If the hubris of Pickathon’s past accolades hadn’t already been regurgitated a thousand fold in your festival-lovin’ eyes, then you’re probably just not paying attention. There’s a reason for the euphoria that performing artists exude during their sets. There are subtle (and not-so-subtle) features of Pendarvis Farm’s setup (elephants in the woods, wild horses in the pasture) that endear to new and veteran attendees alike each and every year. The day after the conclusion of Pickathon 2015, Wolf People posted to Instagram that the fest was “the greatest musical event we’ve ever been involved with.” They also commented during their Woods Stage set that it was “lovely to finally be playing in Endor... fuck the Empire.”
Similar takes have been heard in the past by a whole host of venerated musicians, and this year was no different. Breakout sets from Kamasi Washington, Meatbodies, Leon Bridges and a lot more punctuated a thrilling four-day event that began with an unannounced mini-performance by the goddamn Flaming Lips (on the farm to help film a Pickathon-themed episode of Portlandia—see evidence below and more here).
Simply put, Pickathon absolutely nailed it again. The diversity in performances and those more subtle upgrades in experience (the new and improved Treeline Stage was a very welcome addition), all of it added up to another entirely memorable weekend of eye-opening, mind-expanding wonderment.
And like every year, Portland artists were well-represented in the schedule. With some names you’ve likely heard of (Jackson Boone, Summer Cannibals, Grandparents) and some that may be new to you (the amazing Liz Vice), in a festival that championed no headliner, everyone was equal.
“You know me, this is totally the vibe I’m going for—this outdoor, magical hippie stuff,” explained Jackson Boone, coming off a beautiful set at the Woods Stage. “I was really nervous and I was so overwhelmed—halfway through the set I choked up and started crying. I’ve been wanting to play festivals my whole life and this is like a dream come true.” (Watch Boone's most psychedelic creation for "Moonbeams" below at the end of this article and read Vortex's recent New in #PDXmusic profile on the artist.)
Another first-time Portland performer was the great mariachi-centric Edna Vazquez, whose afternoon set in the Lucky Barn sizzled even amidst the air-conditioned confines. For Vazquez, tailoring her set to fit the atmosphere was paramount. (Listen to her 2013 EP at the end of this article.)
“I make my sets depending on my moods, and for this specific panorama,” said Vazquez backstage. “This place perfectly fits to me with the songs I’m playing because it fits with nature.”
Unlike a lot of the Portland contingent of performers—who live so close to the festival that driving home at night and returning actually makes some sense—Vazquez chose, as she had in year’s past as an attendee, to suck it up with the people.
“I don’t know how it’s going to be when I need a shower though,” she joked. “That’s going to be weird, because I have to be on stage. We’re on a farm though. We’re all dirty, it’s fine.”
Portland’s Summer Cannibals, whose sophomore LP Show Us Your Mind was recently released by New Moss Records, positively ignited the Treeline Stage during their second set at Pickathon, with guitarist and vocalist Jessica Boudreaux announcing, “This isn’t a sit-down band.”
“People asked if we were gonna take it down a notch, but fuck no,” Boudreaux said.
Guitarist Marc Swart fell victim to Friday’s punishing heat with a brief bout of dehydration, and was forced to return home for some time prior to the band’s Sunday set at the Treeline. As he explains, though, that didn’t stop him from enjoying Pickathon from afar.
“I actually watched Ex Hex’s set on the computer at my house,” Swart said. “I didn’t wanna come too early on Saturday because I got so dehydrated on Friday, so I just watched it on the livestream. Then I saw Mary Timony later that night and was like, ‘Good set!’ But little does she know that I was just watching it at home in my underwear in bed.”
Of course, it wasn’t all dehydration and dirt at this year’s Pickathon, but it wouldn’t be what it is without a little bit of both. And with no signs of lowering the bar, the festival ought to continue to be an inspiring exposition of Portland talent, in addition to Pickathon’s vaunted nose for new international acts.
“I feel honored to be playing here and I appreciate [it] so much,” Vazquez said. “It makes me feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”