Big Ponderoo: Sisters' Low-Key Music Festival | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Big Ponderoo: Sisters' Low-Key Music Festival

From local bluegrass four-piece Rock Ridge to the legendary country rockers Silverada (formerly Mike and the Moonpies), take the weekend trip for a small-town fest full of big energy

It's here, returning for round two: Big Ponderoo! From the folks who've brought Central Oregon the Sisters Folk Festival for more than a quarter of a century comes an early summer offering of bluegrass, folk, Americana and hard-charging country rock over the weekend of June 29 and 30 at Sisters' centrally located Village Green Park, an open-air locale with ample shade under the fest's namesake ponderosa pines.

It actually kicks off on Friday evening, June 28 with an art walk and free live music from local artists at 13 participating businesses in Sisters. Plus, prep for the weekend with folk-rock energy from festival bands The East Pointers and The Sam Chase & The Untraditional performing on the Ponderoo stage from 6:30 to 8:30pm—no ticket required.

click to enlarge Big Ponderoo: Sisters' Low-Key Music Festival
Photo by Ismael Quintanilla III
Consistently dubbed one of the best live bands in country music by the likes of Rolling Stone and NPR, Silverada (formerly Mike and the Moonpies) will bring relentless honky-tonk swagger to close out Big Ponderoo on Sunday, June 30.

On Saturday and Sunday, organizers aim to create a laid-back, family-friendly vibe where you can bring your own snacks, blanket and low-back chair, buy a beer without waiting in egregious lines and find affordable tickets (kids 5 and under are free and ages 6 to 17 can get discounted youth passes). Bring your own water bottle to stay hydrated, as adult tickets come with a reusable Silipint cup for whetting your whistle all weekend long.

Featuring a mix of regional talent and familiar touring acts appearing on the fest's two stages, Saturday's highlights include the banjo- and mandolin-driven Americana of The Brothers Comatose and the horn-filled, funky blues of the Austin big band Shinyribs. Sunday offers The Wood Brothers' Oliver Wood Trio and the engrossing, soul-filled classic country of newcomer Bella White. Several local acts play twice over the weekend, including husband-and-wife combos Skybound Blue from McMinnville and Portland's The Parnells, fronted by married couple Corey and Whitney Parnell. Singer-songwriter JoAnna Lee, who has Bend roots, will play both Saturday and Sunday, as will Portland bluegrass group Fog Holler.

SFF Presents, the nonprofit behind the fest, is keen to highlight "our mission to enrich lives through art and music education," says Communications Manager Erin Pihl. "With every ticket sold, money is going back into our Central Oregon community," money that funds camps and classes for youth and adults.

“With every ticket sold, money is going back into our Central Oregon community," money that funds camps and classes for youth and adults.  —Erin Pihl

Big Ponderoo would be remiss if it didn't feature bluegrass from Sisters in the vocal-based, melodic four-piece Rock Ridge. Playing both days, the "relative newcomers" to town feel they "have found our 'home' in the music community of Central Oregon," bassist Suzanne Adkins tells. The quartet's a family affair made up of guitarist Josie Grant plus the father-and-son duo of multi-instrumentalists Dale and Josh Adkins, "which explains the strong chemistry and bond with both their playing and singing." Plus, "Suzanne and Dale are married," Adkins explains. "We like to tease Josie and tell her our band name should be Josie and The Adkins." Releasing its second record, "The Flood," last year, Rock Ridge writes original material with a traditional sound full of strong vocals and harmonies.

Silverada, Sunday's headliner, may be more familiar to fans as the blue-collar country, Texas honky-tonk rockers Mike and the Moonpies. After 16 years as a band, it was time for a name change. Don't fret; Silverada (consistently christened one of the best live bands in country music by Rolling Stone, NPR, etc.) is still known for tunes about gambling and drinking Tennessee whiskey or cold longnecks. Or vignettes of eating a steak and watching a ballgame with your old man — or buying a house and raising a family. Frontman Mike Harmeier sings about lived experiences, ones that resonate with everyday people.

—Check out the online version of this story at for a Q&A with Mike Harmeier of Silverada.

