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Pickathon 2019: A quick look at a long weekend of music / Story and Photos

Story by NATHAN YODER / Photos by CARMEN KINTZ //

Pickathon turned 21 this past weekend, and to celebrate the beloved festival, eager attendees gathered at Pendarvis Farm for a few days of music, art, food, and overall fun.

Shows kicked off Thursday evening, and Phil Lesh was the main attraction.  He opened with Help on the Way, but really got the crowd going when his band launched into Franklin’s Tower.  Other highlights included the classics Sugar Magnolia and Scarlet Begonias, as well as a lively rendition of Ripple, which Phil dedicated to Jerry Garcia (who would have been celebrating his 77th birthday).

The festival was in full swing by Friday, and H.C. McEntire graced the Woods Stage crowd with one of the best sets of the weekend.  Playing both solo songs from last year’s LIONHEART, as well as Mount Moriah cuts, she captivated the audience for the entirety of her hour-long performance.  Helena Deland was another highlight, as her set included tracks across her Altogether Unaccompanied volumes, including There Are A Thousand and Claudion.  She even obliged a request from the crowd to play Body Language.  The Fruit Bats, who have made a number of Pickathon stops over the years, ran through new songs from this year’s excellent Gold Past Life, but they also played old favorites like When U Love Somebody.  Guitarist Josh Kaufman, who has recently joined the band, helped in creating a full sound and an overall memorable show.  The musical trio, Khuangbin, headlined the main stage on Friday night, and played their distinctive woozy psychedelia to a large crowd.  August 10 and Lady and Man, which were played back-to-back, were highlights.  Overall, the audience seemed very impressed with the band’s stage presence and expert musicianship.

Saturday is always the biggest single day at Pickathon, both in terms of attendees as well as the number of performances, and this year was no different.  New Zealand’s The Beths were closing out a five-week tour with their Pickathon stop, and they played a full set of their danceable, indie rock to an enthusiastic Woods Stage audience.  They also ran through a handful of new songs, which had a little bit of a heavier edge. Miya Folick was another weekend highlight, as her stunning vocals were on full display when she sang pop anthems Stock Image and Thingamajig.  During one song breakdown, she even delivered an impassioned monologue to the crowd about the importance of self-care and loving yourself.  On the other end of the musical spectrum, metal giants, YOB, filled the Galaxy Barn with sludgy doom-metal. A mosh pit is a rare occurrence at Pickathon, but the energy that YOB created inspired the packed-in crowd to give it a go.  After Los Angeles-based Young Jesus performed on the Starlight Stage, Taureg guitarist Mdou Moctor closed out the night. Throughout what was perhaps the loudest set of the weekend, he shredded through songs off his most recent album, Ilana (The Creator).  Album highlight, Tarhatized, punctuated the high-energy performance.

On Sunday, the main stage was the location for some of the best shows of the weekend.  Nap Eyes, who hail from Nova Scotia, treated attendees to perfect sunny afternoon music.  Between songs, the band engaged with the crowd and even expressed gratitude for the kindness of Pickathon audiences.  Sudan Archives followed, and got the crowd moving with her impressive musicianship, meticulously-crafted beats, and vocal looping.  Come Meh Way and Nont For Sale stood out as setlist highlights.  Finally, Nathaniel Rateliff closed out the weekend as the Sunday headliner, and performed to an excited Woods Stage audience.  He played solo, and used the opportunity to try out new songs.

Pickathon 2019 was one for the ages - full of memorable performances and satisfied attendees.  Next summer, Pickathon’s 22nd year will surely bring more of the same.

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James Patrick Hurley

Mdou is the next thing in the guitar world but my fave group was Mike and the Moonpies. Hooks and masterful playing.

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