Sometimes, when you tell people you're covering something for VICE, you can well up a moment of awkward silence that becomes hard not to enjoy. At a festival like Pickathon, this lapse in conversation is totally understandable; why would we leave our sweaty, horrible home to embed ourselves—i.e. myself—right smack in the warm womb of the cleanest, friendliest goddamn place on earth?
Up here on the Pendarvis Farm, under the shade of miles of stretched purple and yellow lycra, food trucks push the boundaries of vehicular brunch while early risers do their dishes or head off for some yoga before it all starts up again. You can imagine how, sitting here, one might feel a lack for any kind of journalistic kindling; there's no fuel for the firebrand, no think piece, no shirt, no shoes, no problem. Aside from the festival's unique eco-friendly approach that virtually eliminates creating any waste, the only political discourse here exists between car bumpers in the parking lot. These are the deep coniferous outskirts of Portland and—as it turns out—it's all actually very hard to argue with. I spent four nights sleeping in a tent surrounded by ferns and moss, and four days running around with a camera like a starving and unchill paparazzo. During this time, I not only saw some amazing bands, but came to understand why people take ice cream very, very seriously, and also how square-dancing involves other people. And I ask you: what is wrong with any of this?
Let's quickly review the probability of ending up in this musical utopia. Limited sales aside (the festival is capped at 3,500 golden tickets), you should be down to camp for three or four nights, be ready to drink everything out of the selfsame metal cup, be prepared to end up wearing this metal cup on your belt loop and looking foolish, and be musically prepared to equally appreciate folk, punk, psych, and soul (plus whatever Shabazz Palaces and Breathe Owl Breath are) all in one sitting. Pickathon isn't all just pickin'-n-grinnin' as the name might suggest; the festival's lineup is eclectic enough to look more like what happens when you sort your iTunes library by "most played" and delete all the dead people. So, in addition to all that criteria, you'll probably at least want to agree with what the curators are trying to do here. This all narrows things down quite nicely and creates a sort of boutique environment which can feel like a mix between laying out the picnic blanket at a big name festival and making s'mores with the your favorite artist.
The first show I saw was Jessica Pratt at the woods stage, maybe the perfect place to listen to her.
Jessica's touring with White Fence, who also played two sets during the festival.
Shakey Graves was one of the definite highlights for me—he's a fierce one-man band with rolling tempos that ride the rails of a speeding and slowing four on the floor.
Vieux Farka Touré gets the award for first show to get all the people in the forest to dance. When I mentioned this to him, he told me in his thick accent: "This is why I'm here."
Sharon Van Etten played her last show for the year here. She opened her set by playing something brand new and untested, which was awesome. Everything about her just seems fearless.
Kurt Vile seemed a little annoyed by the super relaxed picnicking audience, which was a bit weird since his set was pretty damn relaxing.
Divine Fits were one of the few bands that didn't seem like they were in a hurry, which is weird because there are two to four times as many of them than most of the bands I talked to. We talked about how huge San Jose is and how nobody even realizes this. Know this: they closed out the festival with a big turnout at the barn.
Ty Segall didn't want to meet me for a photo, but here is a picture of his shadow from about 80ft.
Maybe my personal biggest musical highlight of the whole festival was Ty Segall's cover of Love's "Live and let Live." That pretty much burned the barn down.
Leo Rondeau, one of the many songwriters up from Austin. No freak in this folk.
The Relatives also up from TX with some damn high falsetto.
King Tuff ruled the Galaxy Barn. Most of the best shows actually took place indoors, ironically.
Lady out from Brooklyn sexing up the barn.
If you are a big Andrew Bird fan, this was probably the best possible circumstances to see him. Two condenser mics in a forest.
Back out to the festival. So much lycra.
Pickathon style #1. Her name is Memory.
Pickathon Style #2
Pickathon Style #3
Pickathon Style #4. Fred.
Campfire at the Galaxy Barn