Pickathon 2016: Sunday

all photos by Brittany Feenstra

With one more day of paradise ahead of them, Pickathon attendees spend the day diversifying their interests. Sure, there is plenty of incredible music to take part in later on, but throughout the experience, it’s the culture of Pickathon that dominates, winning over those who don’t regularly participate in music festivals or anything of the like. It’s the community offering that makes Sunday at Pickathon so special. And as people bustle this way and that, moseying between food trucks and classes offered in different corners of the Pendarvis grounds, it’s a wonderful final chance to meet a new friend, find a new passion, or learn the stilts. The sense of discovery, of course, extends into the day’s musical schedule. There was plenty of Sunday action to be had in the woods, on the blanket-covered lawns, and in the barns. With performances from Beach House, Ty Segall, Cory Henry, Dan Deacon, Protomartyr and more, Pickathon 2016 ended just as spectacularly as it began.

Pickathon is just a music festival only as much as Central Park is just a zoo. There is so much more to explore and discover that you could, theoretically, buy a ticket to the festival, not see a minute of music, and still be dead tired by the end of the day from a plethora of activities. It’s here especially that you see Pickathon as a family festival. Bless his heart, I saw one dad in the audience on Saturday trying to explain the underrated importance of oughts-period Yo La Tengo records like I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass to his eight year-old while basking in the glow of their main stage set. As much as you have to love that kind of passion, it’s not too surprising to believe that eight year-olds like this young fan might appreciate a more diverse palette of activities to pass the weekend. Thankfully, Pickathon offers just that. The dream of the 90s is alive in the kids area, as they can join in daily clown schools or practice on-stage performing with actual bands in their own performance area. There are complimentary benefits to letting the kids do their thing, of course, as there are also plenty of 21+ areas at Pickathon waiting to be explored into the wee hours of the night. More than nearly any other music festival you can attend, your Pickathon experience is exactly what you make it. Maybe that’s the key to its magic.

Pickathon Life:

As Cory Henry and his drummer took the stage, their announcer hyped the set perfectly. “You know what you do on Sunday morning?” he asked the crowd, smiling, “you go to church”. A veteran organ player with a soulful voice of steel, Henry is exactly the dude you want to take you to church. He’s put organ tracks down for pretty much everyone who’s anyone in the business, and yet in his downtime, he still has the audacity to write music for two bands, both of them playing the festival this weekend (both Cory Henry “solo” and with The Funk Apostles). Two men strong on the stage, Cory Henry and TaRon Lockett torch the morning main stage like it’s a midnight gig. So far as I have seen at this festival’s morning offerings, nothing comes between Pickathoners and their lawn-strung relaxation. But for Henry, multitudes got up on their feet, dancing and clapping along as Henry’s brilliant mixture of soul, hip-hop, and gospel bounced forward. With a hillside full of smiles feeling the power of passionate musicianship and convicted spirituality, this is what every Sunday should look like.

Cory Henry:

North Carolina Merge act Mount Moriah took the main stage today after an excellent set in the woods yesterday. While the massive stage didn’t quite resemble the Carolina woods practicing grounds that Heather McEntire loved so much the day before, Mount Moriah took the extra space and extra crowd to put on a main stage set like nothing else. Playing through much of new album How To Dance, as well as selected offerings from their previous Merge offerings, there was no energy lost from the intimate, tightly packed set yesterday. McEntire expressed love for her southern heritage, despite the political frustrations that often surround the region. Regardless of how many fellow Carolinans McEntire found in the audience, her sentiment was felt far and wide. It’s this desire for brighter horizons that gives Mount Moriah an energy bigger than themselves, and their set at Pickathon today continued the warm energy begun by Cory Henry into the early afternoon.

Mount Moriah:

Drawing the youngest crowd of the weekend besides that for Mac Demarco, Chicago via San Francisco songwriter Ezra Furman continued the main stage action with exponential flair. Furman rocks an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink rock and roll mixture that blends his two cities swimmingly. His love of midwestern blues and vocal stylings is evident in his pained delivery, while his band rocks a west coast cigarette-soaked rock and roll tantrum not unlike that of The Growlers or even Girls. It’s this mixture of youthful passion and explosive emotion that makes him an obvious sell for those that prefer expressionism above subtlety. Much of Furman’s critically lauded 2015 record Perpetual Motion People appeared in the set today, as excited crowds bobbed along to his scorched melodies. Furman’s explosive energy was the perfect ramp up to Ty Segall’s main stage set later today, retaining those fans that came for the noise.

Ezra Furman:

Post-punk is, historically, not a style of music you really see yourself bonding with heavily in the woods. It’s roots are buried under cracking concrete, beneath factories and industrial highrises that no-doubt play host to nameless human mechanization and modernist harbingers. It’s this world we see in Detroit post-punk act Protomartyr‘s excellent 2015 album, The Agent Intellect, wandering the streets of Detroit in search of remaining humanity under the greed and corruption. All this to say, today’s Protomartyr set at the Woods stage following their evening gig at the Galaxy Barn last night was a lovely surprise. “This isn’t exactly our usual scene”, Joe Casey laughed with a wry smile, “but you know, after being here a couple days, soaking up pure air and sunshine, we have to say… it’s pretty good”. Much more than pretty good, Protomartyr’s set today was a merciless drag race through the band’s three excellent LPs under lovely sunshine. The mixture might be off putting to some, but not much about Protomartyr’s excellence changes with the weather.

