Rhythm & Brews Festival returns
Last updated 8/9/2022 at Noon
After a two-year pandemic-related hiatus, Sisters Rhythm & Brews Festival is back this weekend, Friday and Saturday, August 12 and 13.
Joe and Jenn Rambo, the founders and directors of the Festival, are excited to bring a collection of 11 artists for the 2022 Festival. A few of the artists are returning from the 2019 Festival, including Eric Gales and Mr. Sipp.
“This is our third year doing the Festival and we really do it as a passion project,” said Jenn Rambo.
From the start of their relationship, Joe and Jenn Rambo shared a passion for Hill Country blues music and bonded over the fact that each of them had had an incredibly impactful experience seeing B.B. King live while both were in their teens. “Getting a chance to see B.B. King with his full touring band, big horn section, everyone wearing tuxedos and playing nonstop for two hours, was perfection,” recalls Joe. The couple hosted their first Festival in 2018 with Los Lobos headlining.
The pandemic halted the Festival from coming to town for two years, in 2020 and 2021.
With the late spring surge in cases last year in Deschutes County, the couple were devastated when they had to postpone once again. “It was pretty emotionally exhausting,” recalls Jenn. “Months and months of planning, deposits, permits, reservations, and logistics all went down the drain once again! To be honest, we seriously considered hanging it up for good.” Ultimately they just could not let go of what they started in 2018, especially after the incredible feedback and support they received from previous festival goers. “We decided to throw all of our chips onto the table once again this year and pray that the stars all line up,” said Joe Rambo.
The organizers encourage festival-goers to immerse themselves in the full experience.
“We really want people to buy tickets not just for specific artists but for the experience overall,” said Joe Rambo. “It is really rewarding to us to bring some artists to the West Coast for the first time, and for the audience to see people they've never seen before.”
In addition to a few artists that have previously played at the Festival, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes is someone that Jen and Joe Rambo have wanted at their fest for years, and through their blues pilgrimage to Mississippi in 2020, they were finally able to make contact. (See related story, page 1.)
Sisters Rhythm & Brews Festival Lineup
Taking over the family business in 1970, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes’ down-home blues venue, the Blue Front Cafe, has been home to the Bentonia Blues Festival for the last 50 years and has garnered international fame.
Along the way, Holmes has crafted his own take on the Bentonia sound, described as mysterious, ethereal, and haunting.
In October of 2019, in collaboration with producer and guitarist Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, Holmes put out his 11th recording with the 2021 Grammy Award-nominated Best Traditional Blues Album, “Cypress Grove.” Holmes is considered the last of the Bentonia Bluesmen, being the last musician to play in the “Bentonia School,” a style of guitar-playing that takes a different approach to teaching guitar styles, and which feature a distinctive minor tonality not found in other styles of blues music.
Another new addition to this year’s lineup is Jontavious Willis. Self-taught on the guitar, harmonica, and 12-string banjo, Willis was headed for stardom when at the age of 14 he watched a video of Muddy Waters performing “Hoochie Coochie Man.” The 24-year-old multi-instrumentalist was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2020 for his album “Spectacular Class.” After extensive touring with Taj Mahal and Keb Mo, Taj refers to Jontavious as his “Wonderboy” and a “great new voice to the 21st-century acoustic blues.”
Mr. Willis’ standout fingerpicking, flatpicking, and slide prowess will be on display.
The multi-chart-topping Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio is another new face at this year’s Festival. They have thrilled crowds worldwide with their energetic blend of soul, jazz, and rock ’n’ roll. The group has a sound that is firmly rooted in the ’60s and ’70s, channeling old-school organ combos like Booker T. & the M.G.’s with an edge that feels fresh and new.
The band features Delvon and his Hammond B3 organ, with Jimmy James on guitar. James seamlessly blends ’60s soul with volcanic acid rock freak out lead playing.
Abounding with musical creativity, songcraft, and deeply felt emotion, Southern Avenue is a fresh addition to this year’s event. A duo of Grammy-nominated sisters with a band behind them, they grew up in the church where they learned to harmonize and put soul into their music. Marrying soul power, jam-band liberation, gospel blues, and righteous R&B, they craft their own timeless brand of American music.
Eight times nominated for “Blues Rock Artist of The Year,” Serbian-born Ana Popovic is celebrating 22 years in the guitar business. She fell in love with American blues as a kid in Belgrade, Serbia, and studied jazz in the Netherlands before moving to Memphis, Tennessee. She finally settled down in her current home in Los Angeles, California. Popovic credits her success to working harder and traveling farther to hone her craft, and estimates that over the years she has done about 2,500 shows, sharing stages with B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, and Joe Bonamassa. “I never get tired of it,” she said.
