Every year, it seems like the number of music festival in the great Pacific Northwest grows. While it’s easy to get cynical about the overlap and general spectator approach to the music, there are diamonds in the rough. Of these, Pickathon, located on the beautiful Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley, Oregon, may be the most outstanding example. Flying proudly in the face of further expansion and commercialization of music festivals nearby, Pickathon continues forward, small, independent, and beautiful. Attendees camp out under the stars, in between the trees from which they will saunter to loose seating around stages named for the natural beauties of the area nearby. Bands choose to play multiple sets throughout the weekend, spending the rest of their time attending shows themselves and mingling thanks to the low key setting. Some people party all night – others bring their three year-olds and happily go to bed at nine. With an old school approach to music festivals in a world obsessed with making them a cultural staple, Pickathon is where the culture comes to relax. And while it’s more about the experience than anything else, this year’s festival hosts one of the best musical lineups in the festival’s history. Drops your plans for this weekend and grab a tent – this year’s Pickathon is a must-see.
Fresh off of hiatus, the Montreal indie rock band headed by Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug is back on the road, this year celebrating 10 years of the seminal Apologies to the Queen Mary and giving us a brand new EP of music leading up to an eventual new full length. We last saw Wolf Parade on tour for their third LP Expo ’86, out in 2010 on Sub Pop. Both Boeckner and Krug have been busy at work with other projects in the interim (Divine Fits, Operators, and Moonface just to name a few), but the time has come for Wolf Parade to return in glorious fashion. This weekend will mark Wolf Parade’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest, playing here at Pickathon for two different sets, then heading to Seattle for two nights at the Paramount. Whether you catch their Friday set on the Mountain Stage or their Saturday set at the Woods stage, this will be a celebratory joint return for two of indie rock’s best songwriters.
Pickathon attendees will have a chance to join Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy for a night off from the blitzkrieg that is the band’s last year and a half. After surprise releasing new album Star Wars for free last July, Wilco toured the new album for a year straight before just announcing it’s follow up, with the equally non-sequitur title Schmilco. Wilco is taking this phase of their career with a pinch of salt, and in the process, making some of the most brilliant, effective music of the lot. Jeff Tweedy leads it all forward with a smile, making sure to find the lightness every time things get heavy in the Wilco camp. This weekend’s solo appearance will be a treat for artist and audience alike, and with two appearances, you have no excuse not to come and enjoy his continued contributions to the best of indie rock and Americana.
Ty Segall & the Muggers
Ignore the creepy baby mask for a second. If you don’t know Ty Segall already, know this: the Calfornian guitar fiend is a deity amongst fans, spawning more albums and side projects than most people spawn mere ideas and knocking (nearly) every single one of them out of the park. Most recently, after dropping an album of T. Rex covers for Black Friday last year, Ty follows up the critically adored Manipulator with Emotional Mugger, a brutal tour through garage via glam rock, with talks of relationships, birth, death, and all the other stuff too. For the latest tour, Ty embodies the maternal imagery of his album with a creepy adult baby mask and much, much more. Take a look at his downright existential KEXP set below, and get ready for a whole lot more where that came from at his dual Pickathon sets this weekend.
Six words: Beach House in a freaking forest. The Baltimore pop shoegaze band has created some of the dreamiest, most haunting textures known to the 21st century man. Last year, they followed up 2012’s massive Myth with not one, but two full-length records, the weighty introspection of Depression Cherry and the confident cosmic exploration of Thank Your Lucky Stars. In the live setting, they take their psychic meanderings to exponential heights, and in the treeline setting of Pickathon, a Beach House concert will be nothing less than spiritual.
Yo La Tengo
The Northwest has always had a special relationship with Yo La Tengo. The New Jersey indie rock act is one of the most influential and timeless of the bunch. Since the mid 80s, Yo La Tengo has taken the genre in hand and forced it to new shapes, new contexts, and new places in order to heighten its effect and progress its boundaries. We’ve had the pleasure of having them play our fair city dozens of times, including some as personal as their fantastic set closing out Easy Street Records Queen Anne. Last year, the band released their fourteenth studio album, Stuff Like That There, a mixture of new and old in the style of their 1990 record Fakebook (among the mixture is a dynamite cover of “Friday I’m In Love“). Yo La Tengo’s appearance at this year’s Pickathon seems incredibly fitting, taking the throne as the godfathers of the genre with so many ready to take up the torch behind them.
Our favorite goofball slash Tim Kaine lookalike is making a return appearance at Pickathon after tearin’ it up back in 2014 off the fantastic millennial catharsis Salad Days. Since then, he’s dropped another one with the flippant mini-album brilliance of Another One. Mac just keeps bringing the pain and the smiles in equal handfuls, and we keep taking. If you’ve never seen Mac live, you’re missing out – plain as that. With two sets, one on Friday and one on Sunday, you have plenty opportunity to hang with Mac at Pickathon this weekend (especially since he’ll, by default, just being hanging out all day Saturday), so make it happen.
Last year, Cuban twins Ibeyi wowed us with their eponymous debut on XL Recordings, a pitch perfect mixture of bass-heavy R&B, cajon-driven lounge music (their father was Anga Diaz of Buena Vista Social Club), and French pop. Since then, the Diaz sisters have traveled the world and brought the joy of their music to thousands of listeners. This trip to Pickathon will mark their first return to the Northwest since their outstanding headliner at Neumos last year. If you want to kick your Pickathon off right, get your camp set up Thursday night, then head over to the Starlight stage where they will give the perfect lullaby. Then catch them again on Friday afternoon, because you will want a second helping of their eccentric and refreshing pop magic.
Dan Deacon is every man – there’s no other way to describe his ever-presence on the indie music spectrum in recent years. Once an obscure manipulator of sounds, Deacon came off of his spectacular Domino records debut America with enough heat to catch a full tour opener spot with Arcade Fire behind Reflektor. Each night, Deacon would warm up five digits or more worth of unsuspecting indie rockers with blistering electronic euphoria and chipmunked vocals. And yet (especially with his 2015 record Gliss Riffer), there’s something undeniable about his music, something that you can’t look away from or deny. This alone is a great reason for why Deacon plays three sets this weekend at Pickathon. Dare you attend all three, you might come out the other side a unicorn.
For warm summer nights gone on too long into melancholy, chilly nights of 2014, there wasn’t a much better soundtrack than the debut eponymous record from Toronto indie rock band Alvvays. Molly Rankin’s band is a dream for the lonely lover with a knack for trouble. Even in the midst of the cold weather of their home city, Alvvays make lovely east coast surf rock, balancing summery aspiration with wintery dismay. It’s a recipe pretty much anyone can get on board with, and the band’s steady growth and big name awareness over the last few years is a testament to that. Alvvays will bring a lovely pair of evening sets to Pickathon that you won’t want to miss.
Black Mountain join Wolf Parade as the second seminal Canadian rock band to play Pickathon behind a 10 year anniversary and a batch of new music. But unlike Wolf Parade, Black Mountain have, this year, presented us with a full fourth record in IV, and furthermore, it might be their most definitive effort yet. Black Mountain do heavy as an art form, and with IV, they’ve struck a very sweet spot on the spectrum of accessibility versus prog odyssey. One of the heavier big names to play Pickathon this year, Black Mountain are sure to shake us all from the roots, with a beautiful and captivating set of rock magnificence.
Tickets for this amazing and unique festival are still. Get yours here. See you next weekend!