After being founded, 18 years ago, as a small local event with only a handful of acts, Pickathon has grown into what is, arguably, one of the most impressive annual music festivals in the country. Since 2006, it has been held on the Pendarvis Family‘s 80-acre farm, approximately 15 minutes outside of Portland, in Happy Valley, Oregon. Playing host to an eclectic variety of acts, performers appear throughout the premises on one-of-a-kind stages located in areas like barns, or, in the case of the breathtaking Woods Stage, which is constructed with a domed canopy of intertwining branches, in the middle of the very woods that concert goers camp within. A family friendly environment, the Pendarvises can be spotted throughout the weekend enjoying the company, while children play fiddles on the trails, or interact with live circus performers brought in, specifically for their entertainment. I brought my son, who was 2-years-old, at the time, back when we attended in 2013 and, much less impressed with the artists backstage, his focus was on meeting a horse that lived on the property. There are a number of reasons to love this event, and few, if any, not to, whether it’s because of the integrated sustainability measures in place, which leave the environment virtually trash free; the fact that performers play multiple sets and/or multiple days throughout the weekend, to limit conflicts in scheduling; the high quality local food and beer options that replace any sort of corporate infiltration; or even just the carefully thought out lineup. One of my favorite things about Pickathon is pretty simple: it’s really obvious that they actually give a shit about you. In fact, it’s almost shocking how much they seem to be tailoring everything to make sure that attendees are having the greatest and most fulfilling experience possible, rather than zeroing in on how they can siphon the most loot from their unsuspecting pockets.
When I met founder, Zale Schoenborn in 2013, he was instantly and surprisingly attentive, asking for my feedback about my experience, as well as encouraging me to offer up my own suggestions regarding what acts I would like to, personally, see perform the following year. 4 of the acts on my list were later booked. This year, once specific act that I suggested back them — Sir Richard Bishop — will also be playing, and while I know that a lot of factors go into everything that they do, it also seems evident that many of those factors are directly related to the feedback that they receive across the board. When I expressed to him that it makes someone feel like their input actually matters, the following year, his response to me was simple: “it does.” That first year, there was a camera crew following Andrew Bird around for a short documentary and in the following years, the presence of camera crews have increased. Throughout this year, they have slowly, yet consistently, rolled out professionally shot live footage from acts that performed in 2015. They even shot footage for an episode of Portlandia (featuring the Flaming Lips) last year, and while I’m sure that some long-time attendees, no doubt, complained about it, I met Fred Armisen at the Pendarvis Farm, 3 years ago — not as a performer, just an attendee — and we spoke about our mutual appreciation for the festival. He’s very genuine in his respect for the environment that Schoenborn, the Pendarvis family, and everyone else involved has been able to create and sustain for all of us, one spiritually rejuvenating weekend out of the year. There’s always going to be people disappointed about change, reminiscing about “how things used to be, back when,” but all that I’ve witnessed is a very conscious, organic, and necessary evolution for the festival. From an objective standpoint, it’s difficult not to admire it.
It’s my understanding that, at one point, there was some very real backlash from regular attendees who believed that the environment was beginning to get too crowded with the number of tickets that were being sold. In response to that, Pickathon limited the amount of passes that they were willing to sell (I believe that it was only 3,500 in total), but something needed to be done to account for the increasing costs, including their desire to continue bringing in better and better acts each year. One idea that was adopted was a raise in the ticket price, something that was openly addressed as a compromise to pulling back on the numbers and conserving the open spaces and decidedly non-claustrophobic environment, which is unlike anything that I’ve ever encountered at any festival of any sort, elsewhere. The videos are another move toward finding ways to expand the festival without falling prey to corporate influence or fleecing their patrons any further. The truth is that the founders could easily sell twice as many tickets and jack up the prices further and it would still be far and away more appealing than almost anything else that you’re going to come across this summer. But they don’t. Instead, they consider what could be done to better the festival, avoiding anything that they believe could wound it. I believe that each and every year those that run Pickathon believe that it’s going to be the best year yet and they strive for that. This year’s lineup would easily help make that argument. The fact that they will be live streaming it for those at home, doesn’t hurt that narrative either.
We’ll be covering the festival, ourselves, this year, but were provided with a video embed which will be live streaming shows throughout the weekend — check it out below. If you’re not already hip to who will be there this year, we definitely suggest that you check out the lineup at the official site HERE. Some of the names that we’re personally intending to hit up include Yo La Tengo, Moon Duo, Ty Segall & The Muggers, Mac DeMarco, King Sunny Ade, and Kevin Morby. All of these artists will be participating in sets that will have live streams, along with Jeff Tweedy, Julia Holter, Dan Deacon, Beach House, Black Mountain, Protomartyr, Alvvays, and plenty of others.
Click on the image of the schedule below to enlarge it into a a much more legible PDF format. Then return here to watch the festivities live beginning this Friday, August 5th at noon. Who knows? It might just be enough to prompt a last minute trip to get your ass down there in person. If not, hopefully it will be enough to make you feel like you have.