MAC DeMARCO Well, that's one way to quit smoking.

There aren't any bad bands at Pickathon, but even if there were, the festival is spread across seven stages this year, which makes it easy to dodge some of the weaker choices in favor of finding something that's more up your alley. But rest assured: The 50-plus bands they've booked this year are all very, very good. We wish we had room to tell you about all of them, but in the interest of pointing you to a few highlights, here are some of our best picks. Keep in mind, though, that this year's lineup is so good that a condensed selection like this one is practically arbitrary. In fact, one of the best parts of Pickathon is stumbling across some performer you've never heard of. Plan your schedule if you must, but be sure to keep at least some of your options open. NED LANNAMANN


  • Photo by Jonathan Birch

HISS GOLDEN MESSENGER

Maybe M.C. Taylor coulda been a rapper. He's got the name for it, for starters, and his voice sometimes takes on a jagged rasp that could give any flow a real bite. But Taylor went the folk-country route, and the kudzu-strewn soul he concocts under the name Hiss Golden Messenger feels just as immediate, just as journalistic as the best hiphop. Mind you, Taylor's streets are quiet country lanes and endless, arrow-straight interstates, and the California-born, North Carolina-based musician alternates between Sunday-morning gospel jaunts and overcast blues chants that sound like they're poured straight out of a hollow log. Hiss Golden Messenger is already four albums deep, and a fifth called Lateness of Dancers is due out on indie titan Merge Records in September. It contains tunes of honesty, trouble, and liberation. NL Fri 3 pm (Fir Meadows Stage); Sun 3:30 pm (Lucky Barn)

BOBBY PATTERSON

Attendees of last year's Pickathon might remember the Relatives, a decades-running, off-and-on, lost-and-found family band of scorching, gospel-influenced R&B. In brightly colored, custom-tailored suits, their two sets were real barnburners that inspired the sweaty, adoring audience to get down on its knees and sway back and forth in total unison. Bobby Patterson figures to be this year's Relatives. In fact, the Texas-based performer and producer even has connections to the group, recording his new LP, I Got More Soul, in Austin with Relatives guitarist Zach Ernst. Patterson shares something in common, too, with Portland's own Ural Thomas, who's also playing this year with his victorious backing band, the Pain. Both Patterson and Thomas are born entertainers, each now in their 70s, but enjoying a popular renaissance, thanks in large part to Daptone Records' resuscitation of classic funk, soul, and R&B. ANDREW R TONRY Fri 8 pm (Galaxy Barn); Sat 3:50 pm (Fir Meadows Stage)

BLIND PILOT

It feels like it's been a little while since we last heard from Blind Pilot, although the Astoria/Portland-based band played sporadic US dates in 2013, appeared on a Jackson Browne tribute album in April, and offshoot group Hook & Anchor just released its splendid debut on Woodphone Records. But the band is back in full swing for their first-ever Pickathon appearance, and who knows? Maybe we'll hear some new songs from the band's chief songwriter, Israel Nebeker, that might turn up on a third Blind Pilot album at some point in the future. Their homespun, comforting folk is a worthy representation of locally sourced Oregon music at its best. NL Fri 8:50 pm (Mountain View Stage); Sun 7:40 pm (Woods Stage)

THE WAR ON DRUGS

The early contender for album of the year is the War on Drugs' Lost in the Dream—perhaps 2014's most talked-about record (outside of Lana Del Rey's Ultraviolence). But the kind of high-profile plaudits it's earned are almost antithetical to the careful, intricate patchwork that bandleader Adam Granduciel's created on its 10 tracks, turning layers of guitars and synths into an indelible concoction that can't be disassembled or pried apart. The recording's scope is grand enough to reach the last row of the stadium bleachers, and even while evoking touchstones like Dylan, Springsteen, and U2, Lost in the Dream remains a reflective, inward journey. The War on Drugs have always been a subtle, but satisfying live band—the richness of their layered sound sometimes bounces off inattentive ears—but their last Portland show at the Wonder Ballroom contained depth and mystery for those who were looking for it, and their pulsing, emotional sound, a sound of barely reined-in wildness on a grand scale, is a perfect match for Pickathon. NL Fri 9:20 pm (Woods Stage); Sat 9:40 pm (Galaxy Barn)

THE BARR BROTHERS

A few years ago, Brad and Andrew Barr put their old band, the Slip, on pause and moved to Montreal. For their new outfit, they've enlisted harpist Sarah Page and multi-instrumentalist Andres Vial, and the result is one of the most astonishing live acts in North America. The Barr Brothers played a heart-stoppingly good pair of sets at Pickathon two years ago, and now they've returned with a second album in tow. Sleeping Operator—out October 7 on Secret City—is a folk record that doesn't give a fuck about folk (in the politest possible way). The group have embraced, head on, their flirtations with African desert blues and American country blues, but instead of reverently paying homage, they've twisted those elements into a dynamic, anomalous breadbasket of sound. Page's harp lends a sound of otherworldly exoticism—evoking a plucking, rhythmic earthiness as opposed to a bunch of angels sitting on clouds and strumming lyres—and the rest of the band follows suit, finding tangled, unorthodox routes to their songs' destinations. Anyone who's seen them before will tell you: The Barr Brothers are one of the absolute can't-miss bands of the weekend. NL Fri 9:40 pm (Galaxy Barn); Sun 4 pm (Mountain View Stage)