Protomartyr:

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down have hit new strides in awareness and fame this year with the excellent A Man Alive, the San Francisco band’s 2016 LP with producer and collaborator Merrill Garbus (Tune-Yards). As Thao’s songs get bigger and more grandiose, so does her stage work. The diverse collection of sounds and instruments on stage today made the Get Down Stay Down feel larger than life, like one of the weekend’s biggest names. Thao’s mixture of pop and experimental textures becomes more accessible with every pass, as she continues to venture into the ether to find new spectrums to explore. Let’s hope she continues to welcome us along for the ride.

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down:

If Pickathon were a feat of strength, it would be won this weekend by Dan Deacon. Today’s Woods set is Deacon’s third, and furthermore, it is the third completely different set he will perform, following the player-piano driven set he played Friday and the after hours hotbox dance party he threw last night. Today, here in the forest, it’s Deacon’s victory lap, and he wants to celebrate it with everyone. Not only did he break out the new-ish track “Change Your Life” – he also started a massive dance circle in the dust pit that is the three-days later floor of the Woods stage. “This side of the pit dance like Game of Thrones exists in a world devoid of the patriarchy, and this side dance like all of money embezzled by corrupt corporations would instead go to benefit the needy.” Deacon’s anxiety (much discussed on latest album Gliss Riffer) comes out in the most endearing ways possible. Oftentimes, it’s evident that he just considers the world with a heavy heart, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of at all. In fact, it’s this extreme empathy that seems to fuel the joy in the dust pit here today. As polymorphous synth textures blast greedily from the speakers, there isn’t one person in the realm of the woods not dancing ecstatically to Deacon’s incomprehensible wonders. It’s applause enough for this weekend’s hardest on-stage worker.

Dan Deacon:

Ty Segall has a truly inexplicable gift with crowds. It’s easy enough to see how, in a space like the Galaxy Barn, he can win the crowd’s respect with ease. There, the energy is already pervasive, and it only takes a downbeat for the room to combust. But today, six men strong on the main stage, Ty Segall & the Muggers no longer face the tight-knit group of dedicated fans they did a few nights ago. There are people in the back lounging out. Some onlookers packed in with the kids up front don’t really know what they are getting themselves into. It’s the kind of mixture that bands so often see at festivals nowadays, the kind of half-hearted onlookers that could go either way depending on how the first track sounds. But this is the type of situation where you see Ty Segall shine like no one else. Kicking off opener “Squealer”, he walks the perimeter, placing a single hand on the scalp of nearly every person lining the stage like he’s playing a massive, unspoken game of duck duck goose. The tactic, as simple as it seems, breaks the barrier between onlooker and performer. The front row is now engaged in ways they weren’t before. They see the delirium in Ty’s eyes, and they want it for themselves. As “Californian Hills” begins, the crowd has now loosened, and Ty’s stroll back and forth across the stage now hosts hungrier stares and eager fans await the impending combustion. And then there it is, two songs later than the Galaxy Barn set Friday night, but there all the same. Suddenly, random members of the audience are surfing in the air. Security piles on stage to push back those crushed against the edge of the stage. Ty tries to bribe a security guard to join in the fun. Another rendition of the “LA Woman” cover gets fans of all ages into the action. It’s a big, ridiculous party, like only Segall could ring-lead. As John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees looks on from the back of the stage, he looks like he’s making mental notes on how to close out the rowdiest of the crowds later this evening. Pickathon 2016 brought the guitars in piles, and I couldn’t hear a single complaint once my ears stopped ringing.

Ty Segall & the Muggers:

We’ve seen a lot of diverse action on the main stage this weekend, but it makes sense that the stage close Sunday night with the dreamy pop majesty of Baltimore indie rock band Beach House. The band waits for the sun to drop completely behind the horizon before they begin. Despite the incredibly beautiful projections we’ve seen dazzling the rafters of the main stage all weekend, the band have brought their own highly minimal lighting, more for the purpose of casting shadows than providing illumination. On stage, the band is practically invisible, lit from the sides only on certain songs, but for the most part, heard and not seen except for Victoria Legrand’s silhouetted hair flips on “Wishes”. And yet, it’s kind of poetic this way. For those staying late into the night for the Starlight stage action, they’ll hear beautiful music and get one more chance to see the sky painted in Pickathon majesty. But for the rest, it’s a dream that passes before you know it, and as Beach House’s abstract visuals dance hazily on the white awnings above, it feels like the last moment before the dream is out of mind. Sonically, Beach House is a quiet wonder. Twin 2015 albums Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars both dominate the setlist with intertwining possession. The anthemic “Elegy to the Void” lets Alex Scally rip the daylights out of his guitar in the dark, blasting all the way to the horizon, while older tunes like “Saltwater” and “Master of None” feel smaller and more intimate than the main stage has felt all weekend. Truly, with Beach House’s closer yet, the theme of Pickathon is felt beautifully: the dream is what you make of it. As “Days of Candy” closes, the days are gone and the main stage closes, and the Pickathon 2016 action is left to sweet dreams in the months to come, irreplaceable in its magic, every day feeding the anticipation of the coming year. For now, this will be enough.

Beach House:

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One Comment

  1. Noah Cohen
    Posted August 30, 2016 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Awesome show! Thats me dancing on the right in the header photo! What a blast the whole thing was!

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