The 12th Annual Pickathon Indie Roots Music Festival, which will be held on Pendarvis Farm outside of Portland from August 6th-8th, doesn’t fit the mold of what you’ve probably come to think of festivals such as Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, or Sasquatch! that are likely to show up in the summer music issue of Rolling Stone. If your typical major festival is a sweltering clusterfuck of corporate sponsorship, obscene prices, even more obscene lines, technical difficulties, and drugged-out amateurs wreaking havoc on your comfortability and patience, then Pickathon, by comparison, is an easy-going, good-natured party in the woods, where friends pass around beers and guitars under the stars (not flashing strobes and lasers). Basically, Pickathon is a festival devoid of everything you hate about festivals, and with even more of its own unique flavor that could make it the musical experience of your summer.
Here’s a quick rundown:
Pickathon doesn’t consist of a bunch of isolated, factory-made attractions that don’t really have anything to do with one another. The music, the people, the setting, and the partying are all part of the same experience, and it all starts with Pendarvis Farm, the wooded 80-acre layout that has been home to Pickathon since 1999, and that plays just as big of a role as the music in making Pickathon special.
The farm consists of a rustic base area that contains five of the festival’s six stages, along with food vendors, a beer garden, and even an orchard. The sixth stage is nestled deep into the doug fir forests that occupy the rest of the farm, where musicians play to onlookers under a canopy of natural tree shade. The rest of the forest consists of camping areas and hiking trails, all within a short walk from live music and a quick turn of the head from a spectacular view of Mt. Hood.
Along with the aforementioned Woods Stage, five other stags will platform the more than 35 bands playing at Pickathon this year. The Mt. View stage serves as the Main Stage in front of which festival-goers can set up chairs, lay out blankets, and take in the music comfortably and from an enjoyable distance. Suspended by wires over the area surrounding and over the stage are stretched out canopies that provide shade, an interesting aesthetic, and an awe-inspiring canvas for colored mood lighting to be shone upon during night sets (the Starlight and Fir Meadows stages serve as a smaller versions of the Mt. View stage, with similarly hung canopies). The Galaxy Barn is a renovated barn in which bands play not on a stage, but on a rug, level with the audience, and after 9:00 it turns into a 21+ venue and drinking hangout. That leaves the Workshop Barn, which offers interactive guitar workshops for pickers of all skill levels. This gives you a chance to brush up on your skills and learn a few new moves before the party shifts to the campgrounds, where there are sure to be plenty of impromptu plucking sessions.
I don’t think Pickathon could have done a better job of gathering musicians to grace the stages of Pendarvis Farm. The lineup is replete with colorful acoustic ensembles, bluesy Americana, and backwoods singer/songwriters that you’re probably not going to get a chance to see many other places. If you’re on the Tractor Tavern’s mailing list or if you never miss a Wednesday night with The Roadhouse on KEXP, Pickathon will be your mecca. A good deal of the bands on the lineup hail from places like Kentucky, West Virginia, and Tennessee, and there are a number of bands from in and around Portland that aren’t exactly the hard-core touring, publicity-driven types -- they’re just interested in playing music and having a good time. As I’ve been writing this, I’ve been listening to one song after the other of the bands that will be present (audio and video available through Pickathon website here) and literally every song that has come on seems like it was tailor-made for the festival’s laid-back, woodsy atmosphere. The artists are sure to appreciate the setting just as much as the audience is, and the result is sure to be more memorable performances that you’ll be able to count.
Though Bonnie Prince Billy, Dr. Dog, and the Heartless Bastards are the suitable headliners, you’re just as liable to fall in love with a band you see playing on the Woods Stage in the afternoon. It will all be spirited, down home music in an intimate setting that will make your soul swell with a renewed appreciation and love for what live music is all about.
Click here for the full lineup.
You can find everything else you’d want to know on Pickathon’s comprehensive website, including transportation and lodging accommodations, all the options for kids (under 12 get in free), info on food vendors and merch, and the many reasons why Pickathon is one of the greenest, most sustainable festivals out there (you’re not going to be walking around on trampled trash all weekend).
There really are an endless number of reasons to get it together and get down to Pickathon this year, and if the prospect of good music, good people, and a good atmosphere tickles your fancy in the slightest, I can’t imagine you’ll regret making the trip.