Every year, Pickathon's reputation as the country's best little music festival grows, while the festival itself stays the same—small, sustainable and impeccably booked. After a huge 2016 weekend, this year's lineup has come back down closer to earth, with a handful of medium-sized names on top and a typically strong undercard of potential breakout acts.
As usual, everyone plays twice, but given the different stage environments, not every performance is the same. Here are the 11 artists we're most excited to see, and where we're most excited to see them.
Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires (Mt. Hood Stage, 8:50 pm Thursday)
Other than securing a primo camping spot, there's often not much reason to get to Pickathon the day before things really pop off. But this year, the festival is rewarding early birds with one of the true headlining sets of the weekend. A recent cancer scare forced the Screaming Eagle of Soul off the road for a time, and though he's since recovered, it's a reminder you should never take an opportunity to bask in such rare passion for granted.
KING (Treeline Stage, 3:10 pm Friday)
When it comes to setting the mood, L.A.'s KING are up there with Sade and Marvin Gaye circa "I Want You." But their brand of euphoric electro soul isn't just baby-making music—it works just as well for stoned self-love, too. And thank God for that, since boot-knocking conditions at Pickathon aren't exactly optimal.
Xenia Rubinos (Treeline Stage, 8:10 pm Friday)
No one puts Xenia Rubinos in a corner! Stylistically speaking. Across two albums, the Brooklyn singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has dizzied critics, zigzagging between graceful R&B, sassy hip-hop, playful punk-funk and other hot-wired genre combinations. Her hyperactive live sets are even more head-spinning—expect to sweat.
Priests (Galaxy Barn, 11:40 pm Friday)
Ever since Thee Oh Sees decimated the Galaxy Barn in 2012, Pickathon has made a tradition of cramming the wildest band on the lineup into its smallest venue at the peak of the crowd's collective inebriation, setting off what's basically a raging house show in the middle of a rustic music festival. But Washington, D.C.'s Priests aren't exactly the first group you'd invite to play a kegger—their twisted, discordant, politically motivated post punk is more likely to scare the dance floor than get it moving. As someone once said, though, anger is an energy, and there's enough fury in Priests' violent cacophony to power anti-Trump rallies from here 'til impeachment.
Tank and the Bangas (Woods Stage, 4:20 pm Saturday)
Winning NPR's Tiny Desk Contest hasn't yet proven to be a career springboard, but it's impossible to watch the joyous entry from New Orleans' Tank and the Bangas and not see stars in the making. Led by singer and slam-poet Tarriona Ball, the six-piece band foregrounds her shape-shifting vocals and narrative storytelling against elastic funk-and-soul grooves. It's a broadly appealing melange, one which plays equally to fans of Chance the Rapper as public radio listeners.
Dungen (Starlight Stage, 10:15 pm Saturday)
Long before Tame Impala, Sweden's Dungen were creating lush worlds of sound so three-dimensional they feel like you can live inside them. The band's pastoral psych folk—as meticulously crafted as a Swiss watch and as richly detailed as a Cézanne painting—is transportive enough on record, but under the open sky of the Starlight Stage, don't be surprised if you doze off and wake up to find yourself in some mystical Scandinavian glen.
Dinosaur Jr. (Woods Stage, 11 pm Saturday)
Was a Dinosaur Jr. set in the Galaxy Barn too much to ask for? Probably—J Mascis' patented guitar squall likely would've made the roof cave in. But hey, the Woods is still a nutty place to see one of indie rock's most legendary bands, whose reunion has arguably produced more great music than their original run. Maybe this'll be the year someone finally tries to crowd-surf one of those decorative hay bales.
Aldous Harding (Galaxy Barn, Noon Sunday)
Want to feel uneasy on Sunday morning? Wake up, grab a cup of Stumptown, and let Aldous Harding welcome you to the festival's final day with such delightful ditties as "What If Birds Aren't Singing They're Screaming." She might play guitar with spiderweb delicacy, but beneath the New Zealand singer's breathy compositions lurks a pronounced sense of dread. With a vocal range spanning from Joanna Newsom to Nico, Harding's earned the tag of "gothic folk," and while the lyrics aren't always pretty, the music sure is gorgeous.
TYuS (Treeline Stage, 4:30 pm Sunday)
Aminé wasn't Portland's only outta-nowhere success story of the last year. Though he's yet to blown up the same way, R&B singer TYuS Strickland snagged a major-label deal on the strength of his self-produced sex jams, which should sound decidedly out of place at Pendarvis Farm. But being an outlier at Pickathon just means you're more likely to be remembered, and Strickland has the voice to make sure of it.
Ty Segall (Treeline Stage, 10 pm Sunday)
A multi-time veteran of the festival, who attends as a fan even when he's not on the bill, Segall is becoming as much of a Pickathon staple as the opening night square dance, and he makes sure to bring it each time. What "it" is depends on his ever-changing whims. An acoustic punk set? A glam-rock spectacle? He's had, for him, a relatively quiet year so far—only one album, bro?—so there's little telling what he has planned this time around, but expect it to be loud.
A-WA (Galaxy Barn, 11:40 pm Sunday)
Meet the other Haim sisters, three Israeli siblings making pan-global party music in the M.I.A. mold, with the hyper-bright fashion sense to match. Having already earned a crucial cosign from Mr. Worldwide himself, Pitbull, the trio's mashup of hip-hop, reggae, EDM and traditional Middle Eastern folk should be the find of the festival for anyone smart enough to have taken Monday off from work. Dalé!
SEE IT: Pickathon is at Pendarvis Farm, 16581 SE Hagen Rd., Happy Valley, on Thursday-Sunday, Aug. 3-6. See pickathon.com for complete schedule and ticket information. All ages.