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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment May 25, 2016

9/10/2013 11:43:00 AM
Festival wraps up with a joyous noise
Whitehorse performed amid the ponderosas at FivePine Lodge during the Sisters Folk Festival. photo by Lynn Woodward
+ click to enlarge
Whitehorse performed amid the ponderosas at FivePine Lodge during the Sisters Folk Festival. photo by Lynn Woodward

Baskery, a trio from Sweden, rocks the Village Green tent on Saturday night at the Sisters Folk Festival. photo by Lynn Woodward
+ click to enlarge
Baskery, a trio from Sweden, rocks the Village Green tent on Saturday night at the Sisters Folk Festival. photo by Lynn Woodward

Baskery rocked Sisters Folk Festival
The Sisters Folk Festival has drawn performers and audiences from all over the world. This year's festival brought a trio of young women from Sweden, who rocked the town with their take on American roots music.

Colin Irwin of Mojo magazine described Baskery in a review this way: "Absurdly wonderful...[they] do their own thing with a glee which, coupled with no little virtuosity and runaway vivaciousness, is irresistible."

These three talented and highly energetic young Swedes write, sing and produce their own brand of southern country and rock with a style and an energy that is hard to describe unless you've had the good fortune to watch them perform live.

Self-described as "Queens of Banjopunk," they blew away the packed tent at Melvin's Saturday afternoon. Word spread quickly, and their Saturday evening performance before a full house on the main stage at Village Green is still being talked about. They converted a whole new group of fans.

For a three-piece group Baskery delivers a huge and memorable sound.

The middle sister, Stella, plays the upright slap base. The oldest sister, Greta, provides a steady, driving kick-drum beat while alternating between a rocking six string banjo, and the electric guitar, the harmonica and at times, performing some staccato snare drum riffs. Sunniva provides the lead guitar and lead vocals, along with some impressive stage gymnastics.

Despite their youth, these three sisters have been playing together for more than 10 years. While still in their teens they formed a band, the Slaptones, with their father.

They did a cover of a Brian Setzer song. When Setzer heard their cover he invited them to join his European tour.

Greta said, "At our first gig with Seltzer in Finland he said, 'Come to the States with my band and join our 22-city tour,'" and they did. "Our music was received better in the States, so we decided to tour here."

"We were not satisfied with our role in the Slaptones. It was sort of a gimmick, three young sisters playing rock and blues with their father. The 'clothes' did fit our vision, so we formed our own band."

The girls learned from their the challenges of their father's life as a touring blues musician playing covers of Neil Young, Dylan, the Stones and The Beatles around Stockholm. Stella told The Nugget, "We got introduced to music in the not-so-glamorous way. It was not always just filled with passion. We could see him losing his passion, playing four sets a night in bars. We wanted to go in a different direction."

When asked how three young Swedish musicians came to pick a hard-driving "banjopunk" American southern-rock style, Greta said, "We didn't pick the music style, it picked us. We heard an American rockabilly band as teenagers and we were hooked.

"We always had instruments and music in the house so it was just natural for us to play," said Greta. "Then we found the interest ourselves to write songs and play."

"When we were little, we went to a music school, and choir singing was on the schedule. It is quite big in Sweden to sing in choirs," said Sunniva. "We all went there and that is where we learned to sing harmony."

The band has done two tours in the states every year since their inception, frequently playing in Austin, Nashville, and at a variety of festivals around the country.

"When we told our friends in Nashville, Austin, and Colorado that we were coming to the Sisters Folk Festival they all said 'You will love it there, and you will have a great time,'" said Sunniva. "Your festival is well-known in the east."

By John Griffith

Following last year's record-setting success, once again, the annual Sisters Folk Festival celebrated it's most successful season yet with "venue at capacity" signs out for almost every performance at almost every venue. Now in its 18th year, the three-day music festival played to an estimated 3,500 wildly enthusiastic fans.

Returning to emcee the free Community Celebration on Sunday morning, Beth Wood, a local favorite as well as an internationally recognized musician in her own right, encapsulated the festival when she said, "I am a believer in the power of song. Here in Sisters we believe in the power of community. We believe in the power of artistic expression of all kinds."