Big Ponderoo
Sat., June 29 and Sun., June 30
Village Green Park
305 S Fir St., Sisters
$95 to $195; all ages


With the self-titled “Silverada” due out June 28 (the same weekend the band plays Big Ponderoo), Harmeier spoke with the Source Weekly. Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Source Weekly: Y’all are Texas guys. But you released 2019’s “Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold” at Happy Valley’s Pickathon, and now “Silverada” will drop at this year’s Jackalope Jamboree in Pendleton. Is there something special about Oregon festivals?

Mike Harmeier: While we love playing Oregon and have built a great fan base in the state, that is actually purely coincidental. Both the records are summer releases so that usually finds us out on a national tour. But I do really enjoy releasing records at festivals we love.

SW: It’s very clear that you’re a family man and the band is part of your family. (And it’s a family biz—your wife is your manager!) Can you elaborate on this aspect of the group?

MH: We’ve always considered our group a family affair. After so many years and experiences together, the guys in the band are all truly brothers and their families are our families. My son, who I often write about, loves all the guys and spends any second he can on the bus with us or backstage at shows. We’ve even been known to all vacation together.

SW: How do you balance family and band?

MH: The balance has always been difficult, but we’re all very fortunate to have families that support us and believe in what we’re doing. Our families will join us occasionally when the timing and opportunities work out, but we generally spend weeks at a time on the road. Whenever we are off the road though we spend all the time we can at home.

SW: Speaking of family, I hear you recently moved out of Austin to a smaller town. How has the change of scenery impacted your songwriting?

MH: I wrote the “One to Grow On” record here as well and I’ve seen a lot of those same themes carry over to this album. It really puts me back in a place very similar to how I grew up, so living here definitely inspires some nostalgia and draws my attention more to the importance of the little things in life and the simplicity of small-town living.

SW: You’ve been Silverada for about six months now and I’ve heard you call the upcoming self-titled record a departure or evolution for the band. Was the writing or recording process any different this time around?

MH: The freedom that came with re-envisioning the band allowed us to truly service the songs I had written for this record. We weren’t in the studio chasing any ideas or preconceived notions of what the band sounded like or what was expected of us. Everyone in the band brought their own personality to each song without having to worry if their ideas would fit with anything they had played in the past. It was a clean canvas. Every decision we made when producing this record was for the sake of the song.

SW: I’ve read that you hope the name change helps introduce you to new fans. Is it important to tour in regions of the country and world where people aren’t as exposed to your type of music?

MH: We’ve been touring the country and the world for over a decade now. We have garnered a very cultish fan base that has really supported our band in ways we could never imagine. Our goal is to continue to grow that base and get our music to as many people as we can all over the world. In order to accomplish that and be able to do this for the rest of our lives, we continue to evolve as musicians and performers and take our show to places we’ve never been while still catering to all the places that have become our second homes and supported us through the years. We’re still the same guys chasing the same dream and we hope many new fans will join us as we continue to grow.

SW: What does prep for a show look like?

MH: We usually just watch 90s country music videos or jam yacht rock songs on the bus in the hour or so before a show to get ourselves hyped up. I tend to make the set list earlier in the day and the band knows pretty much what to expect for how the show will run that night minus the occasional audible. We work really hard on transitions between songs and try to have as little dead air as possible in the show. Then it’s really all up to the crowd: They give us the energy to feed off of and make the show really come to life.

SW: What’s a Moonpie anyways? The snacky dessert?

MH: That name was really just something I came up with on a whim. I originally lifted the idea from the Tracy Byrd song “Lifestyles of the Not So Rich and Famous.” At the time we weren’t taking ourselves too seriously and just wanted to play our favorite songs on the Texas dancehall circuit and sprinkle in some original music every now and then. Fortunately, our music really caught on and we have been able to do this for a living for quite a while now. We plan on keeping that going as long as we can.

Chris Young

A journalist, editor and champion of his local music community, Chris graduated from the University of Oregon before founding Vortex Music Magazine, a quarterly print publication that covered Portland's vibrant music scene, and MusicPortland, a nonprofit music industry advocacy group. He's since moved to Bend...
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