Music festival heritage in Central Oregon goes back a long time. Nearly two decades, before the big population explosion; for nearly half the population here—the ones who moved during the go-go years, it may seem as if Sisters Folk Festival has always been here. Nope, just since the mid-90s.
But ever since 1995, the Sisters Folk Festival has been a musical mecca for performances by the best folk, bluegrass and fusion artists from around the country; one of the last festivals of the summer, but certainly not the least.
The event crisscrosses several different stages and venues the little western-themed town. Some shows take place with an audience approaching 1000, while others usher in tranquil intimacy with only a few dozen. Since most every band plays more than once over the three-day festival and in different venues each time, performances have the potential to be a wondrously unique.
The Open Door, 303 W Hood Ave.
A new'ish location for live music in Sisters is the eclectic and quaint and rustic Italian bistro The Open Door. Complete with a wine bar and rotating pasta menu, The Open door is the perfect place to catch great acoustic shows. Local musician Travis Ehrenstrom even held his CD release party there a couple of weeks ago.
Saturday- Tim Snider 8:15 p.m., The Sea The Sea 9:15 p.m.
The Belfry, 302 E Main St.
This beautifully converted church-become-music-venue has been one of the Source's top picks for places to see shows in Central Oregon since its opening last year. Adorned with vintage splendor, The Belfry is a gorgeous and imaginative place to see much more than just folk music. Local hip hop favorites MO WO have played there as well as traveling rock groups like James Apollo and his Sweet Unknown.
Friday- Whitehorse 9 p.m., Saturday- Joshua James 3 p.m., Hurray for the Riff Raff 9 p.m.,
Sisters Folk Festival is the last tour stop for this band's current lineup
Sitting outside on his front porch in Boston, sipping iced tea, folk rock singer/songwriter Ryan Montbleau is finding it hard to picture the next chapter of his musical career.
"We've been on the road 10 years and now it's like a major breaking point for us because two guys are leaving the band to be with their families," said Montbleau. "Literally this gig [in Sisters] is like one of the last gigs ever with this band. We've got a couple big blowout shows happening near Boston after this, but that's about it."
The 36 year old Montbleau—who had been pretty chatty for the first 15 minutes of the interview—is sobering up.
"It's Labor Day weekend and I'm here sitting on my porch alone cause I don't know what to do," said Montbleau. "If I'm not out gigging, I don't know what to do. That's what this stuff with the band is teaching me. You need to adapt. That's life. It always changes"
It's no joke that Ryan Montbleau Band has been on tour for 10 years; they're almost always referred to in print as perhaps the hardest working band around, typically playing well over 200 shows every single year. If his past record with songwriting is any indication, Montbleau will turn this milestone into a pointed musical conversation with himself.
In 2007, Montbleau released the album Patience on Friday; included was the song "75 and Sunny." Though Montbleau's catalog is full of dusty jam band-esque songs that delineate personal revelations, none have been more stirring.
"We used to tour the Virgin Islands," remembered Montbleau. "I was hanging out on St. Croix and woke with this killer hangover and wrote the first verse.
What follows the opening lyrics: "I had a bad night. I mean a night so bad I thought I was king of the world," is Montbleau's realization that he'd rather live to be older, wiser and happier than burnt out with nothing to show for it.
It's only one example of the blatantly honest songwriting employed over a combo of six solo and full band albums; easily Montbleau's strongest asset.
"For whatever reason I feel really comfortable sharing things with strangers," said Montbleau "We're all humans and are connected. As I go along I realize where I need to keep my privacy. My ex used get mad at me when she would read something on my blog that I hadn't told her. It made me realize I need to be that open with the people in my life."
Ryan Montbleau Band
Friday: Sisters Art Works, 9:45 p.m.
Saturday: Melvin's Market, 9:30 p.m.
Sunday: Village Green, 3:00 p.m.
Married and making music: a sweet combination.
Forget about that kiss between Mitch and Mickey (Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara) in the folk festival mock-u-mentary A Mighty Wind; mixing love with music is much more about what it produces rather than public displays of affection.
In an interview with the Source, Doucet's wife Melissa McClelland talked about the actual benefits of being married and in a band together. Especially since both of them had very successful solo careers prior to joining their musical talents.
"This merging of two music identities this is totally new for us," said McClelland. "We truly share everything: the creative input, the songwriting; we both have to be on board with everything. Now we can bring together different ideas that we both have. That's an exciting thing."
According to her, learning to rely on each other has huge payoffs.
"We are both pretty private when it comes to songwriting," said McClelland. "We go off into our own corners and come up with what we can. Then we come together and throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks. If I play him something and he doesn't like it I don't take it personally. For us it's a matter of trust; the ability to be completely vulnerable with each other."
In 2011, that process culminated in a defining sophomore album for the couple. With the release of the aptly titled The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss, Whitehorse established themselves as a formidable rock and roll duo. The former Sarah McLachlan tour band members packed in all the beautiful country, dark blues and upbeat rockabilly that had informed their previous solo records. There is a decadent somber quality to their music that spreads itself over listeners ears like a warm blanket.
And since the couple use odd items for looped instrumentation—like kitchen tools and old phone receivers— self-proclaimed nomads Doucet and McClelland are finding out that touring as a duo isn't as easy as they thought it would be.
"The last two years, we've truly been wandering," said McClelland. "As soon as we formed the duo we were like oh this is so easy, just the two of us, two guitars, we'll share a hotel room. But then we started getting these crazy ideas, like let's included a looping pedal and kick drum, before we knew we were traveling with this giant cache of instruments."
Friday: The Belfry, 9 p.m.
Saturday: Melvin's Market, 7:15 p.m.
Sunday: Five Pine Lodge, 3:00 p.m.