Photos from Pickathon: Ty Segall, Jeff Tweedy, Beach House, Mac DeMarco
Even in the secluded woodland utopia of Pendarvis Farms in Happy Valley, Ore., where the 18th Annual Pickathon Music Festival took place this past weekend, you can’t escape the 2016 presidential election.
From the guy wearing the “A Vote For Donald Is a Vote For Fun” t-shirt to the fairly popular Bernie gear, Pickathon was strangely political this year.
Indie-rock group Wolf Parade played two sets at this year’s Pickathon. The band, whose best work is its 2005 debut record Apologies to the Queen Mary, recently regrouped and began touring again after a five-year hiatus. This inspired some in the crowd to chant: “Four more years! Four more years!”
Sometime early on, I spotted someone wearing a red cap that read “Make Wilco Great Again.” This seemed arbitrary until Saturday evening when Jeff Tweedy played the first of two solo acoustic sets and honed Trump’s self-aggrandizing rhetoric: “I have the best songs,” he jested after playing “Misunderstood.” “Nobody has better songs than me. Everybody always tells me I have the best songs.”
Someone in the crowd shouted: “Tweedy twenty-sixteen!”
Check out our photos from this year’s Pickathon:
Recap continues below.
With the exception of some acts like party architect Dan Deacon and Detroit post-punk group Protomartyr, the festival’s music lineup primarily focused on folk and indie pop. Some other highlights:
- Canadian indie rock group Alvvays brought a nice pop effervescence to the Galaxy Barn. Lead vocalist Molly Rankin wore a western fringe shirt, said she didn’t realize they’d play in a barn when she chose to wear it. Rankin’s inflection made “barn” sound like “bern” and the members poked fun at one another’s Canuck parlance.
- Adia Victoria brings an original, powerful take on delta blues. She covered Robert Johnson’s “Me and the Devil Blues,” dropped lines from Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” and sang “Stuck in the South” from her 2016 album Beyond the Bloodhounds. With an aching, pained voice, she sang about growing up in the small town of Spartanburg, South Carolina: “I been itching like a bitch with fleas / And I’m too cold in the summer heat / Saying please get me out / Lord God, put me down.”
- Tweedy‘s set spanned his long tenure with Wilco, his father-son project and early Uncle Tupelo cuts. Interestingly, and perhaps nerdily, Tweedy adjusted the lyrics to “Ashes of American Flags” for inflation, as a Diet Coke and pack of cigarettes now cost $6.53. Also: I choked up during “Jesus, Etc.” There, I said it.
- Pickathon is probably the only music festival I’ll attend that has some pretty rad horses living in a stable on the grounds.
- Boston’s Palehound is fronted by guitarist-songwriter Ellen Kempner, who played the power-pop band’s first set in Galaxy Barn. Surrounded by rusty antiques and mercantile farm wares, she noted that she thought she’d never play in a venue like this in real life, only in Guitar Hero World Tour.
- Thao & The Get Down Stay Down is a force to be reckoned with live. Thao Ngyuen switches between several stringed instruments and carries a contagious, inexhaustible amount of energy and panache.
- Singer-songwriter Margo Price had an immaculate set in the Galaxy Barn. Even if conventional bluegrass is not your bag, Price’s outlaw country style is electrifying.
- Sunday morning: NPR Music’s Bob Boilen spoke with Price about how Kris Kristofferson’s cover of “Me and Bobby McGee” changed her life. Boilen also shared his backstory with working at NPR, choosing the music that plays between news stories, and how this dovetailed into his program All Songs Considered and the development of the Tiny Desk concerts. At a young age, Boilen listened to The Beatles’ “A Day In the Life” every day. He picked up a guitar, and his music teacher told his mother he had no talent. This was the second time I choked up this weekend. Soon Boilen took a seat on the stage and we all collectively listened to the Beatles track in its entirety. Boilen, a newbie to Pickathon, admitted he’s not a big fan of most music festivals, but said this wouldn’t be his last Pickathon. He meandered between several shows this weekend, often scarfing down ice cream cones from Fifty Licks. (Check out our review of Boilen’s book Your Song Changed My Life here.)
- The final final show of the festival came at 1:20 a.m. in the Galaxy Barn, which Thee Oh Sees effectively destroyed. The San Francisco-based garage rock band is a four-piece and plays with two drummers, each playing in tandem. It might sound excessive, but it’s impeccable. A loud, bruising and lovely show to close out the weekend.
There’s a learning curve to conquering a music festival, and this is especially true for Pickathon: for those who camped out for the weekend, this necessitated hauling gear uphill into the woods until finding upon an available site, often on uneven, dusty, or ivy-covered terrain.
This made for a lot of impromptu, primitive campsites, which made the woods feel like a refugee settlement, just with more Grateful Dead tapestries. The experienced campers quickly set themselves apart, as they brought wagons to carry their wares uphill. Smart.
Children 12 and younger get into the festival for free (plenty of activities and live music for the kiddos), so the entire weekend was an interesting mix of adults and youngsters. My campsite resided between mothers with their babies, and some twenty-somethings who debated the merits of ordering a cocaine delivery from Beaverton.
Unlike the typical fest, Pickathon has a nice sustainability code, but this adds to the steep learning curve. The day-to-day lineups aren’t printed out and given to each patron, but instead posted on modest-sized spreadsheets throughout the grounds. The solar charging station drew a lengthy queue and charged $5 to charge any device. To order any food or beverage, you’d first have to buy a $10 token to obtain reusable bowls, wooden sporks and a steel pint.
This is admirable and alleviates the problem with litter that plagues most big festivals. It’s awesome how clean the grounds are by nighttime. This would probably be John Muir’s favorite music festival. Pickathon’s modest size, killer lineup, environmental integrity and local, reasonably priced food offerings made for a supremely well-organized event.