FEIST—She's the biggest name this year, and the primary reason for 2013's slightly inflated ticket price. Leslie Feist's last album, Metals, was a surprisingly deep, somber affair, one that moved her away from iPod commercials past and put her rippling, cinder-like voice front and center. For her main-stage set, Feist is mounting her full light and stage show, the first time an artist has brought such a thing to Pickathon.
ANDREW BIRD—Shooting off flecks of folk, classical, and gypsy jazz with every flick of his violin bow, Andrew Bird traffics in pure gossamer resplendence. Seeing him perform on the Woods stage Friday night is one of many Pickathon must-sees; his songs weave and bend in the wind like the whispering trees that'll be surrounding him. In a recent tweet, A.C. Newman of the New Pornographers called Andrew Bird's new live band the "best thing I've seen in years."
DIVINE FITS—The supergroup of Spoon's Britt Daniel, Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs' Dan Boeckner, New Bomb Turks' Sam Brown, and PAPA's Alex Fischel proved themselves no mere one-off with last year's A Thing Called Divine Fits, which sounded more or less like what you'd expect a Daniel/Boeckner collab to sound like, except better. With a new single out this year and a superb set at Sasquatch in May, Divine Fits have proven there's a surprising amount of gas in the tank. Pickathon marks their first Portland-area appearance.
KURT VILE AND THE VIOLATORS—The stony sound-spirals of Kurt Vile grow in potency over the course of his lengthy compositions, so the guitarist's late-night set on the intimate Starlight Stage on Saturday night will be a transfixing thing of absolute magic. If you're bringing psychedelics, this is when you'll want to be peaking.
SHARON VAN ETTEN—Simply put, Ms. Van Etten is as good as it gets. This paper has spent gallons of ink on SVE's spellbinding performances and could happily spill barrelfuls more; 2010's raw, stunning Epic and 2012's sophisticated, involving Tramp proved that she's one of the greatest singer/songwriters out there, and she's got the live ammunition to back her excellent songs up.
LADY—Nicole Wray fronts a crackerjack band making sizzling-platter, sugar-sweet soul music that could be beamed straight from AM broadcasts of the past or from the booty-shakin' dance parties of the future. Lady, whose co-lead singer Terri Walker recently left the band, toured with Lee Fields and the Impressions earlier this year, and darn near stole the show from the seasoned showman. Despite Walker's absence, the smile factor for Lady's two Pickathon sets—including a late-night set in the steamy Galaxy Barn on Sunday—is off the charts.
JD McPHERSON—When Oklahoma firestarter JD McPherson played Bunk Bar last year, his blue-suede rockabilly tore the joint down. While his very fine album Signs and Signifiers could sound like a retro throwback to some, rest assured that McPherson is fully capable of bringing vintage American sounds into the here and now, imbuing the time-honored sounds of Sun Records and Bo Diddley with blood and sweat. He's playing Friday night at 1 am in the Galaxy Barn—it's gonna be the best kind of frenzy in there.
LAKE STREET DIVE—One of the delightful surprises of last year's Pickathon was Lake Street Dive, a quartet of jazz-school virtuosos playing effortlessly joyous pop songs that bounce right off the stage. They're back this year, with an arsenal of originals and well-chosen cover songs. The band's mastery of every musical style and flawless harmonies notwithstanding, Lake Street Dive's secret weapon is lead singer Rachael Price, who's in possession of one of those inhumanly soulful, flexible voices that sets jaws dropping.
PURE BATHING CULTURE—After last year's splendid four-song EP, Pure Bathing Culture are sitting atop their first full-length, the glimmering, cleansing Moon Tides (produced by Oregon sound-alchemist Richard Swift and due out August 20 on Partisan Records). The team of Sarah Versprille and Dan Hindman have done excellent work playing behind the likes of Vetiver, Damien Jurado, and more, but their own songs are gleaming, translucent prisms of color-block synth and waterfall guitar, driven home by Versprille's yearning voice.