It's hard to believe that Pickathon is turning 20 this year. Not in a "time sure flies" way, but because it seems like Portland only really embraced the festival a few years ago, after organizers expanded its roots-music focus to include buzzing indie bands, hip-hop and occasional cameos from acts on the heavier and weirder ends of the music spectrum.
But, yes, it's true—Pickathon, the little music festival that began as a KBOO fundraiser and drew 90 attendees (including the dogs) to its inaugural edition, has reached the two-decade mark. And to celebrate, they're…well, they're having another Pickathon.
Tonight at Revolution Hall, the festival announced the initial lineup for its 20th anniversary edition, and to be frank, it doesn't seem any bigger than previous years—which, given Pickathon's spirit of modesty, is sort of admirable.
Keeping with recent tradition, the apparent headliners—the poster lists everyone in alphabetical order—are drawn from the indie-rock world, the biggest of which is Canadian superdupergroup Broken Social Scene. In a way, it's an appropriate choice for this milestone year, since it was the booking of sometime-member Feist, in 2013, that first put the festival on the radar of both the city and the national music press. (No word on if she'll be performing with the band here.) The other big names are Built to Spill, whose rolling guitar epics are perfectly suited for the woodsy setting, and legendary vocal group the Blind Boys of Alabama—two acts who seem like they should've played the festival years ago.
The rest of the lineup is loaded with singer-songwriters representing different strands of folk, including returning performers like Shakey Graves, Daniel Norgren and Phosphorescent. Malian psych-blues masters Tinariwen are also coming back, along with punk eccentric Ezra Furman and free-form soul explorer Lonnie Holley. Chicago R&B singer Jamila Woods and Australian cult heroine Jen Cloher—whose wife, Courtney Barnett, made a big splash at Pickathon in 2014—are among the first-timers. And of course there's a bunch of names that don't ring a bell to me, which is really the glory of the festival—it's easy to take a chance on someone you've never heard of before, and end up coming away with a great new discovery.
It should be noted that this is not the complete list of acts. A significant number are often added weeks or months down the line, some of them big. It's a fine start, though.
Pickathon is Aug. 3-5 at Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley. Tickets go on sale tomorrow morning at 8 am. Get 'em here. And check out the full initial lineup below, along with a Spotify playlist:
Les Amazones d'Afrique
Danny Barnes Trio
Revel In Dimes
Bee Bee Sea
The Dead Tongues
Lost Bayou Ramblers
Low Cut Connie
The Blind Boys of Alabama
Broken Social Scene
Built To Spill
Caleb Klauder & Reeb Willms
House and Land
Circuit des Yeux
Pickathon Square Dance
The War and Treaty
Joshua Hedley w/ Caroline Oakley + The Cully Cut-ups
The Weather Station