The 17th edition of Pickathon was held on July 31-Aug 2 at Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley, OR. Fresh from the farm, opbmusic’s Jerad Walker recaps festival life at the always-eclectic three day event.
Best super fan: The Caveman
Every festival has eccentric guests. Pickathon 2015 had The Caveman, who was decked out in this sweet tiger print number with a matching bone. This was actually his 3rd wardrobe change. The super fan also sported two impressive sequined outfits throughout the weekend.
Most awkward air drummers: Kamasi Washington on The Mountain Stage
One of the great things about Pickathon is the eclectic nature of the festival lineup. Disparate genres like Mariachi, bluegrass, rock, and gospel were all given equal billing this year. Jazz music got it’s close-up Friday evening when Kamasi Washington played one of the most energetic sets of the three day event. Although unsure at first, the crowd— filled with a fair number of jazz novices— quickly warmed up. The band’s double drummer attack apparently made an impression on the audience because near the end of Washington’s set, there were at least a half dozen air drummers in the first few rows. Neil Peart would have been proud.
Least effective air conditioning: The Galaxy Barn
Pickathon’s Galaxy Barn is an incredibly intimate indoor venue with a capacity of roughly 75 people. Naturally, there were deep lines to see many of the acts perform in such a small space. And with temperatures hovering near 100 degrees all weekend, the promise of an air-conditioned venue only increased interest in the spot.
It was simply too good to be true.
The makeshift AC unit was hooked up to a long vent that snaked above the crowd and led directly to the stage. What little cool air that was generated went straight into the faces of the musicians (and rightfully so).
Sometime during the weekend, either a seam busted or an enterprising concertgoer took a pocket knife to the vent. Regardless of how it happened, the air finally made its way to at least part of the crowd. Although the event staff sutured it back together, the damage had been done. Periodically, the vent would magically open up again and people would huddle around the opening.
Despite the sweltering heat in the barn, fans were treated to amazing sets from Leon Bridges and Edna Vasquez Mariachi— whose bands, in incredible acts of bravery, wore full suits during their performances.
Most energetic “morning” performance: Ex Hex
For most festivalgoers, aches, pains, and general lethargy typically strike during the mornings. And by the morning, I mean anything that happens before 3 pm. That’s why the midday Saturday set from Washington, DC’s Ex Hex was so impressive. Mary Timony, Betsy Wright, and Laura Harris played a blistering set of garage punk that roused tired campers from their hammocks in the woods. After 15 minutes, the crowd watching the performance at The Mountain Stage had doubled and everyone had gotten their second wind.
Best reuse of a paper towel spindle: The Tree Line Stage
For the second year in a row, students from Portland State University School of Architecture built the backdrop for The Tree Line Stage. This year’s design featured giant cardboard tubes that up-close looked like they were stolen from Paul Bunyan’s private stash of supersized Brawny paper towels.
The finished product came together nicely. By the time Portland’s Liz Vice performed on Friday, the stage was transformed into an abstract installation that vaguely resembled a stack of timber.
Most versatile venue: The Woods Stage
The Woods Stage is an otherworldly outdoor amphitheater built in a holler and surrounded by dense forest. It seriously looks like something out of a Tolken novel. On Saturday afternoon, the venue hosted Americana duo Mandolin Orange. The crowd was hushed, quietly anticipating every harmony and fiddle break. The setting was reminiscent of a bluegrass festival in the Appalachian Mountains near the group’s hometown of Asheville, North Carolina.
On Sunday, Ty Segall dumped this quaint notion on its head. Segall and his backing band for the weekend, The Roling Stons (A.K.A. Wand), turned the idyllic setting into a dust bowl. Ear-splitting guitars echoed down the holler and bounced off the trees. And yes, there was crowdsurfing. The Woods Stage had it all.
Most common tweet: Festival feet (and variations of)
It was dusty. I mean, it was duuuusty. Everything and everyone was coated in dirt. Until it rained on Sunday, the average festival attendee had probably ingested a cup of dirt. I’m still coughing the stuff up. That being said, a little black lung is a small price to pay for three days of fun and music.