillside (or maybe it was the Scottish highlands, I never can tell). Taking some time between songs tuning his guitar left a bit of time to chat up and invite in a crowd that was more than eager to make themselves at home. We have heard a lot of amazing performances from Aaron over the years in one incarnation or another, and this night was no different. He finished the set as a soloist – a lone captain heading back out to sea – a place I believe a part of him always stays.
After a quick break it was time for the Shook Twins to hit the stage. Looking at the stage, it was like something out of Needful Things. A collection of oddities, curiosities, impossible instruments, even a creepy monkey; their name emblazoned on a light bright just offset from a strangely captivating golden egg, you can’t help but get drawn in by the set alone.
The room had filled up nicely during the set break and while moving through the crowd, I really started to notice the faces for the first time. A solid representation of the college set, of course, but there were just as many if not more show-goers who looked like their AARP cards had more than a few trips around the sun on ‘em already. As the music began, the dancing was instantaneous – young and old agreed, it was time to get down and there was no time to waste. I love this town!
The Shook Twins are identical twins, Katelyn and Laurie Shook, as well as Kyle Volkman (bass), Niko Daoussis (mandolin, electric guitar, vocals), and Russ Kleiner (drum kit, percussion). The girl’s voices blend in such sweet, effortless perfection it is like listening to someone harmonize with herself. Alternating seamlessly back and forth between the two of them, they volleyed the lead vocals and back up parts between each other like master jugglers. A little Celtic feel here, some country rhythms, a bluesy number or two, and yes, they did indeed play some folk too. Genre-be-damned, this band is all about creating fun, with each song its own little party.
One of my favorite moments of the night had to be early on in the set when the band left the stage and just the ladies remained with some looping pedals. The sibling songstresses laid down some beat boxing that almost had me looking for a piece of cardboard and a track suit. Stories and quirky anecdotes were shared throughout the set, including a little info about the aforementioned egg.
(Learn the details behind the Magical Golden Egg at www.shooktwins.com/site/the-egg).
The end of the set found the room enveloped in a melodic trance-like sway. Chanting harmonies, rhythmic egg smacking Kaitlyn had acquired a bottle of bubbles and was frolicking around the stage like a wood nymph. The crowd was intoxicated and it had nothing to do with alcohol. As the song ended, the crowd barely hesitated before the applause rose to meet the performers – begging, demanding for one last song. This was the real thing, not the obligatory encore all too many shows result in regardless of crowd response. Plain and simple, these people were just not going to leave yet. There needed to be an encore.
Niko had taken the lead on a couple tunes earlier in the night, and it was once again his time to shine. The band busted into a funky-groove with Niko’s staccato cadence whipping the vibe back into high gear. At one point they even channeled Les Claypool and had the entire audience getting down like they were getting paid with the dance floor moving like a wooden ocean swell underfoot, threatening to swallow any that lost the beat.
You can check out the twins with their side project “Morning Ritual” at The Green Frog Acoustic Tavern on Dec. 11, and their next album is expected to hit the streets in April. For you film buffs out there, look for Laurie and Kaitlyn briefly playing themselves in Dumb and Dumber 2 next November.
–Victor B. Gotelaere