Also—KEXP premiered the first episode of Pickathon TV, a compilation of the hours of footage shot from last year's festival, including performances on and off the stage and all other kinds of goings-on. It's a great look at the festival for the uninitiated; and a great-looking and -sounding scrapbook for those who've been. Pickathon coordinator Zale Schoenborn says it "requires good speakers and a beer!" This episode includes performances by Heartless Bastards, Y la Bamba, Blitzen Trapper, Lake Street Dive, Thee Oh Sees, and Los Cojolites. It's great; take a look after the jump, and start getting ready for summer.
Pickathon has announced the lineup for the 2013 festival, and it's a winner, easily their biggest lineup in the 15 years of the festival. Having fully embraced styles outside of the roots music that Pickathon is (still) best known for, this year's fest includes lots of garage rock, as well as at least one indie-pop superstar and a bunch of genuinely good buzz bands, in addition to the expected folk, country, and traditional acts. I'd venture to say its their most diverse lineup to date, and surely the most likely to reach those who still have yet to give Pickathon a try. (These people are missing out.)
Feist, Andrew Bird, Divine Fits, The Devil Makes Three, Kurt Vile and the Violators, Sharon Van Etten, Shabazz Palaces, Howe Gelb, Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside, Vieux Farka Touré, The Felice Brothers, Tift Merritt, The Lone Bellow, Dale Watson, Lady, Wayne Hancock, Foxygen, Lake Street Dive, Marco Benevento, Ginny Hawker, Parquet Courts, King Tuff, Dirk Powell, JD McPherson, Breathe Owl Breathe, Lightning Dust, Sturgill Simpson, Shinyribs, White Fence, Caleb Klauder Country Band, Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole, Foghorn Stringband, Pure Bathing Culture, Bradford Lee Folk and the Bluegrass Playboys, Yellowbirds, Shakey Graves, I Draw Slow, Leo Rondeau, Old Light, The Cactus Blossoms, Diane Ferlatte, Malcolm Holcombe, Pharis and Jason Romero, Trackers Earth, Cat Doorman, Circus Cascadia, Pickathon Squaredance with caller Caroline Oakley, Saturday morning cartoons with Cardboard SongstersThe draw of Feist alone is probably bigger than any other act that's ever played Pickathon, and a clear signpost for where the festival stands today. I'm also excited by Divine Fits' first Portland-area show, Sharon Van Etten (of course), Foxygen, Andrew Bird, JD McPherson, King Tuff, Parquet Courts, Kurt Vile, White Fence, and the PIckathon return of Lake Street Dive and Breathe Owl Breathe. There are also, happily, lots of names that I don't recognize at all, which is a very good sign, taking into account Pickathon's knack for unearthing obscure talent.
This year's fest will take place, as usual, at Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley on August 2-4; it's absolutely one of the best music festivals in the world—and it is priced accordingly, particularly this year, with higher ticket prices to accommodate the bigger names. Still, compared to other, bigger, much-less-fun music festivals, the price is not outrageous in my opinion. You absolutely get what you pay for. Take a look at this year's poster after the jump, and go to the Pickathon site for tickets and more info. [The site has been down intermittently this morning, but that should be temporary.]
Some of the best music at Pickathon doesn't happen in front of the audience. It happens in the tin, 10-foot-by-10-foot pumphouse that's tucked away in the woods that surround Pendarvis Farm. Over the course of the (really hot) Pickathon weekend this August, 33 of the performing bands toted their instruments up to the little pumphouse for stripped-down, casual sessions for only the camera and microphones of the folks at Live & Breathing. And now a number of videos are up over at Live & Breathing's site. Here's a handful, including clips by Denver, the Barr Brothers, and—after the jump—Langhorne Slim and Y La Bamba. Go over to Live & Breathing for more; there are videos from Dr. Dog, Shovels and Rope, Kitty Daisy & Lewis, Southeast Engine, Petunia and the Vipers, and lots more, with more on the way.
Pickathon really was THAT good. Seriously. We wouldn't lie to you. Here are more photos to prove our point! Or irritate you further if you missed it and are already regretting it. After the jump!
Good God the tent is small. Surely The Witch will understand. When she arrives. For she is tall, too. We'll never fit. There's no room in this town for the both of us.
And Jesus, it's hot outside.
At least it's still dark.
Here she comes. Barreling right in, head first. The Witch. Blathering as she goes. Soon enough. She'll see.
No. Nothing. Spread out and fast asleep.
