This year’s Pickathon festival is just around the corner, starting this Friday August 5th and continuing through the weekend, wrapping up Sunday the 7th. The festival features an all-star lineup of indie roots and Americana, featuring Mavis Staples, Black Mountain, Bill Callahan, Califone, Thao, Fruit Bats, Vetiver, Damien Jurado, The Sadies, Laura Veirs, Alela Diane & Wild Divine, Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter, and The Builders and the Butchers, to name a few. (Check out the full lineup and schedule here.) Each band will have multiple performances over the weekend, on varying stages and times. The continuous weekend of music will be presented on 6 stages: the outdoor Mt. View Stage; the outdoor Fir Meadows Stage; the solar-powered outdoor Woods Stage; the late night, all-ages outdoor Starlight Stage; the indoor Galaxy Barn (late night, 21+ from 9PM to 2AM); and the Workshop Barn (featuring musical workshops from several of the weekend’s performing artists).
If all of this is a little overwhelming, KEXP’s got your back with a comprehensive rundown of the weekend’s activities and events.
THE MOUNTAIN VIEW STAGE
Kicking off the Mountain View Stage on Friday is seven-piece folk-rock group AgesandAges, whose explosive live shows have been the talk of the Portland scene. Their fierce, unwavering optimism pours out into the crowd, causing spastic dance moves from Pacific Northwest crowds more at home standing and nodding. Following the new band are venerable favorites Fruit Bats, celebrating the release of their fifth LP Tripper (yes, they’ve written other songs besides “When U Love Somebody”). After that, catch bluesy crooner Ray Wylie Hubbard in his second performance of the day, before yielding the stage to the Grammy Award-winning Latin Funk orchestra Grupo Fantasma. The exuberant ten-piece, who’ve toured behind Prince in the past, are sure to bring the house down. The Mountain View closes Friday with the traditional Pickathon Squaredance, this year hosted by Virginian fiddle masters Old Sledge.
Grupo Fantasma - “Gimme Some”
Saturday sees the Mountain View play host to an expanded lineup of folksy elites, leading with the Portland buskers Water Tower Bucket Boys and jazz/ragtime/swing singer Pokey LeFarge. The riotous Builders and the Butchers follow, sure to get the crowd moving and sweaty before a mid-afternoon cooldown with Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter. As though that weren’t enough, critically acclaimed experimental rockers Califone follow, a fellowship of multi-instrumentalists whose vision often surpasses what can be created on the perceivable sonic spectrum. After that, the night ends with a one-two punch of Lee Fields and Bill Callahan, the former of which is renowned for his vocal ability in the soul and funk fields; the latter who is acclaimed for his stunning songwriting ability, both as Smog and under his own name.
Bill Callahan - “Riding for the Feeling”
The Mountain View closes the weekend with a Sunday lineup that’s about as loaded as the last two days put together, leading off with alt-country songstress Alela Diane and moving quickly into Wye Oak, the noise-folk duo who’s been making the rounds at the KEXP studios of late. Picking up from there are the alt-rock/country songbirds The Sadies, who, with their follow-up act Vetiver, should get the crowd’s dancing shoes hopping. Then, perhaps the most out-of-place band of this year’s Pickathon takes the stage: psychedelic Canadian rockers Black Mountain, who’ll shred among the trees until festival closer and acclaimed gospel singer Mavis Staples brings the crowd to their knees.
Mavis Staples - “Hard Times Come Again No More”
FIR MEADOWS STAGE
Blues singer L.C. Ulmer opens the Fir Meadows Stage on Friday, giving the crowd a full dose of roots magnificence before premier fiddler Bruce Molsky brings his expertise and experience to the stage. The abridged Friday lineup concludes with KEXP favorite Laura Veirs, the Portland-based singer-songwriter who’s filled many a Seattle day with her folk-driven tunes.
