The Roadhouse’s Pickathon 2011 preview

Regular listeners know how I feel about Pickathon. Last week in The Roadhouse I played all Pickathon music. Listen to that show here.

What is this Pickathon? It’s an indie-roots music festival 20 minutes east of Portland, in Happy Valley, Oregon on Pendarvis Farm, the same 80-acre farm where the Decemberists recorded their latest. It takes place this weekend Aug 5-7th.

Pickathon has evolved from a banjo party to an event known for it’s creative programming of roots music (new indie-roots and old timers too). It’s pretty mind blowing. Every year I discover my new favorite band at Pickathon. Last year it was Cotton Jones.

There’s two rotating main stages, a small Galaxy Barn, a Starlight Stage, and a Woods Stage (yes, in the middle of the woods). There’s camping, big trees, great food, and a sustainability ethic that makes this event unique. AND… (this is huge) there’s no assholes. In my mind it’s the best summer festival.

But not only is the curating spot-on, so is the planning, forethought, and attention to detail that results in a fantastic user experience (and artist experience!). You get a metal beer cup (just hang it on the pegboard and use it the next day! It’ll be there cuz your name is on it) and you might camp next to Bonnie Prince Billy or someone equally as eccentric. (This is where he was successfully incognito before his performance last year)

Everyone keeps coming back to Pickathon because it’s an alternative to the big festival; it’s a small event that keeps it nice, happy, and manageable. Volunteers run most things with a smile (no yellow-shirted, beefed-out security guards) and the organizers trust everyone to behave and do the right thing- that is experiencing the rootsy vibe and diggin’ great music. Really great music.

If you’re not into camping, there’s a group hotel rate ($74!), and of course there’s shuttles. They think of everything.

This year I’m expecting to get my long-hair rock on with bands like Black Mountain, Buffalo Killers, and Califone, but will have more than enough time for The Pine Leaf Boys (you’ve seen them on Treme), Pokey LaFarge (hear him on last week’s show), Mavis Staples, and North America’s finest live band (without a doubt), The Sadies. They nearly burned down the Galaxy Barn in 2009 when backing John Doe. It was the year of the heat and that barn was 100 degrees at midnight. And that was followed by the whole “Where’s Marty” incident of Blitzen Trapper.

But the man I’m most look forward to seeing this year, based on what I saw last year, is Michael Hurley. The original freak folker, and Unholy Modal Rounder himself, Hurley is one of a kind. The forever outsider, who after his show last year, was told by the next band setting up, “nice set, sounded just like 1971…”. Truth was told. Here’s my iPhone pic of Michael Hurley from last year.

Pickathon 2011 Lineup:

(Vandy Recommends In Bold) Mavis Staples, Bill Callahan, Black Mountain, Thao, Fruit Bats, Vetiver, Wye Oak, Michael Hurley, Damien Jurado, The Sadies, L. C. Ulmer, Danny Barnes, The Builders and The Butchers, Elliott Brood, Laura Veirs, Pine Leaf Boys, Future Islands, Pokey LaFarge, Brownout, Lee Fields & The Expressions, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Califone, Grupo Fantasma, Corinne West & Kelly Joe Phelps, The Wilders, Breathe Owl Breathe, Richard Swift, Lightning Dust, Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter, Sonny & The Sunsets, Whitey Morgan & The 78’s, Mike + Ruthy, Bruce Molsky, AgesandAges, Charlie Parr, Dawn Landes,The Black Lillies, Strand Of Oaks, Eilen Jewell, The Buffalo Killers, Joy Kills Sorrow, Old Light, Truckstop Darlin’


  • Pickathon is the first large outdoor music festival in the United States to eliminate single-use dishware and utensils which builds on the success of being the first to eliminate plastic water bottles and plastic beer cups in 2010.
  • Pickathon and KEXP will be featuring an HD quality video and audio stream of performances from the main outdoor stages + other select performances at 2011 Pickathon. The stream is available on the home page of KEXP and Pickathon, running continuously starting 4pm on Friday August 5th thru Noon on Monday August 8th.
  • Pickathon has added almost 20 acres of new trails and camping to further increase the quality of the 2011 Pickathon experience.

Frank Fairfield performing in the woods

temporary residence


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