Regular WW photographer Vivian Johnson and I were both utterly thrilled to be heading to Pendarvis Farm on Friday for this year's Pickathon festival. Vivian because she went last year and had a blast; me because I've been trying to get out to the annual shindig for years and something always gets in the way. And so we saw each other out on the edge of Boring, Oregon, where huge space-age tarps stretch overhead at the main stages and twisting woodland trails lead to clusters of free-range campers. It was pretty amazing—until we both had to leave way earlier than we would have liked (for two completely different reasons).
Still, we had a blast while attending on Friday night and Saturday afternoon. I caught great sets from an absolutely on-fire Langhorne Slim (who told the crowd that Pickathon was, far as he could figure it, "the greatest festival in America"), Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside (Sallie went on some pretty impressive banter-tangents, and her band was in fine form), Richmond Fontaine (frontman Willy Vlautin worried backstage that the audience probably wanted his band to "turn it down a bit") and Typhoon (frontman Kyle Morton's guitar strap fell off, and he continued right on through, clutching the ax with his elbow until bandmate Tyler Ferrin—in a move reminiscent of the famed pottery scene from Ghost—wrapped his arms around Morton and massaged the strap into place).
The best moment for me, though, was watching Foghorn Stringband soundtrack the biggest square dance I've ever seen in my life. I'm still kind of mad that I never "grabbed a partner." A few of Vivian's photos below capture the spirit of that dance, but the scale is a tougher thing to explain. It was an incredible sight, those hundreds of people all dancing and kicking up dust, learning to square dance as they went along. It was a joyful and impressive experience that I won't soon forget, even if I was too full of pad thai to jump in.
Those musical moments are only part of the Pickathon experience, of course: The festival is special precisely because it doesn't feel like a festival at all—it feels like a camping trip with thousands of friends, extended family members (some of them hippies, some of them tattooed musicians with befuddled looks on their faces) and plenty of free-range kids. Best of all, perhaps, it's a camping trip where I don't have to depend on my crappy survival skills. I did some of the best eating I've done in my life at Pickathon (thanks, Whole Bowl, Thai Noon, Pine State and the rest of you), and the food certainly wasn't at normal "festival prices." Then there's the other best part: In the middle of it all—despite a screaming kid or two—I got a few hours of sleep.
Mine wasn't a complete Pickathon experience, so I wouldn't try and write a proper "review" (of course, there's so much going on out there that a review is sort of a silly concept anyway), but I'm posting this because I had a fantastic 24 hours or so at Pickathon, and that's worth letting people know about. I wish I could have spent my whole weekend there, and I know Vivian does, too. Hopefully next year we'll both get the chance. Maybe we'll see ya (just don't tell any jerks about it).