- Katie Summer
Maybe it’s because it was my first year attending the annual music festival out in Happy Valley, but nothing about the location felt conducive to really enjoying the many bands that were playing there. I kept getting distracted by the trees, and wondering how the wildlife in the area (and the horses that were penned up on the farm) must have felt about having their homes invaded by such noise and bustle.
I was reminded of a comment that former Willamette Week music editor Casey Jarman made to me when I expressed my reservations about attending Pickathon last year: “That’s the secret; it’s not about the music.” Seemed an odd thing for someone to say about a music festival, but once I got on the grounds of Pendarvis Farm, I see now what he meant.
Like most music festivals of its ilk, Pickathon is really more of a social gathering that just happens to have bands blaring or cooing away in the background. I don’t mean that’s the case for everyone, but for a lot of the people I ran into, there was a lot of talk about stuff they were planning on seeing after they got a beer, or got some food, or wandered back to their camp site to take a nap.
While I was there solely to dig into the impressively diverse lineup, it still took me a bit to get acclimated to the whole experience: the uneven pathways between stages, the disturbing cleanliness of everything thanks to the reusable cups and dishware situation, and the young moppets selling fake tattoos and spritzes from a water bottle. Once I did, I fell right into the swim of things and was able to give myself over to the music fully. And there was much to delight in on that front.
My highlights from the two days I was able to attend:
• I’m a big Destroyer fan so I made a point of catching both of his quiet, stately sets on two of Pickathon’s smaller stages. As ever, I couldn’t tell if Bejar was enjoying himself for not, in spite of comments like the one above. It didn’t dull the enrapturing effect of his solo acoustic renditions of “Chinatown,” “The Sublimation Hour,” and “Streets of Fire.”
• Jonathan Richman is still as exuberant and weird as ever. His early afternoon set on Saturday found him often putting his guitar aside in favor of distinctive dance moves and backing up his drummer Tommy Larkin on percussion.
• The locals in the house really soared this past weekend. Blind Pilot played songs both new and old with laidback passion. Ural Thomas and the Pain grinned madly through the Friday night heat and got a lot of people dancing. Jolie Holland had a delicious push-pull going on between her powerful voice and the two Sonic Youth-like guitarists that are part of her backing band.
• As my colleague Alison Hallett reminded you already, the best set of the fest was by the band with the worst name: Diarrhea Planet. They threatened to collapse the Woods Stage under the weight of their raging garage punk, never letting the foot off the gas pedal for more than about 30 seconds. The greatest moment of the performance though came via one of the band’s four guitarists, Jordan Smith, who gave a huge high five to a 10-year-old kid that was standing right at the foot of the stage. That young man was beaming after that happened. Here’s hoping it inspires him to start his own shit-spewing rock band.