If you’ve never been out to the Sisters Folk Festival — to be held Sept. 11-13 in, yes, Sisters — then you’ve never been to one of the very best music events not only in Central Oregon, but the Northwest. Each year in early September, a slew of fine artists and bands that could loosely be described as “rootsy” — think blues to bluegrass to Americana and beyond — descend upon Sisters and perform from morning to night at a handful of venues scattered across town, but all within a 10-minute amble of one another. It’s a glorious scene.
It’s not a secret, either. For the past several years, SFF has sold out of its all-event passes well in advance of the festival. (There are Sunday-only tickets for sale.) But that doesn’t mean you can’t go and enjoy the event’s mellow vibe and a bunch of great music, because festival organizers generously offer a number of opportunities for the non-ticket-holding public to see and hear music for free.
These opportunities generally fall into three categories:
— SFF runs free, open-to-the-public workshops at Sisters Coffee Co. (273 W. Hood Ave., Sisters) on Saturday and Sunday. The format varies, but generally speaking these workshops involve more talking by the artist and questions from the audience mixed in with the music. This is a terrific way to get a close look at some talented musicians and get a glimpse into their creative process, all in an intimate setting. And at no cost! Cool. Here’s the schedule:
Noon-12:45 p.m. — Jonathan Byrd & Pickup Cowboys
1-1:45 p.m. — Freddy & Francine
2-2:45 p.m. — Darlingside
3-4 p.m. — New Country Rehab
12:15-1 p.m. — Halden Wofford & The Hi Beams
1:15-2 p.m. — Katie Glassman & Snapshot
2:15-3 p.m. — Laura Cortese & the Dance Cards
3:15-4 p.m. — Liz Longley
Note: I saw rising roots-pop band Darlingside at last year’s SFF and they were wonderful. Don’t miss ’em on Saturday.
— The Fir Street Park stage (at the corner of Fir and Main streets) runs Saturday and Sunday and features mostly performances by alumni of the Sisters High School’s songwriting (and much more) class, the Americana Project, headlined by a Saturday-night show by fast-rising Portland folk-rock band The Weather Machine and a Sunday-afternoon show by popular Celtic rock group Young Dubliners.
Noon-12:45 p.m. — Americana Project students
1-1:45 p.m. — Jaimee Simundson (AP alum)
2-2:45 p.m. — Honey Don’t
3-3:45 p.m. — Raman Ellis (AP alum)
4:15-5:30 p.m. — The Bills
6-6:45 p.m. — AP alum moms
7-7:45 p.m. — Drew Harrison (AP alum)
8-8:45 p.m. — Jack and Laura (AP alum)
9:15-10:15 p.m. — The Weather Machine
Noon-1:15 p.m. — Americana Song Academy participants
1:30-2:30 p.m. — Amanda Herr (AP alum)
3-4 p.m. — Young Dubliners
— One of the highlights of Sisters Folk Festival weekend — especially for locals and longtime attendees — is Sunday morning’s Community Celebration at the main stage in Village Green Park (101 E. Washington Ave., Sisters). Hosted for the past several years by Oregon folk singer Beth Wood, the Community Celebration features informal, interactive performances by many of the festival’s artists and really encapsulates the serene spirit of both the festival and the arts-loving small town it calls home.
You can find lots more information about the Sisters Folk Festival, including a full performance schedule, at its website.