by Eric Evans
Even in a city like Portland, Oregon, that’s known for its eccentricities, Pickathon is a strange bird of a music festival. For three days, sprawled out over seven stages, 54 artists will play music with only one common denominator: each was championed by a member of the Pickathon staff based on passion, not sales or charts. Some acts – Australian singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett, LA quartet Warpaint, South African lyricist Gregory Alan Isakov, or legendary rockers X, among others – will play more than one set over the span of the weekend so attendees can see everyone without having to rush from stage to stage. That alone is a vast improvement over festivals which often force you to choose between acts.
Pickathon differentiates itself in other, more attendee-friendly ways. Food and beverages, far from being the usual fast food, are sourced from local restaurants and breweries. You won’t see many single-use cups, dish ware or utensils littering the grounds or filling trash bins as organizers opt for stainless steel tumblers and silverware. Solar panels, mounted year-round on site, harvest enough energy to offset not only all the energy used during the festival, but also that of the food and craft vendors. The entire event is held outdoors on a large, private working farm. You know, with horses. You can camp onsite or commute via public transport, riding shuttles to and from the venue. Before and between acts, some stages host yoga classes, others kids’ activities. It’s pretty extraordinary.
But let’s not forget – it’s about the music. Originally conceived as a folk/country/bluegrass-based alternative to rock and indie music festivals elsewhere, Pickathon quickly evolved into an annual celebration of diverse talent. The pure guitar pop of Jonathan Richman juxtaposed against the ethereal beauty of Julianna Barwick’s vocal loops; the classic soul of Ural Thomas & the Pain contrasted with the velvet crunch of SXSW faves Those Darlins; Toronto’s own psych/surf/country rockers The Sadies alongside the roots-blues of Valerie June; the Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Foxygen, Angel Olsen, and dozens more…it’s a trip, designed by music lovers for music lovers.
Pickathon 2014 will be held August 1-3 at the Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley, Oregon. For venue and lineup information, visit pickathon.com.