If the buzz around town is any indication, this is the most anticipated Pickathon in a long time, maybe ever. Incidentally, it is also perhaps the least rootsy lineup the festival has put together in its 16 years. In the last few years, Pickathon has gradually shed its "hippie" stigma with more and more bookings from the worlds of indie rock, synth pop and even hip-hop, and while that might dismay longtime regulars, it's helped open up one of the most unique concert experiences in Portland (if not the country) to a wider audience. And that uniqueness remains, regardless of what the bill looks like.
Among the more special aspects of Pickathon is the way each stage can transform a performance. Most acts play at least twice, so it is possible to catch almost every band you want. But where you see them can often change how you see them. Here are our picks for the weekend's can't-miss sets.
Friday, 4:20 pm, Woods Stage
A cruelly early set for the Baudelaire of wine-drunk ramblings, who's usually barely coming out of last night's hangover by this time of day. Then again, Dan Bejar always looks like he just rolled onstage straight from a nap, so maybe seeing him play beneath the trees in the midafternoon is how to experience Destroyer in its purest form.
Friday, 11:30 pm, Starlight Stage
Pickathon may have gone lighter on the roots music this year, but organizers still went out and got one of Americana's brightest new stars, a soul-blues siren with modern swagger and an endorsement from the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, who produced last year's Pushin' Against a Stone. She'll sound great beneath the stars.
Saturday, 1 am, Galaxy Barn
It's a family-friendly festival, so bring the whole clan to the ol' sweat barn for what will surely be the most "you should've been there" set of the weekend. The kids will love the poop joke of a name, while the four-pronged guitar assault will remind parents of the days when they used to slug cans of Schlitz while blaring Cheap Trick in a Dairy Queen parking lot.
Saturday, 12:20 pm, Mountain View Stage
Pickathon's lineup is so stacked that the first thing you'll hear after crawling down from your campsite is Jonathan flippin' Richman singing his grown-up children's songs and, if you're lucky, a random Modern Lovers tune.
Saturday, 5 pm, Mountain View Stage
Dan Boeckner looked hilariously out of place playing the festival with Britt Daniel and Divine Fits last year—like an urban boho forced to go camping—but he must've enjoyed the rusticity well enough to come back with his newest project. Operators is still a bit of a mystery, but judging by the trio's first single, it's a return to the synth pop of Handsome Furs, yet even more âdancey.â
Saturday, 6:30 pm, Lucky Barn
The stage formerly known as the Workshop Barn begins with early-morning yoga and ends with Olsen's haunting torch songs, accompanied by a Q&A session. As if her acclaimed new album, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, weren't intimate enough, seeing her answer questions in a small, muggy shack should be downright claustrophobic.
The War on Drugs
Saturday, 9:40 pm, Galaxy Barn
While the Philly band's fogged-over interpretation of early-'80s FM radio vibes can sometimes slip from hypnotic to narcoleptic, there's no nodding off in the Galaxy Barn, the party-hardiest of Pickathon venues. When the air gets thick, squint through the heat waves and you'll swear that's Bryan Adams up there.
Sunday, 6 pm, Woods Stage
Performances at the forested Woods Stage are typically stripped down, if not totally unplugged. It's unclear what that means for "The Last Great New York Band" (© Grantland), whose twitchy punk doesn't seem like it'd turn down for much, which is why this'll be something to see.
Sunday, 7:30 pm, Fir Meadows Stage
A slacker Bob Dylan from Australia who happens to be a woman? Safe to say Barnett, whose wave of hype is just starting to crest here in the States, is going to be the discovery of the festival for a lot of people.
Sunday, 8:50 pm, Mountain View Stage
Exene Cervenka has gone online with some wild conspiracy theories lately (which, it must be said, could be related to the mental ravages of MS), but still: Back in the '80s, X released four of the greatest albums in the punk canon (and, if you ask this writer, in the entirety of rock 'n' roll), and the chance to see those songs performed acoustically, as on 1995's Unclogged, is a rare treat.
Sunday, 11:30 pm, Starlight Stage
Indie rock's clown prince kind of got the shaft on scheduling, going up against Warpaint on Saturday and playing for the stragglers on the festival's final night, but there's no dude better equipped to entertain the revelers who won't let the party end than Canada's new favorite goofball. Bet you his "Enter Sandman" cover inspires a mosh pit, or at least one last aggro square dance.
SEE IT: Pickathon is at Pendarvis Farm, 16581 SE Hagen Road, Happy Valley, on Friday-Sunday, Aug. 1-3. See pickathon.com for full schedule and ticket information. All ages.