1 of 3
2 of 3
3 of 3
Next weekend I'm heading down to Portland for what promises to be one of the best music festivals I've attended.
I first heard about Pickathon two years ago (it's been going for fifteen years now), and ever sine then I have been eager to experience it in person. I was initially attracted by the names of a few of my favourite musical artists, but what fascinated me was the genuine and overwhelming enthusiasm of anyone I spoke to who had been to the fest. Each raved that it was an amazing, exceptional experience and that the efforts of the festival to be environmentally-friendly, delicious (Portland food trucks, breweries and cider houses!), peaceful (quiet camping amongst the trees) and musically inventive had succeeded. No long treks across dusty wastelands to eat bland, over-priced food and listen to some currently-trending band play a boring set.
As a kid I always had a blast at the Vancouver Folk Fest but as I got older it seemed to stall, without as many new and interesting acts that I wanted to see and with few innovations on the (admittedly stunning) site. On the other hand, Pickathon uses a similar format and beautiful natural setting but invites vibrant and innovative musical acts, many from the west coast, and gives them an opportunity to do something very much outside the norm.
Inspired by the woods, the bales of hay, stages hewn of local branches and the happy people of Happy Valley, Oregon, psych rocker Ty Segall from L.A. and experimental hip-hop duo Shabazz Palaces from Seattle re-interpret their own music for the occasion and tailor their sets to whichever quirky stage they play. I'm also excited to see Viet Cong from Calgary, punky Portlanders Summer Cannibals and Wand, King Tuff and Meatbodies (all part of Ty Segall's LA underground scene).
It IS called Pickathon so you can expect a fair number of banjos and waistcoats. There is also some slightly less-intense bluegrass; one of the best bets is Alice Gerrard, now 80 and a legend in her field, with a distinctive voice and an special understanding of how to deliver a line with spare emotion. From more far-flung shores are Tinariwen, Tuareg musicians of the Saharan region of Mali who have been going since 1979 and sound well-worth staying up past midnight for. I am also intrigued to hear Ernest Ranglin, an octogenarian Jamaican guitarist and composer who uses rhythms and chords to blend jazz, reggae and ska (he even contributed music to the Bond film Dr. No). New folky favourites Jessica Pratt, Kevin Morby (from the band Woods) and Tune-Yards both embrace and subvert simple songs.
There will be yoga and shows for kids, dj sets, re-useable plates and cups, hiking trails, composting and a fully solar-powered stage. If all of this doesn't sound Pacific Northwest enough for you, it has recently been announced that the television show Portlandia, starring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, will be filming an episode live on site at Pickathon.
The Festival runs from the Friday July 31st through Sunday August 2nd with a preview night on Thursday. It's located just east of Portland on Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley. Watch for more blog posts live from Pickathon later next week! If you're curious to know more, find out everything here.