I go in and out for hours. The last trip to the outhouse ends it. Bunch of kids and a few old burnouts circled up, giggling, singing Beatles and David Bowie. Trying. Deep in the throws of Drugs. Discovering each other in the lingering waft of ten cooked, plastic shit boxes, where the air is thickest, heavy and warm.
Perrier bottle, please. Fill 'er up.
The Witch leaves at daybreak and I manage a few hours. Feel surprisingly serviceable, not having drank much. Would feel better if these fucking brats would quit running up and down the log parked two feet from my face. Dawn means something: Shut Up or Go The Fuck Back To Bed!
Some time later I hear "Blister In The Sun" from my pillow and know that sleep is still the place to be.
Scrape out of bed, finally, and tramp down the hill. Sweating in the same clothes. Freshen up. Head underwater. Still dripping, plop down in the dirt and glisten to The War On Drugs and a few fine IPAs with the Music Editor. Then off to get close again for Cass McCombs.
Like the night before, I cool out and just listen. Harboring no intentions of ever having to write.
Professional pot smokers around these parts. THEESatisfaction are better in The Barn.
I'm drunk and it's hot. And so we go. My, the food is fine.
In The Woods, Bambino are an elastic surprise. Electric CPR. CLEAR! KABOOM! Blood flowing and a Spring in my Step. Bow down on the Lord's Day. Good God!
Stick around after, wiping away the few bits of sweat I've still got left. Chat with my Lovely Assistant. Feel like I'll stay for BARR Brothers but Friday was the night. Can't top the surprise.
Still, they create the spark. And the audience tops themselves.
"This has been incredible," the singer says. Threaded out through the woods, the crowd knows just what he means.
"I hope we can come back next year," he says.
At six o'clock The Witch begins calling. Frantic. She has a ticket. Wants a ride. A tent. A guide. More than I'll ever know.
But I'm not through hiding from the heat. Trying not to let it get me. Not like the Arts Editor, who'd pass out at ten. After getting kicked out of the pool I spent the day air conditioned.
I told The Witch I'd pick her up once it was dark. Continued calls go unanswered. Find The Boyfriend on the porch his foot in a cast. Sorry sucker. But one mustn't worry—I could give a fuck. Just don't make me late.
The air is still and thick on the 205. Keep the windows up. Jagged apprehension like a frequent flyer waiting to de-board. Be there soon. Don't think about it. Breathe.
Bump through the parking lot to lug the bags and bottles up a hill. Sweating like dogs. Where the fuck is the tent? It was Thursday and light out when I left it. And then too I was in a hurry. Pay no mind. We leave our things and tumble back down. I put my head under a faucet.
But it's the music that really soothes me. Ahh. Sink in. Sit down. Breathe.
THEESatisfaction are mighty fine. A bop and a breeze. Some in the crowd look confused. Goddamn frumpy Dr. Dog fans no doubt. Nice to hear hip hop at The Farm, though. These girls share that lilting croon like the birth of a new cool.
Wait in vain for the sleeping Editors. The Witch watches Dr. Dog and I turn a blind eye. Lukewarm bathwater if ever there were. Nosh instead. Little of this, little of that. Bags from the backpack and sips from the tin cup.
To The Barn. White Denim spring to life along with the drugs. Each high-octane. Now the band seems as if those training regiments once used for the Major League preparation seeped into band practice. Either way they're humming. The Witch is especially twisted, twirling along in orgiastic joy.
When The Barn becomes exponential the laws of thermodynamics change. Energy is not lost. Exertion just turns in to more fuel.
Elated for my favorite tune, "Don't Look That Way At It," woven into some whiplash medley. Dig the refresh.
Upon the final note I drag The Witch out of there. Kicking and screaming. I came for Cass McCombs. She wouldn't feel it and many didn't. Which is fine. She did me the favor of running in the hills for the duration. Even the bored were part of it. In their own way. But...
This is one just for me.
Towards the front of the stage I plop down next to a group of teenagers on acid. The back lights are oppressive. I lay back in the dirt and cover my eyes. I don't open them 'till the end.
And I go to Mars.
Moments after it's all said and done, dutifully The Witch yanks me back. But I need a moment to shake it off. To open my eyes. Acclimatize. Come back down. Or at least somewhere close.
She wants to go back to The Barn but I wont. Swollen from the main course. To the tent then. But it takes time. Wandering, poking at this. Peering at that. So much to see. Give the ears their rest.
