I got to be a part of a great experience called Pickathon recently. It is a music festival outside of Portland that showcases up and coming indie roots music. It was a phenomenal experience. The great thing about it is the fact that they very purposefully make the festival green, earth friendly, and anti-corporate. So the entire festival was plastic free. You purchased a great PICKATHON CUP of stainless steel made my KLEEN KANTEEN when you entered and any drink for the weekend was served to you in your cup. All about the farm there were washing and drying stations for these. There were water trucks all over the place for you to fill up your own water bottles as you wished.
It was very low key....the only sign pointing the way was on a back road and was a hand painted black lettered sign on a white board. You got your tickets in a field, parked and hiked in your camping gear. What a cool experience this was. The front of the grounds was a clearing with all the vendors, stages, etc set up. You walked past there until you reached the edge of the forest. It was very cool looking.....with in trail leading in...Inviting you to the magic forest of fun! As you stepped in you literally, physically felt as if you'd just wandered into a different world. The temperature dropped about 8 degrees. The trees were strung with lights and there were trails tailing off in every direction. Basically, the idea was find any spot in the trees, clear it out as best as you can, and set up camp. HOW COOL! We hiked for about 20 minutes until we found our spot. Already the woods were lighting up with dayglow colored flags and tie-dye blankets marking off camps. Dotting the woods in every direction were all kinds of colored tents and hammocks. It took us about 40 minute to carry everything in and set up. We were very basic. A chair, a tent, a few candles and our backpacks. We were home for 2 days! The woods had a life of their own as hippies, families, kids, yuppies and hipsters all ran around together. It was a very friendly and happy feeling place. We hiked around a little then made our way to the stages to stake out a place for our blanket and see the vendors. It was a beautiful creation, as some very creative visual artists had created the backdrop and "roof" from all kinds of huge diamond shaped silk tarps of blue white and orange. It was quite stunning. The vendors were fantastic, as they chose to have NO major corporate sponsorship at all. The food was ALL local, and about 90% was natural organic. The merch and souvenir tents followed this same suit. I truly felt at home :). I could go on for sentence after sentence about the setup...but instead I'll just tell you of the bands I saw and share some poorly shot videos for your enjoyment.
The first bad we saw Friday was WEINLAND. They were pretty good. They are a 5 piece who could be described as folk pop with a slight Americana twinge. The had a guitar and bass, drums, banjo, keyboards and a fella that rotated between dobro, mandolin, lap steel and accordion. I enjoyed the set, and thought they were a great way to start out the weekend. It was nothing spectacular but solid.
Next up on the same lawn stage setup was MEGAFAUN. I had recently heard these guys were good so was excited. They had been a different band known as DeYarmond Edison earlier, but part of that collaborative had departed to found the critically acclaimed Bob Iver...so they reformed as Megafaun. They surely did NOT disappoint. They had a bigger sound from the beginning. As a long time lover of vocal harmonies, I loved the vocal stylings of this band. They employed a very nice sound that evoked images of the Byrds, Neil Young or maybe more recently a rougher Fleet Foxes. They were very tight as a band. They played for an hour and I could easily have listened longer. I expect to see them get pretty big in coming years.
After this we hiked back into the trees to see The Punch Brothers. These were some of the guys I was most excited about seeing! It is Chris Thile's (the vocal and mandolin playing wizard of Nickel Creek fame) newest bluegrass band. I was quite eager to see them and the Woods Stage was incredible. They built a canopy for the tiny stage from limbs and branches and put hundreds of hay bales in the little valley in between the huge trees. It was incredible actually. Chris played mandolin and took most lead vocals. There was an excellent banjo player, an unbelievably skilled fiddler, a stand up bass player who both picked and strummed with a bow and a master acoustic guitar player. Each guy was a master at his craft and their harmonies were unmatchable. They had a very fun and witty banter with the crowd and surely delivered a blistering fun set. The highlight for me was when they covered Radiohead's "2+2=5" from "Hail to the Thief". It was SO good, In fact, here is a fuzzy video from it:
Afterwards we made our way back through the dust to the Main Stage area. We caught the end of a country Texas troubadour named Hayes Carll. I liked the show. The band swung just fine. His vocals in all actuality were pretty terrible. He sang with a warbly, haggard, chain smoke damaged throaty nasally tone. But with the entire look and outlaw feel of the band, it somehow worked. The lyrics and self deprecating humor with the crowd were clever enough to keep me engaged.
Next we were excited to see Breathe Owl Breathe. Between the recent rave reviews in PASTE MAGAZINE and the general buzz throughout almost everyone you talked to, I was certain this was going to be fun. They did NOT disappoint! They are a performing arts extravaganza! The visual theatrics and storytelling were every bit as important as the music. They are a Michigan trio of two guys and a girl. The set was a giant story telling session of dragons,caves, magic swim holes and such. Most pieces contained a costume of sorts, usually with a cape. They played keyboards, guitars, horns and all types of percussive instruments. It was weird, jubilant, fascinating and pure bliss! It was truly a sight to behold and their hour long set was over far too soon. Enjoy a snippet of the wild surreal magic:
The night ended for me (as I didn't stay up for the late shows though I now hear I missed out) with an unbelievably rocking set from Dr. Dog. I've been a HUGE fan for about a year now so I was jazzed for this one. If you get the chance to see them live, DO NOT miss out! This Philly outfit will rock your socks off! They played everything with SUCH intensity. I was sure that by the end of the set they might collapse. By the end of their run ALL the other bands had made their way to the side of the stage and were rocking out as starry-eyed as the rest of us mere mortals! It was a wonderful show. Here is a video of one of favorite songs called "FROM", off what I consider their best album "Fate". Enjoy:
And that made up our first evening. We made our way back up the dirty trail in the dark and collapsed in our tent drifting off to sleep with our trusty Ipod setlists singing us lullabies.