Oregon Music News: Oregon’s all-genre music magazine since 2009

Pickathon 2017, Photo by Jason Redmond
Pickathon 2017, Photo by Jason Redmond

Inside Pickathon 2017 - Hot fun and passion

By MEGHAN KEARNEY // As Pickathon continues to grow and change, a passionate lineup keeps the festival grounded

The annual Pickathon Music Festival is a summer staple in Oregon. It’s a festival unlike any other in that it’s somewhat of a festival for folks who don’t do festivals. Or at least not your common camping festival. With its close proximity to Portland, just a short thirty minute drive out, the festival offers both ease to come and go as you please or set up camp and spend the weekend. It’s as family friendly as it is appealing to the average festival goer; a chose your own adventure weekend of music.

Held on the warm and welcoming Pendarvis Farm, Pickathon offers the kind of music most suited for a woods-bound venue, from folk, to rock, to world, hip-hop and so much more enriched by swaths of evergreens and silky smooth scent of crisp air and Pine State Biscuits.

This year’s iteration struggled through many noticeable growing pains, alongside record breaking heat, both curating some unprecedented discomforts for the ever-changing and rapidly exploding festival. But through a rough and exhausting weekend, the artists, as always, were what kept the festival shining and spirits pressing through.

Highlights of the festival started early as Thursday night was knocked wide open by the sparkly soul king Charles Bradley and his aptly titled Extraordinaires. Taking to the stage with unmatched vigor and contagious excitement he lit the night like the fuzzy disco ball jacket around his shoulders.

The promise of continued heat was chilled for a moment via the intriguing duo of Anna & Elizabeth early on Friday. One of the most unique sets of the festival came equipped with quiet storytelling, two of the most enchanting vocalists, and a loaded up crankie chugging along as the women sang. The roots of folk had never been presented quite so authentically, a genuine story of the past, though dark, through song and tradition.

Next came more gorgeous vocals from a quirky Lucy Dacus and her band who together brought the woods to life with swirls of evocative arrangements and clandestine presence. Dacus crooned through tunes including the heart wrenching “I Don’t Want To Be Funny Anymore” followed by a brilliant (French) cover of what Dacus considered “the best song in the world,” Édith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose.”

Saturday churned on, unrelenting with highlights. One unforgettably at the top was Priests on the Mt. Hood Stage. The band set abuzz the crowds of nights previous and word spread fast drawing an energized crowd to their power-punked set. Complete with a tutu leotard combo, lead Katie Alice Greer in the epiphany of badassery capered about the stage with gravelly vocals waking spirits of punk legends with each crack and holler. Shortly followed another epic lead lady, Xenia Rubinos. An overflowing ocean of Sass, Rubinos owned the stage high-heel stomping through soulful ballads and rock n’ roll built in gruff poetics by her backing band.

The number one highlight of the weekend was Saturday night’s Woods Stage set from New Jersey’s Pinegrove. Hearing coinings of “Americana-emo” leading up to their first set, buzz around the fest was, well, an idle curiosity. The emo label fit both perfectly and scornfully, as Evan Stephens Hall cracked through a tortured emotion so strong you could just about see the surrounding trees cripple at their roots. But the Americana undertones rang through, making Pinegrove’s confusing label something so novel that sad love song mosh pits held more tears than punches; a new genre arisen. The young and immensely talented six-piece tore through a mix of songs from 2016’s critically acclaimed Cardinal,  and raw acoustic-leaning masterworks from the debut Everything so Far including crowd favorites “Angelina,” and “The Metronome” announced by Hall as the first song the band had ever written. Capped off with a special treat, a handful of brand new songs from an album currently being recorded in upstate New York.

Though the underdogs were the biggest thrills of this year’s Pickathon, indie legends Dinosaur Jr. shared spotlight with alt-rockers Drive-by Truckers, while Pickathon mainstay Ty Segall once again caused a ruckus on the farm to carry the fest through the weekend.

Here’s to hoping this homefront festival, quickly gaining national notoriety continues to maintain its values and grateful accommodations for its community, values that have historically been at the forefront. Despite changes, one thing that will remain undoubtedly steadfast is the diverse array of performers and the contagious passion they bring to the ever-charming Pendarvis Farm.

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