Slices of salami. Bags in the backpack. Red wine in the tin cup. Exhale.
But notice something growing. A glow in the distance. Like moths to the flame. Tip-toeing, tramping towards the sound. Twenty-some circled around a pile of lanterns. Guitars and banjos, mandolins, cellos and bottles of whiskey in their hands. Singers and shakers. Smiles and spit-caked lips. Wide-eyes, furtive squints and pancaked pupils. All the while people come and go. A few in, a few out. Pleasantries exchanged along with sips and puffs. Couples cling together at the hips and little groups chatter.
In the middle of the circle, once the cheers die down, everyone becomes once again bashful. Singing, playing, humming, together, only moments before they were a sum of their great parts.
For it to be born again on must, on his or her own, maybe with partner, must find a spark. Some do it with easy grace. Some with force. Some with will and others with fears on high. But eventually they almost all seem to find it. And it grows. Exponential.
I hum and sing along for awhile. Wishing I had more than my voice.
I find a chair and so does The Witch. A woman stumbles and falls into a hole and she laughs. A man hops up and finds a seat in a dead tree. Drinks are shared. More songs. Jokes. And the awkward pauses in-between.
The Cellist decides it's time to pack up and finds his case filled with leaves and dirt. Ain't a thing, he insists. On the way out to the trail he crosses paths with a pair of mandolin players.
"Where you headed?" one asks.
"I'm gonna turn in," The Cellist says.
"Not gonna make it 'till the sun comes up?"
"Not this year."
I'm not far behind. I hand the wine with The Witch and wander back to camp.
Ahh, Pickathon. I had missed you. Returning was The Right Thing to Do. Might be stuck together forever now...
I stumbled in Friday. Evening, just after dark, and found myself quickly wrapped, entranced and enshrined in the spirit. To the Woods Stage to find the Music Editor, breathing in the fresh air, tramping through the dusty trails like a kid towards the tree on Christmas morning.
At best, Blitzen Trapper fill me with ambivalence. But damn. That air, those trees, the glow, the beer in the tin cup plus the wafts of smoke and all those smiling, hugging fools have my lungs open and heart pumping. Take a few shots. Keep moving.
Tramp over the hill to the Barn for Thee Oh Sees. Terrifically ripping. Electric coils bouncing warble through strings and springs. Bashing away with ham hock hands. More warm and melodic than I remember. Less grating. Active less dissonant. More washing peace. The barn too. In front of the speakers, my ears are ringing.
Find the Arts Editor for beer by the Main Stage. Cheers. The square dance beings and I take pictures. Get closer. Wobble through the crowd, bumping back and forth. A big dumb ping pong ball batted by the sweaty, dusty, joyfully heaving mass. I kneel down for a shot of stomping feet and a Hippie Girl falls into me. Apologizes profusely and offers a back rub. Soon after we dance. "Promise me we'll make love some day," she says.
Must see the Mean Jeans. SMMR BMMR. Where they would back Kepi Ghoulie. Still, not easy to leave. The mood is ripe. But I must. Saturday is the day. All the bands I have to see. The ones I love.
But the Music Editor insists I stick around for Barr Brothers. Bits of African rhythms, he said. And folk. He was right.
Fresh off the plane they mesmerize. Especially the bits with polyrhythm and picking. Effortless voice, talent and charm. Howling, coo, and guitar with a string like a bow as the harp twinkles with the midnight sky. Then up to a full throat. Like an axe to a stump.
They end and I tear myself from the Starlight Stage. the Hippie Girl, and the wonder wold and whip back towards town.
I miss the Jeans set but we drink Jager instead. Personal and the Pizzas are fun. No Jeans. But fun.
The contrast is at once startling and eerily benevolent. From the grassy rolling fields of Pendarvis Farm to the beer and piss-soaked floors of Plan B. Though not all is lost in translation.
The mosh pit feels like the square dance. Bodies bump together. Writhing in carefree ecstasy. Together. The music and the moment.
Last weekend was most likely the hottest weekend we'll see of the summer, and a couple of us geniuses decided to spend it entirely outside, hiding out in whatever shade was around, and hydrating with beer. Lots of beer. I'm not really one that handles the "great outdoors" with a lot of grace, but Pendarvis Farm was a wonderful place to be for a weekend outside of the comfort zone. I was fully impressed with my ability to not care about the buckets of sweat dancing in a barn-turned-venue produced, or how dirty my feet got running from a stage nestled into the woods surrounded by happy campers to the main stages and barn. By Sunday I might have actually been enjoying myself—but don't tell anybody.
