Pickathon 2018. It happened.
Pickathon 2018 has come and gone. The dust has settled (mainly into our lungs) and all the sets we watched slip into legend. “Hey, how about when the War and Treaty dragged that guy up on stage to sing?” or “Did you hear the Tom Waits cover that Broken Social Scene performed up at the Pumphouse?” Pickathon always exists in our memories as snapshots, of the bands we watched, the people we met, the times we shared. No two people could possibly experience the same Pickathon. Below are a few snapshots of Spectrum Culture’s experience this year at the Pendarvis Farm.
Alela Diane @ Treeline Stage
Alela Diane kicked off the weekend with a solo set for the folks who bought early entry on Thursday. Performing songs about motherhood from her new album, Cusp, in front of an appreciative crowd that included her husband and young children, Diane would later present many of the same songs the following evening, backed by a band.
Dopey’s Robe @ Treeline Stage
Why couldn’t it be Dopey’s Rope? Maybe the idea of everyone’s favorite dwarf twisting in the breeze is too morbid, but somehow it fits these Vancouver, BC psych-rockers. Thursday may be for the early birds, but despite Dopey’s freak-out bliss, no one got up on their feet to dance. It’s a shame because the set would have been better with more crowd involvement.
Tinariwen @ Mt. Hood Stage
Every Pickathon Thursday gets a special performance on the main stage. Last year we caught one of Charles Bradley’s final performances before his death. This year, we got festival vets Tinariwen who return to Pickathon in support of last year’s album, Elwan. As usual, the nomadic desert blues from Mali really added something different and special to the festival.
Mapache @ Starlight Stage
With less options on Thursday night, sometimes you stumble onto a band you weren’t intending to see. On my initial research, Mapache wasn’t one of the acts I was excited to check out. However, the sweet harmonies of this Los Angeles duo were the perfect thing for winding down for the evening. Their cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Loretta” was especially excellent.
Zephaniah OHora @ Galaxy Barn
Early Friday is a good time to go to the Galaxy Barn. The surging crowds haven’t come for the weekend yet and the normally stifling space is actually manageable and somewhat cool. Their loss. Brooklyn (you read that right) country singer Zephaniah OHora put on an excellent set featuring songs from his debut LP, This Highway. With his Merle Haggard chops, Grateful Dead denim jacket and self-effacing banter (don’t worry country fans, he’s from New Hampshire), OHora is a musician to watch. He also apparently loves ice cream too as he was spotted numerous times throughout the weekend eating a cone of Ben & Jerry’s.
Marisa Anderson @ Galaxy Barn
More people likely caught Marisa Anderson’s Sunday morning set in the fiery inferno of the Lucky Barn, but this early Friday set was one of my favorites of the entire weekend. Anderson’s wordless dirges on the guitar were meditative, dreamlike and hypnotic. In between each piece, Anderson discussed her writing process, talking about religion, the use of the term “alien” to describe someone foreign and most hauntingly an image of a dead Syrian boy that inspired “Lament.” I overheard one guy say, “It sounds like there were three guitars playing at once!”
Circuit Des Yeux @ Treeline Stage
If you think my goal was to stay away from the “pick” in the Pickathon, you are likely correct. Luckily, there are a myriad of options to suit every musical taste. For indie fans, Haley Fohr’s Circuit Des Yeux project scratches that sweet spot between ANOHNI and Aldous Harding. As Fohr commanded the Treeline Stage with her deep, mysterious voice, I laid on my back and lost myself in the trees, the clouds mixed with the power and the beauty of Fohr’s music.
HARAM @ Treeline Stage
Haram is an act forbidden by Allah. Does He allow his followers to mosh? The Lebanese via NYC punk band, the first to sing in Arabic in the United States, didn’t give a fuck. Using only 30 minutes of its allotted hour, the band incited the frenzied crowd to freak out (and a very young fan on his dad’s shoulders to throw up devil’s horns). One big guy stepped out of the pit for a moment for a rest and his girlfriend noticed blood on his elbow. He wiped it off, realized it belonged to someone else and shrugged. Then he jumped in for more.
Built to Spill @ Woods Stage
Built to Spill played its first ever Pickathon set on the intimate Woods Stage (they would follow on the larger Mt. Hood Stage the next night). Indie rock stalwart Doug Martsch led the three-piece through a 12-song set that touched on old favorites (“Big Dipper”), rarities (“Get a Life”) and covers (“Virginia Reel Around the Fountain”). Martsch and his band could be seen wandering the festival during down time, taking time to check out other bands and to talk with fans.
DakhaBrakha @ Woods Stage
DakhaBrakha was easily my favorite set I saw at Pickathon 2018. The quartet from Kiev, Ukraine blew me away during both sets, playing their brand of “ethno-chaos” music that skated from folk to lounge to dance to hip hop. At the end of their Mt. Hood Stage set, the members of DakhaBrakha unfurled a Ukraine flag and held up anti-Kremlin posters. If these guys are coming anywhere near you, run out and see them.
Daniel Norgren @ Woods Stage
Daniel Norgren played his first ever American set at Pickathon a few years ago. He returned this year to play bigger stages to bigger crowds. Founder festival Zale Schoenborn told me this was the set to see this year. It was fine. Norgren is talented and I liked his guitar work, but songs didn’t catch me enough to keep me cemented through the entire set.
Kikagaku Moyo @ Pumphouse
I only caught the last five minutes of Kikagaku Moyo, a Japanese psych import, on Friday night because I was watching DakhaBrakha. I made it through about 15 minutes of their Galaxy Barn set the next day before surrendering to the heat. Thankfully, I got to see them play a few songs at the intimate Pumphouse. Piece it all together, and I saw about an entire rad set by these guys.
Sheer Mag @ Woods Stage
Another band that played only 30 minutes, but it didn’t matter. Sheer Mag played a blistering set on Saturday night, tearing through one garage rock song after another as singer Tina Halladay shredded her vocals. I donned my Phillies cap in harmony with the band’s hometown pride. None of them gave a fuck.
Ezra Furman @ Galaxy Barn
Another Pickathon alum comes back. Ezra Furman played two barn sets: the Saturday night show in the rollicking Galaxy Barn and the Sunday afternoon set in the sweltering Lucky Barn. Though both sets were similar, Furman did include a surprise cover of “Tonight, Tonight.”
The War and Treaty @ Woods Stage
What a way to start off Sunday morning! The War and Treaty, a gospel/blues outfit out of DC, was a name many festival-goers mentioned as one of the best sets of the weekend. Married couple Michael and Tanya Trotter gave 150%, working up the crowd and mooning at one another as they sang their inspirational music. “I thought they were going to rip off their clothes and start fucking right there on the stage,” I heard someone say.
John Craigie @ Woods Stage
One of the best things about Pickathon is the sense of discovery. John Craigie played a set of humorous folk songs that sounded a good bit like John Prine. In between selections, Craigie told humorous stories about fighting with your loved ones, being friends with an ex and contemplating how everything had to align perfectly in the universe for us all to be here.
Orkesta Mendoza @ Woods Stage
Closing out the weekend (for me) was a killer set by Orkesta Mendoza, a cumbia band featuring members of Calexico. This high-energy set had people up and dancing as the band sang primarily in Spanish. An innovative cover of “Tusk” was an interesting inclusion in a set that heaped one crescendo on top of another.