Photos by Mark Lore.
I think I finally got all the dust out of my ears… and nose and eyes and other orifices (is this why they call it Pickathon?), and I’m ready to make my post-first-time-Pickathon assessment. Simply put: It was an incredible weekend. And I’ll be there next year.
The festival at the beautiful, Endor-like Pendarvis Farm is in its 15th year (and eighth at its current location), yet this is only my first. Why is that? Well, I’m of an age and/or disposition where the thought of being cooped up for days with a bunch of semi-disinterested, tragically hip shitheads staring at their phones in unison, only to see three bands I like, sounds awful. Doesn’t it?
Pickathon is the antithesis of the bloated hype-fests that price-gouge its patrons in order to break even. It’s more hippie than hipster. Whatever you’ve heard about Pickathon is probably true, which is why I finally attended this year. I put away my hang-ups, shut up and listened. I kept hearing about how artists perform two or three times throughout the festival, including more intimate shows in the Galaxy Barn, a rustic little sweatbox that played home to some amazingly inspired performances this year. Water is provided—for free. Food carts. Eco-friendly.
I’ll admit having a press pass—which included free booze and backstage access, as well as first dibs on camp spots—sweetened the experience. And, as someone who likes their music a little noisier, I was definitely drawn to this year’s lineup that included Ty Segall, King Tuff, and Parquet Courts. But…
… the biggest thrill for me came the first night in the form of one Sturgill Simpson
. This kid from Kentucky trotted in a simple three-piece and played some of the best, stripped-down country I’ve heard since I put my crackly copy of Waylon Jennings’ Leavin’ Town
on the turntable the other night. In fact, (good) country music was well repped at Pickathon. Tift Merritt
was equally impressive, spinning yarns that were brimming with soul. There was also Lee Rondeau
and Dale Watson
, who by all accounts got the Galaxy Barn hot and bothered.
And the barn was the place to be. All of my highlights were there: King Tuff
turned the barn into a garage and an arena. His music is greasy and equally refined. Parquet Courts
are a great live band. But seeing them in a barn at 1 am on a Saturday is something not many people will get to experience.
Other highlights: Divine Fits on the Mountain View Stage, Old Light on the Fir Meadows Stage, Ty Segall at the Woods Stage. White Fence, Kurt Vile, the Builders and the Butchers (my first time seeing them… what?!). Even Feist was good in sort of a charming, fussy way (let’s just say she’s a professional). Her backing band was great, though.
The most amazing part of Pickathon is that I packed in so much music and met so many great people (you’re a good man, Sean Yeaton) and stayed so thoroughly buzzed, and it felt so effortless. It’s all I could ask for—a well-organized music festival whose goal is to make sure everybody has a good time. You could tell even the bands loved it. I don’t have a lot to compare it to given my phobia of festivals. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say there’s nothing else like it.
- King Tuff, Mark Lore, Magic Jake