Portland’s Pickathon Independent Music Festival is known as an event musicians love to attend as much as fans. So what’s on their turntables, tape decks and iPods this summer? We took advantage of the proliferation of artists at the Pendarvis farm to ask a range of musicians about what sounds are turning them on.

Merrill Garbus of Tune Yards performs an electrifying set at Pickathon.

Merrill Garbus of Tune Yards performs an electrifying set at Pickathon.

Dave Christensen/opbmusic

Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs brought her slamming sampled pop to Pickathon, for electrifying sets both Saturday and Sunday. She caught her breath to chat with us about summer music, particularly what’s been popular on the tUnE-yArDs tour van: William Onyeabor’s “When the Going Gets Smooth and Good.”


“We’ve been listening to him for a long time in our tour vans but I was reminded of (this) song,” said Garbus. “I listened to (the Sudanese-born Brooklyn synth pop artist) Sinkane here and their stuff reminded me a lot of him. Specifically, that song is so good because it says when the going is good, many, many people will be your friend! And the words are just very truthful and sad. Meanwhile the tune is very happy and upbeat. It just got put out in this amazing box set by Luaka Bop.”

Pete Krebs and Leslie Beia of the Earnest Lovers play each Saturday at Podnah's Pit Barbecue in Portland.

Pete Krebs and Leslie Beia of the Earnest Lovers play each Saturday at Podnah’s Pit Barbecue in Portland.

April Baer/OPB

Pete Krebs and Leslie Beia, the Earnest Lovers, play exquisitely sweet twang. It’s no surprise that their summer spin is Martha Scanlan, a singer-songwriter with a sound as big as a Montana sky. Krebs and Beia turned us onto a track from Scanlan’a new album, “The Only Thing That Burns Me Now Is The Whiskey,” recorded at Portland’s Type Foundry Studios.

“We recently played a gig out at McMenamins’ Edgefield, and on the way back in, the sun was going down. And Leslie put on the record, and it was the perfect sound for the perfect place, watching the sun go down,” said Kreb.

Rodrigo Amarante's softly swinging songs in Portugese draw a large crowd to the shaded woods stage.

Rodrigo Amarante’s softly swinging songs in Portugese draw a large crowd to the shaded woods stage.

Dave Christensen/opbmusic

Brazilian-born singer-songwriter Rodrigo Amarante had the crowd eating out of his hand with an intimate set at Pickathon’s Woods stage. Amarante mixed impossibly catchy Latin beats with some velvety, spell-binding ballads.

He didn’t have to think long to come up with the summer sound: “Curare” by João Gilberto

“I’ve been humming a song. It’s an old Brazilian song that I really love,” he said. “Curare, that’s the name of a tribe in Brazil … It’s a very complicated melody but it’s very fluid. It sounds sad and warm, and I like that.”

Howe Gelb performing at Pickathon.

Howe Gelb performing at Pickathon.

Dave Christensen/opbmusic

Howe Gelb is one of the more genteel scoundrels you’ll ever hope to meet. Think Leonard Cohen via Tucson. He made a return visit to this year’s Pickathon with his band Giant Sand. For his summer sound, he couldn’t be pinned down to a single track Rolling Stones “Sticky Fingers.”

“Sticky Fingers always works for me, ever since I was 14,” said Gelb. “The production, by Jimmy Miller, is the best-produced record I’ve ever heard. I tried to make all my early records in the 80s sound like that, even though I know Keith wasn’t happy with the way Jimmy cut up the tape. He packaged it so nice. The lick on ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’ is just great, and that jam at the end is what I’m talking about.”

Portland’s Liz Vice showed her warm, expansive gospel voice and tight band on the Treeline Stage.

Portland’s Liz Vice showed her warm, expansive gospel voice and tight band on the Treeline Stage.

Dave Christensen/opbmusic

Gospel Soul phenom Liz Vice took home the prize for most bodies moved on the first day of the festival. As the sun set, the TreeLine Stage was awash with people dancing, as Vice and her ace band rained down praise and worship.

So what’s on Vice’s playlist this summer? “Take Shelter” by Years and Years.

“I just discovered this band — they’re not new,” she said. “This song is so awesome. I love the way it makes my body feel when I listen to it. I feel like I can dance the ghost beats. It has a lot of old reggae. I’ve probably listened to it a hundred times.”

EDJ playing an opbmusic session in 2014.

EDJ playing an opbmusic session in 2014.

Dave Christensen/opbmusic

Eric D. Johnson, who records as EDJ, has a long string of rad records including albums with Fruit Bats, Vetiver and the Shins. He told us he’s working on the next EDJ record, which calls for a very specific kind of summer sound: Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”

“I go for comfort food. I go to the essentials,” said Johnson. “When I was writing my last record I did Joni Mitchell. So I’ve been on an early 70s Neil Young and Crazy Horse kick. And I’m also reading the Neil Young biography, ‘Shaky’ right now. (I like) the minimalism, the simplicity. So effortless, so beautifully boneheaded sometimes, in the best possible way — it’s immediacy.”

Erika M. Anderson is better known on the noise rock scene as EMA. Summer brought a wholly unexpected sound her way: Force Publique’s “Hopeless”

“The first time I laid ears on it, I didn’t know these guys,” said Anderson. “(T)hese two kids came over, and they gave me their tape! It’s very beautiful, it’s purple. I like listening to tapes. It’s my tape jam of the summer.”

Here’s a playlist featuring tunes recommended by Pickathon artists: