3,500 attendees. 80 acres of farmland and woods. 50 indie bands. 16 years running. 7 stages. 4 miles of lighted trails. 3 days of music. 1 set of reusable dishes per person….So many numbers yet they all add up to a music festival experience unlike any other. 2014 is the fourth consecutive year that Record Dept. has attended Pickathon, which is set on the Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley, an idyllic yet fast-growing Portland, Oregon suburb. While the focus has shifted from indie-roots to indie throughout the years, Pickathon has increasingly become one of the premier American music festivals, and deservedly so due to the incredible line-ups, family friendly camping vibe, scenic stages, eco-consciousness, dedicated volunteers, and intimate settings. In an industry where being revered as a inspiration and influence on other professionals – a musician’s musician – is more valued than being a famous radio band, so to is Pickathon a musician’s festival. Great acts come back year after year, and new ones vie for a place in the line-up.
Here are some of the highlights from this year’s Pickathon:
Mac DeMarco: This is the first time I’ve seen DeMarco live; he’s a young Canadian guitar rocker with a laid-back vibe and connection with the audience including shoutouts, crowd-surfing, and a Coldplay cover.
Robbie Fulks – Pickathon brings in some of the modern-day legends (like the appearance of Andrew Bird in 2013), and the same goes for this year’s alt-country veteran Fulks, who hit the Mountain View (main) stage on opening day with his wit and talent in top form.
Steve Gunn – The former member of Kurt Vile and the Violators held court in the Lucky Barn, captivating those able to nab a coveted spot inside as well as those catching the live stream broadcast outside. Of the all the acts, this is the one I was most looking forward to seeing live (Gunn’s Time Off was one of Record Dept.’s top 5 albums of 2013), and the guitarist did not disappoint.
Valerie June – The Memphis born folk/blues/soul multi-instrumentalist June has been hard at work as a musician for around 15 years, yet has only recently gained well-deserved popularity thanks in part to last year’s SXSW appearances and her studio release Pushin’ Against a Stone. With a sensational, evocative voice and finger-picked guitar, June performed a perfect set Saturday on the Woods stage.
Nickel Creek – The newly reunited band celebrates 25 years since their founding. While Chris Thile (mandolin) visited in 2010 with The Punch Brothers, nothing compares to witnessing their spirited modern roots with siblings Sara Watkins (fiddle) and Sean Watkins (guitar), accompanied on upright bass.
Bobby Patterson – R&B/soul sensation and long-time producer Patterson has been making singles since the 60’s, and the oft-covered Texan recently released an album of new material. His show Saturday on the Fir Meadows stage was a must-see.
The Sadies – This Toronto country western psych rock band always puts on killer show, and they make their highly anticipated reappearance at Pickathon, having played in 2011 and 2009. True to form, they were fiery, fast, and fiercely in command of their instruments. A finer collaboration you will hardly ever see.
X – the seminal L.A. punk rock band, which formed in the late ’70’s, played a surprising acoustic set which showcased their mastery of instrumentation and layered nuances of songcraft as well as their penchant for rockabilly touches.
Other notable mentions include The Barr Brothers, Blind Pilot, Hiss Golden Messenger, Jolie Holland, Angel Olsen, and The War on Drugs, as well as these acts who always put on a good show: AgesandAges, The Black Lillies, Gregory Alan Isakov, and Willie Watson.
– Written by JFelton