[ROOTS] Now in its ninth year, homegrown roots fest Pickathon is still relevant as ever thanks to exciting, eclectic young acts like Langhorne Slim, recent PDXport Alela Diane and chamber-folk duo Horse Feathers—not to mention the highly anticipated return of last year's conquering heroes, North Carolina trio the Avett Brothers. But the fest hasn't forgotten about those who knew it when, either. Local bluegrass quartet Jackstraw, for instance, has played nearly every 'thon since the festival's inception. The band's guitarist and singer, Darrin Craig, spoke with WW about what makes this fest unique—and uniquely Portland. .
WW: As a member of a group that's played almost every Pickathon, what's so special about it?
Darrin Craig: Zale [Schoenborn, Pickathon founder] has done an amazing job of always including tons of local acts. Unlike, say, the String Summit, which featured them for only a very short time...as soon as they got big enough to be able to pay for it, they quit booking them. Maybe Pickathon can't pay every band what some other festivals in the country might, but it gives them plenty of opportunities, on side stages—or often the main stage, too—and that kind of exposure has been huge for this area. And the campground's the best part of everything. I mean, who knows who we'll be playing with—maybe the Gourds! That's what I hope...or at least drinking with them!
Jackstraw's played a lot of festivals around the country, and the ones that are successful, it's always a local element that keeps them going to some extent. People can say, "Well, I'll head out and see some of the bands I go see every week." And [Pickathon] blend[s] that with really cool national acts."
What about those people who say, "Why should I go out there and pay to see a bunch of bands I could see in town?"
Well, I can see that side of it, too. It just depends if you think it's worth it to enjoy that festival atmosphere. The other thing that's great is the range of acts, from old-time [artists] to the Gourds. And it's always been a very loving, very open crowd. If they appreciate something, they'll really let it show. Being a local band for almost 10 years, we've felt that from Portland audiences—and I'm sure bands coming in from elsewhere feel it, too.