Just kidding!! Pickathon was THE BEST! And Ned, you told me so: Sunshine, music, coconuts, and fun—can't ask for a better birthday week than that!
If you missed out, or smartly decided to spend all of your weekend submerged in a body of water, here's a photo recap—Part One!—after the jump.
We'll have just a couple more Pickathon wrap-ups in the coming days, along with some pictures, so apologies if you're feeling saturated with coverage. (I'm not that sorry, though. There's a lot to talk about.) Just a few more quick thoughts on the weekend:
Lake Street Dive. Holy cow. This group of New England Conservatory grads is faultlessly competent, jumping through hoops of soul and pop and gospel and jazz to come up with a fiery, clever, almost giddily good sound. They might rely on a little too much on boho-jazz cliches to be in complete sync with my personal tastes, but they're a young band and seem fearlessly capable of anything. Recordings do not do them justice—this is a band to see live. (For an idea, watch the video above.) Singer Rachael Price has an absolute knockout of a voice—she's going to be a huge star, and the other three members of Lake Street Dive are more than capable of keeping up (drummer Mike Calabrese and upright bassist Bridget Kearney—who's also in Joy Kills Sorrow—are also incredible vocalists). It was the band's first show in Oregon; don't miss their next one.
Bombino. The dry desert blues of this Niger group made an effortless transition to the lush, green forest at Pendarvis Farm, and the second of their Sunday sets was a trancelike, energetic revival meeting. (Their first set, at 11:30 am in the barn, was no slouch either.)
Other highlights: The War on Drugs and Shovels and Rope both did terrific sets on the main stage. THEE Satisfaction kept things moving in the barn despite heat so thick you could barely swim through it. And the Barr Brothers did another tremendous job last night closing out the Woods stage to what seemed like a thousand people. It was a great fest, as always—this might have been the best Pickathon yet. It felt like a feast to be gorged upon, and I'm paying for it now.
I had never been to Pickathon before and I usually hate music festivals, but yesterday I biked out to Pickathon and found it was wonderful, wonderful. The festival doesn't give out maps of the sprawling Pendarvis Farm venue ("It's an eco thing," explained a volunteer), so I spent my first hour at Pickathon happily wandering through the forest, looking for a stage and instead finding strange paper mache animals and a friendly dog named Freckles. Things only got better from there. Ned's got Pickathon music reporting covered, so here is my collection of my favorite non-music things from the festival.
1. Seeing Neko Case twice, on two different stages and within two different sets of chemical parameters. I've been a fan of Case's for years but somehow I guess I've never seen her; that she is totally hilarious should come as no surprise to anyone who follows her on Twitter. At last night's show, she announced that she'll be spending the next six weeks in Portland to record with Tucker Martine, and joked about needing to pick up side gigs as a grouter. (I wonder if she does extermination work? My household is 97% ants at this point.)
2. This sandwich:
The food at Pickathon is one of the (many) things that distinguishes our friendly local music fest from the big-box fests you couldn't pay me to attend at this point in my life. In addition to that possibly life-saving sandwich from Bunk, there's ice cream from 50 Licks, burgers from Violetta, pizza from Al Fiorno, coffee from Spunky Monkey... great local vendors, no jacked-up prices.
All this Pickathon love is a little belated, I know—if you missed it this year, you missed it. But, like we say every year, it's really worth checking out. (You live in the Pacific Northwest now! You gotta get your feet dirty once in a while.) This year seemed more crowded than years past, but my festival experience was as great as ever.
Not that there weren't other highlights out on Pendarvis Farm: Typhoon premiered songs off their new album, which they recorded a couple months ago at one of the barns on the property, and sounded excellent. And Southeast Engine—a band previously unfamiliar to me—found truth in classic Rust Belt rock 'n' roll. (They also covered fellow Ohioans Guided by Voices' "Tractor Rape Train.") Blitzen Trapper, after a lengthy sound check, blew away the Woods stage with a full volume set that was their homecoming after a long tour, and Laura Gibson, as ever, was magnificent in her endearingly low-key way.
It's dusty and dry out there. I ended up with filthy feet, which'll make you feel like even more of a hippie, and this morning I have some very dark stuff in my throat and nose. As soon as I can breath properly I'll be back for more. Maybe I'll go train-robber style and wear a kerchief over my face; you're bound to see odder things at Pickathon anyway.
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