She continued, "Here in Sisters we believe in the power of Mother Nature to humble us and remind us that we are not in charge. Here in Sisters we believe in the power of tradition. We believe in the power of elders, and passing that along to our young people (The Americana Project)."

Then she quipped, "We believe in the power of little teeny orange flags to stop traffic." That lightened up the capacity crowd in the tent at Village Green. In anticipation of the 10 a.m. opening of the venue long lines basked in the beautiful morning sunlight as they snaked in all directions across the grounds of the green. The Village Green tent quickly filled to its 1,100-person capacity when the gates opened, with many left outside to simply listen to the joyous noise from afar.

More than 46 acts performed during the three-day festival, ranging from New Orleans stride piano and R&B from Jon Cleary and the Philthy Phew, to jazz-infused string music from Lake Street Dive, to the Swedish trio Baskery's "mad country music" with serious attitude. There was something for every taste, and some delicious unexpected discoveries for many.

Brad Tisdel, executive director of Sisters Folk Festival, predicted earlier that, "The caliber of artists this year will be some of the finest we have ever presented," and judging by the audience reaction and comments, that prediction appeared to be accurate.

The musicianship and the crowd-pleasing stage presence of the performers was quickly established with Grammy nominee and festival encore artist John Fullbright's Village Green kick-off performance Friday night. A capacity crowd gave Fulbright a standing ovation and clamored for more.

The closing act on the Village Green stage Friday night, the headliners from New Orleans, John Cleary and the Philthy Phew, raised the bar of pure professional musicianship even higher, bringing the capacity crowd to their feet in a raucous standing ovation after nearly every song in Cleary's set. Cleary said, "I want to bring New Orleans to Sisters," and for an hour, he did.

Three new venues allowed for more acts and more intimate settings, FivePine Lodge, The Open Door and the newly renovated The Belfry joined the Village Green, the expanded Sisters Art Works tent, Depot Café, Angeline's Bakery, Sisters Coffee. The "party central" venue, added last year, was the Melvin's Fir Street Market tent.

With the new venues, the festival was able to add 500 all-event passes, but these too sold out over a week before this weekend's record-breaking festival.

Festival chair and co-founder Jim Cornelius pointed out earlier that "From the beginning, the focus of the event has always been on the music," he said. "Everybody involved loves this stuff; it's not about promoting an event just for the sake of promoting an event. And Sisters itself is a draw both to the artists and to the audience."

By creating walkable venues in the center of town Tisdale notes, "We have intimate settings that create a unique and intimate musical experience. We're selling a festival experience, not a concert."

People took advantage of that walkability as Saturday's perfect weather had festival-goers shuttling between packed venues and other shops all over town. Saturday's performances included stage presentations by Americana Project alum John Morton, playing his strong spare melodies to a packed audience at the Depot Café.

Fellow Americana alum Jaimee Simundson (featured on the 2013 poster by Dennis McGregor) performed before a full house at Angeline's Bakery earlier in the day, and also for the packed Community Celebration on Sunday.

Two members of crowd favorite The Weather Machine were also Americana alumnae from several years ago.

Rising star Jake Smith, better known as The White Buffalo, brought down the house at Angeline's Bakery Saturday night delighting a highly animated and wildly dancing crowd with his songs, many of which have featured on the hit show Sons of Anarchy. Jake's parents, Jeff and Ginny Smith, watched safely from the perimeter seating. Jake's dad was a school board member and is a folk festival board member. Both parents of active in the Sisters volunteer community.

Two parting comments from Sunday morning's Community Celebration embody the performers' feelings for the Sisters festival and the Sisters community. Just before delivering a slow song with his band, Boston's Ryan Montbleau said, "I'm falling in love with everything I see around here. I fall in love with the nights. I fall in love with the trees. I fall in love with air." He then delivered a rousing performance described by emcee Beth Wood as a "whole-body experience." Nobody was sleeping-in Sunday morning after that performance.

Montbleau was followed by local favorite Victor Johnson, who opened with the observation that, "Everyone that comes here (to Sisters) leaves a better person, whether they are a teacher or performer. We leave better than when we came."

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