Die-hard Portland music fans might say the pandemic wasn’t really over until the Pickathon came back.
OK, the pandemic isn’t over. But in summer 2022, as with almost every festival and tour and venue, the show must go on. After being canceled in 2020 and not being booked at all in 2021 (unlike many bigger festivals), Pickathon returns to Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley on Aug. 4-7 (and will be livestreamed in full for the first time).
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 that you may have missed indoors (Faye Webster, Yazmin Williams), and acts fresh off of 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, art installations, the usual complement of food and drink (break out those reusable cups!), kid’s stuff, and a live edition of the podcast Chapo Trap House.
It’s been a trying few years for Pickathon—and not just because of COVID-19. There was a bit of backlash over the initial lack of 2020 refunds (those were eventually given a year later, with the help of federal assistance and the #SaveOurStages lobbying effort). And in 2019, two arborists died while dismantling one of Pickathon’s stages, leading to a lawsuit for wrongful death and negligence against the festival and five other companies.
“We’re trying to learn how to put together a festival again,” says Pickathon co-founder Zale Schoenborn. “And I guess on top of that, put together a brand-new festival.”
Every Pickathon veteran knows that if you have a chance to see someone on the Woods Stage, that’s the one to pick. As Schoenborn notes, the rustic, heavily built forested grove was by nature, whereas the festival’s other marquee outdoor stages (Mt. Hood, Treeline) merely tried to piggyback on nature.
This year, Pickathon has been physically restructured, with a new layout of “neighborhoods” spread across Pendarvis Farm. Designed by artists and architects from Portland State University, Green Anchors, Skylab Architecture, and McFadin Design, among others, the neighborhoods provide more open space and flow, as well as greater opportunities for shade.
“I think for anybody that’s ever been to Pickathon, it’s gonna be familiar, because you’ve been to Pendarvis Farm,” Schoenborn says. “But it’s gonna be completely new.”
One thing that hasn’t changed, even during COVID: the sense that the pace of development in Happy Valley will someday end the festival. Schoenborn says he thinks and hopes that Pickathon can keep it going for at least another three to five years. But if pandemic life has taught us anything, it’s to count on nothing…and always go to the show.
“I think it’s safe to treat any year of Pickathon as the possible last,” Schoenborn says. “You just don’t know, right?”
Paddock, 10 pm Friday, Aug. 5.
Were you there when Wet Leg made its Portland debut at Vitalidad in March? Nope, because the British duo got so big so fast that it got moved to—and sold out—the Wonder Ballroom.
Sons of Kemet
Paddock, 12 am Friday, Aug. 5; Curation, 9:30 pm Saturday, Aug. 6; Cherry Hill, 9 pm Sunday, Aug. 7.
Pickathon DJ El Toro (formerly of KEXP and now on KXCI in Tucson) is especially stoked to see this British jazz group, especially as they just announced on Instagram that they will be “closing this chapter of the band’s life for the foreseeable future.”
Galaxy Barn, 9 pm Friday, Aug. 5; Woods Stage, 5 pm Sunday, Aug. 7.
Cherry Hill, 11 pm Thursday, Aug. 4; Lucky Barn, 4 pm Saturday, Aug. 6.
If your favorite Pickathon sets have been by the likes of Ty Segall or The Cairo Gang, Nebraska garage-psych god Nance is who you want to see this year. And then you also get Nance and his bandmates providing the metaphorical fireworks behind exquisite Philadelphia singer-songwriter Rosali.
Sampa the Great
Paddock, 12 am Saturday, Aug, 6; Woods Stage, 11 pm Sunday, Aug. 7.
Schoenborn, DJ Stonebunny and Nico Vergara of Pickathon food vendor Nico’s Ice Cream all mentioned the Australian (by way of Zambia and Botswana) rapper, writer and producer. “She just fascinates me, that she can do all of the music live,” Schoenborn says. “It sounds like it’s overdubbed and produced, but it’s pretty much live.”
Galaxy Barn, 5 pm Saturday, Aug. 6; Grove, 4 pm Sunday, Aug. 7.
Not to be confused with Portland’s Garcia Birthday Band, these New Jersey psychedelicists should still delight your Deadhead uncle…as well as fans of Sun Ra, Superwolves or Blitzen Trapper. Much like Pickathon overall!
GO: Pickathon runs at Pendarvis Farm, 16581 Hagen Road, Happy Valley, pickathon.com. Aug. 4-7. Weekend tickets $390; children 13-16 $195, 12 and under free. Single-day tickets $195 Saturday, $170 Friday or Sunday. Livestream at frqncy.live/pickathon. $14.99-$29.99.