Now in its 18th year, the Pickathon music festival which resides just outside of Portland, Oregon, is still one of the best music festivals going and is downright magical every year. Between the consistently exceptional music selections, intimate performances, and the gorgeous setting of the 80-acre Pendarvis Farm (which is surrounded by forest and overlooks Mt. Hood), Pickathon 2016 was another stellar showcase of indie music.
THURSDAY, AUG 4
For the first time the festival weekend officially started on Thursday for early entry pass holders, and those who wanted to get a jump on claiming their camping spot and catching a few shows before everyone else. Two notable Treeline Stage performances were Portland’s own indie D.I.Y. indie rockers The Woolen Men and honky-tonk queen Lindi Ortega. Thursday’s standout set was The James Hunter Six’s soulful R&B and throwback rock and roll in the Galaxy Barn. The Easy Leaves also gave a first rate performance with their honky-tonk country vibe, as did Kevin Morby, playing a set to support his new album Singing Saw later in the evening. And for the finale in the Galaxy Barn, the eclectic and entertaining Chanti Darling brought the party vibe with their pop music dance beats and fierce dancer to accentuate Chanticleer Trü’s big personality.
FRIDAY, AUG 5
On Friday things were in full swing with The Wild Reeds opening the Galaxy Barn with a gorgeous set of three-part harmony driven indie folk. In keeping with that folk vibe, Kasey and Clayton picked right up at the Lucky Barn with a mix of Laurel Canyon sounds and Dustbowl-era music traditions. Later in the day at the Starlight Stage, the Futurebirds – eye-catching in matching white tie-dyed garb – played a mellow set of folk with touches of surf rock. One of the most upbeat performances was the rousing set of Afrobeat by King Sunny Ade, the internationally acclaimed Nigerian musician who somehow managed to squeeze his entire band on the Woods Stage. Another highlight was Yo La Tengo at the Woods Stage where they played a hushed acoustic performance featuring the more mellow side of their discography. While later in the day Moon Duo played one of the heavier sets of the weekend with their reverb soaked psychedelic rock. One of the biggest draws of the festival was Wolf Parade, who, following a long-time hiatus, returned to the Main Stage with a scorching set of in-your-face indie rock to support their new album Apologies to the Queen Mary. Friday night ended with Ty Segall and The Muggers in a sweaty, wall-to-wall mosh pit in a packed Galaxy Barn and a set of genre bending indie rock by Cass McCombs on the Starlight Stage.
SATURDAY, AUG 6
The opening act at the Galaxy Barn on Saturday was Boston’s Palehound, with Ellen Kempner and Co. drawing from 90’s era indie rock bands like Superchunk and Built to Spill to kick-off the day with a blistering wake up call. And on the Woods Stage, a setting perfect for Mount Moriah’s North Carolina alt-Americana, lead singer Heather McEntire played to the audience like a proclamating Elvis at a southern tent revival. Margo Price gave a barn-burning performance that made it well worth sweating it out in the Galaxy Barn. The set primarily came from her excellent release Midwestern Farmer’s Daughter plus a few covers of classic country songs making it easily one of the standout performances of the festival. Another notable daytime performance was The Deslondes in the Lucky Barn with Cajun fried country music and Ultimate Painting on the Treeline Stage with their jangly, melodic indie rock. In the evening, Yo La Tengo returned to the Main Stage for an electric set – in contrast to Friday’s mellow Woods Stage set. The band delivered an intense career-spanning performance playing favorites like “Ohm”, “Autumn Sweater”, and “Nowhere Near.” Following Yo La Tengo on the Main Stage was Jeff Tweedy playing a solo acoustic set that started with Wilco favorites like “Misunderstood”, “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart”, “Ashes of American Flags”, and “Jesus Etc.” To the delight of fans, things didn’t stop there, with Tweedy also pulling from his work with “New Madrid” (Uncle Tupelo), “Lost Love” (Golden Smog) and “The Ruling Class” (Loose Fur). Tying the performance together was Tweedy’s humorous stage banter and jokes referencing Presidential candidate Donald Trump “My songs are the best. Nobody does songs better than me!”, and his set did not disappoint.
SUNDAY, AUG 7
Unfortunately, I didn’t make Sunday this year but I heard the Fruit Bats, Beach House and Thee Oh Sees all had great sets.