Laura Veirs - “July Flame”
Saturday’s lineup begins with Buffalo Killers, the Cincinnati rock band whose second album was recorded by Dan Auerbach (of The Black Keys). Following is the garage pop laureates Sonny & the Sunsets, whose labelmates include The Walkmen, Smith Westerns, and Yuck. An abrupt change of pace ensues with Joy Kills Sorrow, a Boston-based stringband that draws on elements of folk, rock, pop, and jazz to form a unique yet cohesive new style. Then, again, with new wave/post-punk trio Future Islands taking the stage, possibly the only band who will whip out drum machines and synthesizers for the weekend. Closing the Saturday festivities on the Fir Meadows Stage is another set from Elliott Brood, preceded by self-proclaimed “hillbilly riot honky-tonk” group The Wilders, from Kansas City, Missouri.
Future Islands - “The Happiness of Being Twice”
Sunday opens with Michael Hurley, possibly the last of the roaming American folk troubadors, followed by acoustic duo Corinne West & Kelly Joe Phelps, who’ll lead into melancholy “Queen of the Minor Key” Eileen Jewell, whose sad songs are bountiful and affecting. If you’re not too depressed by this point, bluegrass duo Cahalen Morrison & Eli West should be able to lift your spirits; if that doesn’t work, stick around for Thao with the Get Down Stay Down, sure to be an energetic romp through the brush. Closing this year’s Pickathon Fir Meadows Stage are Knoxville’s The Black Lillies, who fuse influences from rock, country, blues, bluegrass, and jazz into something wholly new.
The Black Lillies - “Nobody’s Business”
Of course, if you don’t want to wait until Sunday to see The Black Lillies, The Galaxy Barn stage hosts them on Friday, with a lineup that also features Buffalo Killers and The Builders and the Butchers. The barn’s Friday event closes with South Louisiana Cajun/Creole heartbreakers Pine Leaf Boys. Saturday sees the Barn playing host to numerous acts from 10AM till 2AM, kicking off with a Family Sqauredance and moving right into Laura Veirs. Bruce Molsky and Eileen Jewell also make appearances, followed by Thao with the Get Down Stay Down and concluding with a bizarre one-two punch of noise rockers Black Mountain and tequila-soaked Latin funkers Brownout (both shows 21+). The Barn has an even longer day ahead of itself on Sunday, with a Kid’s Showcase starting at 9:30, followed by a metric ton of alt-country, foot-stomping song stylists. Repeat performances include (in no short order): Water Tower Bucket Boys, Old Light, AgesandAges, Sonny & the Sunsets, Lee Fields & the Expressions, and Future Islands.
THE WOODS STAGE
Ray Wylie Hubbard kicks off the Woods Stage on Friday, paving the way for a day filled with brooding fables and dark enchantments. Sorcerers include Old Light and Elliott Brood, concluding with the ever-haunting songwriting of Bill Callahan. Saturday’s Woods lineup is markedly more upbeat, with performances from Fruit Bats, Grupo Fantasma, Pine Leaf Boys, and Seattle’s own indie-rock all-star Damien Jurado. Sunday sees repeat performances from Joy Kills Sorrow, Jesse Sykes, and The Wilders, along with some new sets: Mike + Ruthy will bring their vocal harmonies to the Woods along with their trademark fiddle, banjo, and ukelele combos; experimentalist Strand of Oaks, complete with stoner metal and synthesizer-based tracks; and finally, Whitey Morgan and the 78′s, a simple love-them-or-hate-them country rock group.
THE WORKSHOP BARN / STARLIGHT STAGE
Kids, don’t feel left out now: aside from children under 12 being free for admission, there’s much more for the young’uns to do while the adults get saucy and see their favorite bands. The Workshop Barn’s Friday features musical workshops with Brownout, Corinne West & Kelly Joe Phelps, country blues musician Charlie Parr, and southern rock Oregonians Truckstop Darlin’. Afterwards, you can take the kids to the late-night Starlight Stage for sets from Pokey LaFarge and Califone. Saturday leads off with adults-only yoga at the Barn, but is quickly followed by workshops with L.C. Ulmer and Mike+Ruthy, among others. Vetiver closes the Starlight Stage in the evening, with openers Cahalen Morrison and Eli West. Sunday also sees morning yoga, but soon the Barn hosts Pokey LaFarge, Thao, and Bruce Molsky, while the Starlight Stage will close the weekend with sets from Damien Jurado, Black Mountain side project Lightning Dust, and Charlie Parr.