A Portlander’s Guide To NW Festivals

Vortex Music Magazine

Whether you're looking to get lost in the woods, relax on the farm, find some free, all-ages action, or take over city streets and parks, here's the best of what's happening this festival season in Portland and the greater Northwest.

The firs of Pendarvis Farm silhouetted as the sun sets and the lights go up at Pickathon: Photo by Autumn AndelThe firs of Pendarvis Farm silhouetted as the sun sets and the lights go up at Pickathon: Photo by Autumn AndelWe live for this season in the Northwest. Some of our favorite local music fests are highlighted below but you can find everything that's happening this summer in our comprehensive Northwest Festival Directory.

GET LOST IN THE WOODS


A scene from What The Festival's Illuminated Forest in 2015—click to see more photos by Drew BandyA scene from What The Festival's Illuminated Forest in 2015—click to see more photos by Drew BandySome festivals are immersive, transcending names on a lineup to provide a communal experience fueled by music, art and movement. What The Festival (June 17-19 on the outskirts of the Mt. Hood National Forest) and Beloved Sacred Arts & Music Festival (August 12-15 in the coastal forests closest to Newport) both offer spiritual growth amongst like-minded kin against a backdrop of electronic music as well as yoga classes and DJ sets. Whether you’re dancing in the shallow waters of WTF’s splash pool or getting your fix of late-night downtempo, take a trip, get lost in art installations (especially WTF’s nighttime Illuminated Forest), and maybe you’ll find yourself.

ON THE FARM


The Woods Stage at Pickathon: Photo by Anthony PidgeonThe Woods Stage at Pickathon: Photo by Anthony PidgeonCommunity is key at Willamina’s Wildwood MusicFest (July 15-17 on more than 50 rural acres) and Pickathon (August 4-7 at Pendarvis Farm just outside Portland)—seen in the joyous reunions of farm friends whose paths may cross just once a year. Volunteers, who take ownership of the fests’ affairs, are the backbone, creating a safe, familial experience. Now in its fifth year, Wildwood is really coming into its own while remaining very affordable and sticking to its folk, country and Americana roots. From similar origins, Pickathon’s genres have blossomed to include psych rock, hip-hop and international acts as it approaches two decades of offering multiple sets from every artist in intimate settings (like the site’s barns and forested Woods Stage). At no point will you feel overwhelmed by crowds; rather, you’ll enjoy music, art, nature and one another at your own pace.

TAKE OVER CITY STREETS

While many hoods throw summertime street fairs, three are known for their robust musical talent. Kick the season off with St. Johns Bizarre on May 14, scoot down to Mississippi Ave. on July 9, and then hit the Alberta Street Fair on August 13. Expect food and vendors galore, beer gardens and fun for the kiddos. Plus, don’t miss Base Camp Brewing’s Summer Solstice Block Party on June 18 with music curated by Vortex. The best part? They’re all free!

BENEATH THE BRIDGES


Cathedral Park Jazz Festival: Photo by Image MCathedral Park Jazz Festival: Photo by Image MBack-to-back weekends of free, local music should satisfy your itch. July 15-17 mark the 36th annual Cathedral Park Jazz Festival—the longest-running free jazz festival west of the Mississippi—in the decidedly resplendent environs of its namesake in the shadow of St. Johns’ iconic bridge. Then from July 22-24 you’ll head to concrete confines beneath the Hawthorne Bridge for PDX Pop Now!’s 13th annual, all-ages, volunteer-run fest showcasing the diverse sounds of the indie scene.

FOR THE FIREWORKS


Buddy Guy at the Waterfront Blues Festival in 2015—click to see more photos by John AlcalaBuddy Guy at the Waterfront Blues Festival in 2015—click to see more photos by John AlcalaFour days of the Waterfront Blues Festival (July 1-4) will be capped by setting the night sky over the Willamette River ablaze—a fitting way to end Oregon’s largest festival (and the biggest blues fest west of the Mississippi) as well as a massive fundraiser for the Oregon Food Bank. While the waterfront gets crowded on the 4th, find some space at the Corbett Fun Fest, a small-town Independence Day featuring bands, a whole host of family-friendly activities and east county’s only fireworks show.

HEAD UP NORTH

Wanna take a trip to Washington? Head towards the city and try the all-ages, pay-what-you-can Fisherman’s Village Music Festival in downtown Everett (May 20-22) or Seattle’s signature Capitol Hill Block Party (July 22-24). Or take time out for summer camp: Beyond solid musical lineups, Timber! Outdoor Music Festival (July 14-16) offers water sports, stargazing and s’mores around the campfire, while Summer Meltdown’s (August 11-14) adventures include river rafting, horseback riding and rock climbing.

BEST OF THE REST


A scene from the inaugural Vegan Beer & Food Festival in 2015—click to see more photos by Autumn AndelA scene from the inaugural Vegan Beer & Food Festival in 2015—click to see more photos by Autumn AndelMay 27-30: Sasquatch! Music Festival at Gorge Amphitheatre, George, WA

June 11: Vegan Beer & Food Festival at Zidell Yards, Portland, OR
June 16-19: 4 Peaks Music Festival, Bend, OR
June 24-25: Paradiso Festival at Gorge Amphitheatre, George, WA

July 8-10: Oregon Country Fair, Veneta, OR
July 14-17: Northwest String Summit at Horning’s Hideout, North Plains, OR
July 15-16: Harefest 6, Canby, OR

August 4-8: Doe Bay Fest, Olga, WA
August 12-13: Bronze Blues & Brews, Joseph, OR
August 19-21: Mohawk Valley Music Festival, Marcola, OR
August 27-28: MusicfestNW presents Project Pabst at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Portland, OR

Sept. 2-4: Bumbershoot at Seattle Center, Seattle, WA
Sept. 9-11: Sisters Folk Festival, Sisters, OR

See everything that's happening this fest season in our complete Northwest Festival Directory. Plus, read our 2015 cover story on The Road to the Perfect Music Festival. And happy festival!

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