Brown Sabbath is centered around the Austin-based psych-funk collective Brownout, who reinterpret classic Black Sabbath cuts. A nine-piece outfit formed 16 years ago by members of Grammy Award-winning Latin-revival orchestra Grupo Fantasma, Brown Sabbath has evolved into a musical force of their own.
A few artists are returning to the Sisters Festival for a second time, and some even a third. Cedric Burnside played the inaugural Festival in 2018 as well as returning in 2019 for Sisters Folk Festival. As the grandson of R. L. Burnside, Cedric was born into the blues. Backing up the legendary Mississippi bluesman on drums, he has played professionally since the age of 13. By the following year he was touring full-time in Europe with his grandfather. Burnside's blues inheritance, the North Mississippi Hill Country Blues, is distinct from its Delta or Texas counterparts in its commitment to polyrhythmic percussion and its refusal of familiar blues chord progressions.
After three previous nominations, Burnside collected his first Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album this last May and will be returning to the Sisters stage as a fan favorite.
Eric Gales learned to play guitar at 4 years old. Being left-handed, he taught himself right-handed guitar upside down and backward. Since 1991, the Memphis-born child prodigy has been blazing a path, reinvigorating the blues with a virtuosity and rock swagger that have him being heralded as the second coming of Jimi Hendrix. Five years sober and with the help of his good friend Joe Bonamassa, Gales released of his latest studio effort, “Crown,” in 2022 to both critical and fan acclaim. After watching the explosive guitar battle between Gales, Kingfish, and Mr. Sipp during the closing night of the 2019 Festival, the Rambos made it a priority to have Gales back again this year.
Pokey LaFarge is returning to Sisters playing the blues festival for the first time, after playing Sisters Folk Festival in 2012. Since then he has earned his way as one of the most influential purveyors of the American roots music scene. He is a dynamic showman with a keen sense of style, spinning old-time sounds. In 2020, he packed up and left his Los Angeles home and spent an extensive time on the road in support of his forthcoming album, “Rock Bottom Rhapsody.” Then the pandemic hit. The pandemic season was a huge time of personal growth for LaFarge, and some of his best work came out of it.
LaFarge will be playing a catalog of music from Howlin' Wolf (Chester Arthur Burnett). Howlin' Wolf was a Chicago blues singer, guitarist, and harmonica player. LaFarge's set will be an homage to the classic bluesman, and includes some of his most famous tracks.
Crowd favorite Mr. Sipp, aka Castro Coleman, is also returning for the third time to Sisters Rhythm & Brews Festival. Born and raised in McComb, Mississippi, Mr. Sipp spent 22 years in the gospel music business before turning his attention to the blues. He has been nominated as B.B. King Entertainer of the Year as well as winning the International Blues Challenge in 2014. He is a dynamic showman that never fails to get folks up off their feet.
Another returnee to the Sisters stage is Nikki Hill, a high-energy entertainer who packs a punch. Hill had her first singing experiences in the church choir as a child and into her teens, and curiosity eventually led her to trade the pews for barstools. From there, her interests in music exploded in every direction, as she realized it was a world with no boundaries. LA Weekly said “If Tina Turner and Little Richard had a daughter and raised her with the help of uncles James Brown and Chuck Berry, she’d be like Nikki Hill.”
The Festival is partnering with Sisters Folk Festival to present “An Evening with the Blues” concert on Thursday, August 11 at 7 p.m. at Sisters Art Works, 204 W. Adams Ave. Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, Jontavious Willis, and Southern Avenue will perform for a special evening celebrating the conclusion of the Summer Concerts at Sisters Art Works and kicking off the 2022 Sisters Rhythm & Brews Festival.
The event will mark the first collaboration between the respective organizations, both of which believe in the importance of enriching lives through the arts and bringing diverse voices to Central Oregon. Tickets may be purchased for $35 at https://sistersfolkfestival.org/sff-presents/.
Sisters Rhythm & Brews Festival begins at 4 p.m. Friday, August 12, and continues through Friday evening, resuming on Saturday, August 13 at 11:30 a.m. Tickets are still available for purchase at www.sistersrhythmandbrews.com.
The Festival gives back to the community by donating proceeds to local nonprofits and charities specializing in housing and empowering youth and families, in addition to proudly supporting the Sisters GRO scholarship fund.
The organizers see the Festival as an opportunity to enhance our community by bringing a diverse blend of high-quality national and international acts celebrating the full variety of the modern blues scene. Nestled amongst the shady pines of historic downtown Sisters, visitors will enjoy Grammy Award-winning music, breathtaking mountain scenery, and, of course, craft beer.