  • Photo by Wrenne Evans

DIARRHEA PLANET

Why have one guitar when you could have four? Sure, Diarrhea Planet sounds like a worst-case scenario at one of the festival's Honey Buckets toward the end of the three-day weekend, but the Nashville punk rockers know the undeniable, mathematic truth that less isn't more, more is more—and they've got the explosive (no pun intended) sound to prove it. Last year's I'm Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams was a surprisingly magnificent and moving album of guitar wattage and brick-shithouse riffs, and the band's live chops take it to the next level. If you're of the persuasion to think that two guys doing hammer-on triplets throughout an entire song can only make the music better, then Diarrhea Planet is the band for you. They're playing at one in the morning on the first night of Pickathon in the jam-packed Galaxy Barn, and it is going to be siiiiiick. NL Fri night 1 am (Galaxy Barn); Sat 4:20 pm (Woods Stage)

  • Photo by Rory Earnshaw

JONATHAN RICHMAN

Jonathan Richman is Pickathon's spirit animal—that this will be his first trip to Pendarvis Farm is of little matter. Richman embodies the best aspects of the fest: art in service of the fulfilled life, along with openness, community, trust, love, and friendship, all wrapped and delivered in an anti-corporate, DIY spirit. Which sort of explains Richman's Pickathon appearance—he doesn't ordinarily do by-the-numbers music festivals. The only other summer fest I've ever seen him play was Burger Record's Boogaloo last year in Oakland. Again, same deal: It was community-based, all-ages, and in a park. I asked the boys at Burger how they got Richman to play and they put it like this: Richman's like Bill Murray; he doesn't have a business manger or publicist, you just get ahold of him however you can. If the offer wets his whistle, fits his fancy, he'll show up. Pickathon getting such a stamp of approval from Richman is nothing to scoff at. ART Sat 12:20 pm (Mountain View Stage); Sun 10 pm (Starlight Stage)

  • Photo by Brantley Gutierrez

NICKEL CREEK

Nickel Creek mandolinist Chris Thile is no stranger to Pickathon, having played the festival with Punch Brothers in previous years. But Nickel Creek—the bluegrass group with which Thile cut his teeth alongside siblings Sara and Sean Watkins—reformed earlier this year after a seven-year hiatus, with a new album (A Dotted Line) to boot. The three have played together since childhood, and their evolution from adorable upstarts to influential elders has paralleled Pickathon's similar evolution from tiny twangfest to ambitiously programmed weekend that encompasses all types of music. Nickel Creek's musicianship and inventiveness notwithstanding, their essential appeal has always been in the trio's loving handling of well-worn American folk music; as such, their appearance at Pickathon couldn't feel more appropriate. NL Sat 1 pm (Woods Stage); Sat 9:50 pm (Mountain View Stage)

WOODS

Let's just get this out of the way up front: Woods' With Light and with Love is one of the best records of 2014's first half. That it is so marvelous, hearty, natural, pointed, and swinging, however, does not mean it's gotten proper dues. Woods have been putting on top-notch performances and releasing solid records so regularly over the last handful of years that they might appear to be a predictable commodity. With With Light, however, they broke their own cycle. After releasing four records in four years from 2009 to 2012, Woods not only gave themselves extra writing time, but also upped the production fidelity. With Light is a crisp, richly recorded studio affair that ought to convert a few who might've found their previous works lacking the same punch as the live show. If you weren't on board already, check out the astounding, sunshine-y, freak-power grooves "Moving to the Left" and "Leaves Like Glass," and become converted. Naturally, Woods are playing the Woods Stage—it doesn't get more symbiotic than that. ART Sat 4:40 pm (Galaxy Barn); Sun 1 pm (Woods Stage)

MAC DeMARCO

Mac DeMarco has been my summer soundtrack go-to whenever I'm looking to delight—at BBQs, parties, and even, occasionally, in the bedroom. The bouncy, low-friction, sweet-love grooves can't miss. Demarco's latest, Salad Days (much like its predecessor, 2), is packed front-to-back with jingling, warbling, hand-buffed shine, bouncing bass, swinging backbeat breaks, and raspy, cooing choruses. Recording everything himself (but performing with a marvelous full band), Demarco has developed a production style all his own. His hooky structures, however, are pure, classic pop. Take, for instance, the sentiment of "Go Easy" (whose chorus goes "Please/Go easy with my baby"). It's a modern stoner's lackadaisical updating of "Take Good Care of My Baby," penned by master pop craftspeople Carole King and the recently passed Gerry Goffin. Demarco's over-saturated image may, at first glance, present a young, dumb, chain-smoking, gap-toothed, farting, shit-grinning ding-dong, but when it comes to pop alchemy, he's a classicist deserving of high regard. His show Saturday on the Woods Stage ought to be a particularly ideal scene—just like flipping him on the stereo when the sun's setting and the BBQ begins to bop. ART Sat 7:40 pm (Woods Stage); Sun 11:30 pm (Starlight Stage)

  • Photo by Leslie Kirchhoff

COURTNEY BARNETT

Melbourne, Australia's Courtney Barnett made a splash last year when her first two EPs were released in the US as The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas. While not technically an album, it's as bold an introduction as an artist can make: a tough, untamed collection of tunes that's equal parts sandpaper and salve. Barnett's songwriting instincts are preternaturally sound, and her tunes—which, in other hands, could've been framed as polite little folk strolls—are both lackadaisical and urgent, a perfect mixture that results in great, narcotic rock 'n' roll. Barnett's since been working on her first proper album, and while it won't be released until later in the year, her two Pickathon sets (which will be her first shows in the Portland area) should provide an ample first glimpse. In the meantime, let's hope she doesn't neglect Split Peas tunes like, "Avant Gardener" and "History Eraser," hot-burning numbers with tinges of dreamlike psychedelia and catchy momentum. NL Visit End Hits for our Q&A with Barnett. Sun 7:40 pm (Fir Meadows Stage); Sun 9:40 pm (Galaxy Barn)




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