Four parts, one SHEL: Palisade Bluegrass and Roots Festival headliner
On Tuesday, Hannah Holbrook was in charge of hospitality.
She and her three sisters were in the process of filming a music video, and they try to do as much as they can “in house,” Holbrook said in a phone interview that day. But this time they hired a videographer and they were expecting a professional jouster that afternoon to be part of the video.
Just another busy day for SHEL: 20-something sisters Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza Holbrook (thus the band name acronym), who on Friday, June 10, can be found headlining the first night of the Palisade Bluegrass and Roots Festival set for Friday through Sunday, June 9–11, in Riverbend Park.
While the instruments the sisters will bring on stage are ones commonly found at a bluegrass festival — Eva is lead vocals and plays mandolin and guitar; Hannah, piano and keys; Sarah, violin and guitar; and Liza, drums and beatboxing — the sound isn’t, exactly.
“In broad terms, we say we’re alternative because we have so much crossover,” Hannah Holbrook said.
There is rock, jazz, bluegrass and pop in SHEL’s music, and growing up in the Fort Collins area they listened to Sting, Enya and The Beatles. “So what’s going to come out of that ...,” and Holbrook’s voice trailed off into a question mark.
SHEL’s set for Palisade Bluegrass likely will be a “more rocking set” with Liza on a full drum kit. “We love playing festivals so she can just rock out,” Holbrook said.
The group will play music from both of its full albums, the self-titled debut from 2012 and “Just Crazy Enough” released in 2016, and perhaps some new tunes, maybe some a cappella songs the sisters have been working on, she said.
“I’ve been told that our live shows have more energy and a kind of energy that you can’t capture in the studio,” Holbrook said.
That’s frustrating because SHEL wants to capture its best for an album, “but these days a CD is a shiny invitation to a live show,” Holbrook said.
And at this live show, the Holbrooks’ older sister probably will be in attendance. Margot Becktell is a biology professor at Colorado Mesa University. “She usually comes and dances whenever she can,” Holbrook said.
Becktell is 5 feet, 2 inches and Holbrook is 5 feet, 11 inches, “and because she’s the shortest, she can dance better than me,” Holbrook said.
“She’s 13 years older than me,” Holbrook said, so Becktell was often away at college while the sisters of SHEL and their older brother were growing up. Becktell received her doctorate from Cornell University and was always an inspiration to Holbrook.
“I went to college because she went to college,” Holbrook said.
She was studying piano performance at Colorado State University when things really took off with the band, so she dropped out and went with SHEL.
“I think I scared the grandparents a bit,” Holbrook said, referring to another connection SHEL has to the Grand Valley.
The sisters’ grandparents, Dr. Lynn “Jesse” and Patricia James lived here, and their mother grew up here.
James, an internist who began practicing in the Grand Valley in 1951, worked with Dr. Geno Saccomanno on the detection and treatment of lung cancer. He and his wife, who died in 2008, were quite involved in the local community and beyond.
“A lot of folks knew him as Doc James,” Holbrook said. “We’ve come across people in other countries who knew him.”
James died in early May, and it seemed to Holbrook that it wasn’t long ago that she and her sisters were in the Grand Valley to tell him goodbye.
“I’m still learning about what he did. I was just a kid. He was just my grandpa,” Holbrook said. “It’s all pretty amazing. I didn’t know he was so generous with his time and resources ... pretty proud of him.”
SHEL is set to take the stage at the Palisade Bluegrass and Roots Festival at 8 p.m. Friday.
Learn about SHEL at shelmusic.com and on Facebook.
PALISADE BLUEGRASS AND ROOTS MUSIC FESTIVAL
From Friday through Sunday, June 9–11, Riverbend Park, 451 Pendleton St., will be filled with a variety of music, vendors and activities for the whole family. Single-day tickets and three-day passes ($45–$190) as well as camping options are available at palisademusic.com and at the box office.
The box office and the gates to the festival open at 2 p.m. Friday and at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Here is the lineup for the festival:
■ Friday, June 9
Let Them Roar, 3 p.m.; The Sweet Lilies, 4 p.m.; Mayhem Gulch, 5:15 p.m.; The Lonesome Days, 6:30 p.m.; and SHEL, 8 p.m.
■ Saturday, June 10
Front Country, 11 a.m.; Dustbowl Revival, 1 p.m.; The Travelin’ McCourys, 3 p.m.; Jeff Austin Band, 5:30 p.m.; and The Grateful Ball featuring Jeff Austin Band and The Travelin’ McCourys, 7:30 p.m.
■ Sunday, June 11
Harpeth Rising, 11 a.m.; Parsonsfield, 1 p.m.; The Lil’ Smokies, 3 p.m.; and Keller & the Keels, 5:30 p.m.