August 5-7, 2016
Happy Valley, Oregon
By Dan Lurie
We arrived at Pickathon with high hopes of seeing some amazing musicians and quite possibly finding Sasquatch. The much-loved festival takes place at Pendarvis Farm in the woods of Happy Valley, Oregon. It’s basically Endor, but with fewer Ewoks and more members of Yo La Tengo.
Our adventure began with a quick trip to the Mountain Stage. Looking and acting like every dude who lived down the hall of my freshman dorm, Mac DeMarco greeted us with a Steely Dan cover and a five-minute single-note guitar solo. Things got better.
In the Galaxy Barn, Alvvays proved that bad spelling doesn’t necessarily mean bad band. They were great, and had the late afternoon crowd bopping with a high-energy set of jangly pop bliss.
One of the best things about Pickathon is that most bands play a couple times throughout the weekend. That meant we got to see Yo La Tengo twice, including the acoustic version Friday night at the Woods Stage (which looks exactly like the fort I built beside Minnehaha creek when I was a kid). On Saturday we saw the same legendary trio amplified with a layer of frenzied noise topping each heartfelt tune.
The weekend was not without its discoveries. Sight-unseen we fell under the spell of exciting new acts like Blossom, Boulevards, and Adia Victoria. The lineup also included familiar names I got to experience live for the first time. La Luz, Julia Holter, and Mount Moriah all delivered inspired sets and seemed to relish the opportunity to play in the forest for the trees.
In the end there was Jeff Tweedy, who covered a healthy chunk of the Wilco canon over a pair of casual solo performances: first on the Mountain Stage and later to close out the festival in the Woods. At one point while waving to random individuals in crowd, Tweedy joked about how he’s been touring so long he knows all of us personally. While not entirely true, we couldn’t be any closer to his songs. And as he stood strumming his acoustic guitar under a canopy of branches, we celebrated our first camping trip together.