A lot has changed in the past couple of years when it comes to live music in Central Oregon. Venues have opened and closed, we've seen our numbers of summer concerts fluctuate and festivals have come and gone. But standing strong (and largely unaltered) amidst all this change has been the Sisters Folk Festival.
Now in its 14th year, Sisters Folk remains a stalwart in the local music landscape. The festival not only takes over the entire town for three days, it has a year-round presence with an education program and a winter concert series. Artistic Director Brad Tisdel says Sisters Folk will likely bring some 2,500 music fans to town this year for a lineup that's as diverse as any we've seen at the festival.
A songwriter himself, as well as a serious music junkie, Tisdel took some time out from festival preparations and the Americana Song Academy (the folk musician's summer camp that preceeds the fest) to talk about what acts you shouldn't miss at Sisters Folk. I combined my own list with his to create this Five Acts You Need to See roster:
Perhaps one of the most innovative bookings in recent Sisters Folk memory (and one sure to attract some younger fans), this is Portland-based indie folk band has a catalogue full of poppy numbers. Over the past year Blind Pilot opened tours for the Decemberists and surging folk act The Low Anthem, while also being featured on NPR. The band's latest record, 3 Rounds and a Sound, should fit well in the collection of Northwest music fans who dig the likes of Elliot Smith or the Shins. Oh and another thing, this band completed its entire 2008 tour from Bellingham, Wash. to San Diego on bicycles.
Taking a slot near the top of the bill, Snider hits the Sisters Folk stage on a tour that saw him at Bumbershoot last weekend and will send him to both Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and Austin City Limits later this fall. A hard touring, rough-voiced bluesy folk troubadour based in Nashville, Snider has been climbing the folk music hierarchy and his release this summer of The Excitement Plan has helped on that front, gaining him some seriously strong reviews (as in four stars from Rolling Stone). "I think people will be very pleasantly surprised by how entertaining he is," Tisdel says of Snider.
Peter Rowan (pictured above)
You didn't think we'd just ignore the festival's headliner, did you? Rowan is a legend in the bluegrass and folk worlds, having collaborated with Bill Monroe and later David Grisman. Although he has a made a strong solo career for himself, many will remember him as the author of several New Riders of the Purple Sage cuts, including, of course, "Panama Red." These days, Rowan is still out on the road, oftentimes sharing the stage with Tony Rice.
"This band crosses genres in numerous ways, and they're young, too," says Tisdel of this Austin, Tex. sextet. They are indeed young, but they're also super tight and adventurous to boot. Their latest disc, Time to Stand, bounces between swing, jazz, country and even some bluegrass and is full of energy that should translate nicely to the stage. The pipes on singer/fiddler Phoebe Hunt are reason alone to see this band; she's downright incredible.
"This is top notch, world-class music and it's more jazzy than a lot of the stuff we have here," says Tisdel of the Alison Brown Quartet. Brown is a Harvard educated investment banker turned downright killer musician, Alison Krauss touring mate and founder of Compass Records. She rips on the banjo and, much like Bela Fleck, often takes the instrument away from its bluegrass roots. With her trio, the sound is as explosive as one is likely to find in the world of acoustic music.
Sisters Music Festival
Friday-Sunday, September 11-13. Downtown Sisters. Vist sistersfolkfestival.org or call 549-4979.