Pickathon is a fucking magical place, now that I have that out of my system I will further explain…
Pickathon is located about 40 minutes outside of Portland in the wholesome Happy Valley which is as lovely as it sounds. It is a beautiful, woodsy paradise that celebrates the perfect combination of scorching sunlight and dusty shade. It smells like childhood and looks like a dream. When you enter you are greeted by an arrangement of kind volunteers who are prominently parents with zany eyeglasses. Sounds arrange variably throughout each stage, which consist of two barns, a parachute paradise, a fort made out of pallets and the widely celebrated woods stage. The barns are Texas inspired masterpieces that offer four walls decorated beautifully consisting of musical antiques and relics from previous years.
The main stage gracefully holds three different stages all arranged with the intention to find the listener in the ideal position. The smallest stage is a recycled work of art and the woods stage is an avalanche of trees arranged to provide a completely hypnotic and all natural amphitheater. The bars are strategically placed throughout and offer micro craft beer that taste like the nectar of angels while food carts all commend a distinctive cuisine. There is no waste, recycling and compost bins are everywhere and the campsite is like a support group. There are inexplicably creative kids practicing their craft in every corner, no one gets out of hand, people sit serenely in front of the stage offering open ears and respect and the musicians are fresh and passionate. That stated the whole damn thing is a whirlwind of beauty that elevates the senses and brings out the best in people. In addition, everyone plays twice so you don’t miss a beat. The following acts were some highlights to this already illuminated experience.
Valerie June is an exquisite and unusual woman from Tennessee. She is a rare blend of classic bluegrass and gut wrenching blues. She is best described as “ Organic Moonshine Roots Music”. Her voice can be heard from miles away both in volume and emotion. Her songs are stories that express the wretched corners of struggle, the quake of falling in love and tales about the past. Her songs can be sloppily danced to in the middle of the night with a glass of scotch and mascara running down your face or provide a perfect background to baking a pie- depending on the level of production, some of her songs wear makeup, some of them don’t. Her performance got everyone sitting on haystacks mesmerized by the glimmer of her sequinned dress and arsenal of passion belting out of her gifted vessel.
The Quilt are an up and coming three piece Psychedelic Rock Band from Boston. They truly grasp the late sixties and celebrate the ambiguous yet elated style of songwriting that is often reduced to the term “Trippy”. In my humble opinion they are doing everything that Foxygen (who were also there) is trying to do but much better. They are passionate young things that know how to serenade, sing and slay their instruments.
Courtney Barnett is an Australian singer songwriter and makes that sound that I have been looking for. She assembles deadpan storytelling and charming ramblings reminiscent of a young Bob Dylan while cruising the neck of her guitar all sleazy and noisy. She played in the hot as hell barn late at night with a smirk and a backpack full of talent.
Jolie Holland is a Texas Born lifetime musician and has evolved immensely since the Be Good Tanyas. She is a refreshingly edgy songwriter and is playing with a brilliant band. She strings words together and hangs them to dry over in front of you and all you can do is watch. Her performance was a heart jerking assembly of stories and songs straight from the gut.
Other highlights include the Sadie’s clad in their cowboy tuxedos in the early morning dew, Mac Demarco crowd surfing 80 feet and cheekily covering Coldplay’s “Yellow” and The War on Drugs who are musically tight yet loosen the audience. This summer has been filled with music festivals infiltrated with furry boots and drug overdoses. Pickathon keeps the numbers of attenders intentionally low, hires fresh musicians and leaves the 40 acres of delight back in a restored order. It really is that special.