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Pickathon returns to Pendarvis Farm! It’s not just the artists that’ll be new.



Thursday, August 4th, one of the most celebrated and unique music festivals in the country returns to Happy Valley.  Portland’s own Pickathon has a national, some would say global, reputation as the place to be to discover what’s happening next in music.  Now, 23 years since it’s start, founder, Zale Schoenborn, promises a “familiar, but entirely new” Pickathon.  New performance spaces, or neighborhoods,  as Schoenborn and his team refer to the expansions, have been built.  They’ve added more cultural experiences that include poetry, storytelling, along with artisan cuisine and cocktails.

Pickathon has always embraced change, it’s inherent in their uncanny ability to book musicians who are in the vanguard of their particular genre. Performances this year will include Wet Leg, Sampa the Great, Armand Hammer, Goth Babe, and Sons of Kemet.

Pickathon is a highly curated event.  Artists are booked through an open source approach. As Schoenborn points out, “hundreds of smart people, are better than one smart person”.   In fact, those of us who have attended can attest to seeing bands like The Avett Brothers, Sturgill Simpson, Courtney Barnett, Kamasi Washington, and Billy Strings before they became well known in Americana, country, indie, jazz and bluegrass musical genres.

Zale Schoenborn, Pickathon’s founder. Photo credit Tim LaBarge

The highly eclectic genres presented at Pickathon are yet another unique quality of the event. This was intentional from the start.  According to Schoenborn, a musician himself, who noted back in the 90’s that so much fantastic talent was relegated to the particular silos of a  single genre.  As he points out, “often great new music would die in that silo without any real opportunity to reach a larger audience”.  He and his friends appreciated all types of music as long as it was good. It made sense that anyone serious about music would value the chance to sample what was new from across the spectrum of styles.  This is what Pickathon became and still is.  As a spectator, it’s especially thrilling to stand in the audience enjoying a new hip hop artist next to the bluegrass musician you saw performing the night before.  This is likely to happen at Pickathon because the organizers have put a cap on ticket sales keeping it small. It’s easy to meet other fans who share your tastes. Artists mingle with the audiences, sometimes sharing meals and conversation.

As music festivals go, Pickathon is remarkably intimate. One feels as though they are a part of a unique creative community with special access to something completely personal and ephemeral.

It is also unabashedly a NW event.  Pickathon wears its ethics on its sleeve, embracing diversity and openness to everyone.  Pickathon has remained rigorously sustainable, and is deeply entwined with nature as its popularity grows across music circles around the world. As far as cultural exports go, Pickathon is an event we can be proud of in the Northwest.

Here are some bands we are looking forward to catching this year:

Armand Hammer, TV Priest, Kassi Valazza, Riley Downing

Armand Hammer, the collaboration of NYC’s billy woods and Elucid. Both are well respected and prolific solo artists. Together they are building something new, hypnotic, relentless, and beautifully dark. Armand Hammer & The Alchemist “Falling out of the Sky” feat. Earl Sweatshirt.

TV Priest , the London based band, performed their first gig in 2019 just prior to the global pandemic and immediately won enthusiastic praise from fans and music critics. Their arrival signaled a post-punk revival that seemed especially visceral and relevant during the confinement of COVID. We are looking forward to seeing them unleashed.   TV Priest – Decoration

Kassi Valazza; if you live in Portland and appreciate our city’s special blend of country shimmering with the psychedelic, you’ve no doubt caught one of her shows around town. She’s been touring the world supporting her beautiful recording Dear Dead Days.  It will be spectacular to see what she does with the luscious sound you can experience at the Galaxy Barn at Pickathon.

Riley Downing , a Missouri-based singer songwriter who’s probably best known as part of the New Orleans band, Deslondes. His song writing is deceptively powerful. He connects very directly, like a friend talking with you at the bar. His songs stick with you. You’ll wake up with them in your head.  Just try and shake this one, Deep Breath

Portland Radio Project will be at Pickathon this year and posting on Instagram.



John Stringer
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