More than 30 artists will be scattered amongst six stages throughout Sisters, and near the top of the bill is Tim O'Brien, a much-respected folk and bluegrass multi-instrumentalist who caught the ears of music junkies in the mid-1990s with his album Red on Blonde, which as you may have guessed is a collection of O'Brien's covers of Bob Dylan classics. O'Brien is indicative of Sisters Folk's rise on the national folk festival scene as Tisdel says he tried booking the artist several times in the past, but believes the festival's increased stature was a selling point to bringing O'Brien in.
Another act that shows the growth of Sisters Folk is The Waifs, an Australian folk rock trio that clearly pushes the singer/songwriter boundaries the festival once found itself contained within. With other acts like Portland's Jackstraw dishing out bluegrass crossover cuts and the Wailin' Jenny's bringing their Canadian youthfulness to the stage, it's clear the festival isn't opposed to spreading its wings. In fact, Tisdel hinted (read: hinted, so don't get ahead of yourself) that the festival wouldn't be opposed to someday booking a band like the Avett Brothers who in essence play folk music, but present it with a punk edge.
But with all that said, Sisters Folk this weekend will still do what it does best, and that's folk and bluegrass, which is what they're adding with longstanding folk veteran Jesse Winchester.
"To folks that are 45-65, he was a musical hero. For the whole bluegrass scene that sort of percolates Telluride and all that, Winchester is a total hero," Tisdel says, "We want to have a diverse enough offering that people won't just find something that they like, but something they love."
With increasing musical diversity, a well-known Central Oregon reputation throughout the year and now national recognition, it seems Sisters Folk is destined to grow. Tisdel says they are looking to have as many as 2,500 people attend this year, making it the biggest festival to date. But that doesn't mean Sisters Folk is destined to burst at the seams.
"The board of the festival wants to keep the intimacy of the event. We really dig the ability to have a fest that brings multi-cultural, multi-generational people into the fold," Tisdel says, "We have done a huge service to this area by providing what we've created. And we've done it by creating community through art."
Sisters Folk Festival
Friday-Sunday, September 5-7. $85/three-day pass, single day passes vary from $30-$60. Visit sistersfolkfestival.org for a full lineup and tickets. Downtown Sisters.