But before we get too carried away, we'll admit that the Barn at Pine Meadow Ranch, which decades ago served as the Sisters Dairy, isn't some decrepit shack with cows knocking over microphone stands during shows. Doug Sokol, the longtime Sisters resident who owns the Barn, spent months insulating the building and installing a state-of-the-art, 7,000-watt sound system. The Barn is a spot where Sokol has held musical performances for about 20 years - even before the Sisters Folk Festival emerged to highlight the town's talents. But with the remodel, Sokol says that the Barn is becoming more popular than he could have expected.
"The response caught us off guard. We get calls practically every day from people who want to play in the barn. There is a need for this and we want to be here to help out," says Sokol.
The 2,400-square-foot Barn can hold as many as 200 people (that's more than most Bend nightlife spots) and on Friday night the venue will show off the Sisters music community's potential when local songwriter Brent Alan takes the stage ...along with a seven-piece funk band. The band includes local musicians like Shireen Amini, Dale Largent, Mitch Peay, J. Patrick Lombardi, Scott Hirsch, Mitch Peay, and Patrick Pearsall - all of whom are either Sisters residents (past or present) or have close ties to the town.
"You'd think that people might be isolated by living out there, but it's not true. There's more of a community vibe," Alan says of Sisters.
Those who've heard Alan's earlier, more folk and roots-based music might be surprised to hear that he's playing in a large-scale funk project, but the style is just a fragment of his self-admitted schizophrenic musical tastes and abilities. The Barn seems the best place for Alan to debut this celebration of funk - even if it might not be what he'll be playing on his solo tour of the West next fall. After all, Sokol says, the Barn's design encourages dancing.
During the summer months, there are several opportunities for musicians like Alan to play in Sisters. But in the winter, the choices grow slim. And that's where the Barn comes in. Sokol spent a good deal of time and resources insulating the Barn to keep things warm during a Central Oregon winter night. While the renovations and the fact that you can grab a beer or a glass of wine at a Barn show makes this seem like just another live music venue-the Barn still feels like ... well, a barn. And Sokol believes that contributes to the venue's appeal.
"It's a great place to play, the acoustics are amazing. It has very high ceilings and it's all wood, so it's like being inside of a guitar," he says.
Alan and other musicians don't simply hold the Barn in high regard because it's their friend's space, but seem to genuinely consider it a certifiably first-rate live music venue.
"I think it's one of the best venues in Central Oregon. It's just alive with energy," Alan says.
The Barn has been hosting shows for the past couple of months, and according to Sokol, is gaining popularity with each performance. In the coming weeks the Barn will be host to shows by local favorites the Mostest as well as Moon Mountain Ramblers and others going into the spring. Yet, Sokol isn't quite sure what he'll do with the Barn - the debate being whether to keep it a locals-oriented space for his friends to play on a donations-only basis (and for all his new and yet-to-be-met friends to enjoy music) or to make it a real-live business venture.
No matter what he decides to do with this distinctively Sistersy music venue, musicians like Alan hope he keeps providing a place for the down-home Sisters music community to gather and get down. Seriously though, is there a better place for an eight-piece funk band to get down than an old barn? If you're talking about Central Oregon, then the answer is "no."Brent Alan and His Funky Friends
7pm Friday, Feb. 22. The Barn at Pine Meadow Ranch. 68467 Three Creeks Rd. $7 to $10 suggested donation. Directions from Bend: Hwy 20 West, left on Elm St. in downtown Sisters (turns into Three Creeks Rd), then look for signs to venue.