Die-hard Portland music fans might tell that the pandemic wasn’t really over until Pickathon returned.
All right, the pandemic it is not Over. But in summer 2022, as with nearly every festival, tour and venue, the show must go on. After being canceled in 2020 and not booked at all in 2021 (unlike many larger festivals), Pickathon returns to Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley from August 4-7 (and will be live-streamed for the first time ever).
This year, the big names on the poster are Valerie June, Wet Leg and GZA & The Phunky Nomads, with a lineup that also includes returning favorites (Hurray for the Riff Raff, Mike and the Moonpies), recent touring artists who you may have lost indoors (Faye Webster, Yazmin Williams) and performing fresh from Newport Jazz Festival and/or Lollapalooza (Nate Smith + KINFOLK, Nubya Garcia, Goth Babe).
And that’s not all. There are also Oregonians (Margo Cilker, Kassi Valazza, Mariachi Tradición), DJs, installation art, the usual complement of food and drink (smash those refillable cups!), kids stuff, and a live edition of the podcast Chapo Trap House.
It’s been a tough few years for Pickathon, and not just because of COVID-19. There was some backlash over the initial lack of refunds for 2020 (those were finally granted a year later, with help from federal assistance and the #SaveOurStages lobbying effort). And in 2019, two arborists died during the dismantling of one of Pickathon’s stages, leading to a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit against the festival and five other companies.
“We’re trying to learn how to organize a festival again,” says Zale Schoenborn, co-founder of Pickathon. “And I guess on top of that, putting together a brand new festival.”
Every Pickathon veteran knows that if you get the chance to see anyone on the Woods Stage, they’re the one to pick. As Schoenborn notes, the rustic, heavily forested grove was built by nature, while the festival’s other outdoor stages (Mt. Hood, Treeline) simply tried to lean into nature.
This year, Pickathon has been physically redeveloped, with a new layout of ‘quarters’ dotted around Pendarvis Farm. Designed by artists and architects from Portland State University, Green Anchors, Skylab Architecture and McFadin Design, among others, the neighborhoods offer more open space and flow, as well as more opportunities for shade.
“I think for anyone who’s ever been to Pickathon, it will be familiar, because you’ve been to Pendarvis Farm,” says Schoenborn. “But it will be completely new.”
One thing that hasn’t changed, even during COVID: the sense that Happy Valley’s pace of development will one day finish the festival. Schoenborn says he thinks and hopes that Pickathon can continue for at least another three to five years. But if life as a pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to count on nothing… and always go to the show.
“I think it’s safe to regard any Pickathon year as the last possible,” Schoenborn says. “You just don’t know, do you?”
With more than 50 artists on the lineup, most of whom will play twice, these five picks (both personal and from festival insiders) barely scratch the surface. Especially since there’s always someone on the bill you haven’t heard of who will turn into another Billy Strings (2015) or Big Thief (2017).
“Pickathon is all about discovery,” says festival curator DJ Rachel Good (aka DJ Stonebunny). “It’s not about catching acts you know you like as much as turning a corner into the woods and accidentally stumbling upon your new favorite band.”
Paddock, 10pm Friday 5th August.
Were you there when Wet Leg made their Portland debut at Vitalidad in March? No, because the British duo got big so fast that they were transferred to the Wonder Ballroom and sold out.
Sons of Kemet
Paddock, 00:00 Friday 5 August; Curator, 9.30pm Saturday 6 August; Cherry Hill, 9.00pm Sunday 7th August.
Pickathon DJ El Toro (formerly of KEXP and now on KXCI in Tucson) is especially excited to see this British jazz act, especially as they’ve just announced on Instagram that they’re “closing this chapter of the band’s life for the foreseeable future.”
Galaxy Barn, 9pm Friday, August 5; Woods Stage, 5pm Sunday 7th August.
Cherry Hill, 11pm Thursday, August 4; Lucky Barn, 4pm Saturday 6th August.
If your favorite Pickathon sets have been by the likes of Ty Segall or The Cairo Gang, Nebraska garage-psych god Nance is the one you want to see this year. And then you also have Nance and her bandmates providing the metaphorical fireworks behind exquisite Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter Rosali.
Sampa the Great
Paddock, 00:00 Saturday 6 August; Woods Stage, 11pm Sunday 7th August.
Schoenborn, DJ Stonebunny and Nico Vergara of Pickathon-based food vendor Nico’s Ice Cream all mentioned the Australian rapper, writer and producer (via Zambia and Botswana). “He just fascinates me, because he can do all the music live,” says Schoenborn. “It sounds like it was overdubbed and produced, but it’s pretty much live.”
Galaxy Barn, 5pm Saturday, August 6; Grove, 4pm Sunday 7th August.
Not to be confused with Portland’s Garcia Birthday Band, these New Jersey psychedelics should still delight your Uncle Deadhead… as well as fans of Sun Ra, Superwolves or the Blitzen Trapper. Just like Pickathon in general!
TO GO: Pickathon takes place at Pendarvis Farm, 16581 Hagen Road, Happy Valley, pickathon. com. 4-7 August. Weekend Tickets $390; children 13-16 $195, 12 and free. Day tickets $195 on Saturday, $170 on Friday or Sunday. Live stream on frqncy.live/pickathon. $14.99 – $29.99.