Pickathon is not your average summer festival.
I'd heard that, before I went last year, but you have to experience it for the difference to really be clear. It's not small — it sprawls over 80 acres of Pendarvis Farm, outside Portland — but it feels small, intimate and unexpectedly comfortable. It's not crowded. It's laid-back, but not super-hippie. You don't go to get all jacked up on cheap beer and fast food; you go to nibble ice cream and maybe find a shady corner of the beer garden to enjoy a microbrew.
Today, Pickathon announced the last additions to their 2010 lineup, which has Dr. Dog, The Fruit Bats, Punch Brothers, Blind Boy, Cardboard Songsters and Little Wings joining a list that already ranged from Bonnie "Prince" Billy to Portland's Richmond Fontaine and Weinland to Langhorn Slim, The Cave Singers and Black Prairie.
If you see a lot of familiar names on the full lineup, it's because there's a particular overlap between Pickathon's once-roots-oriented, now more broad musical selections and the bands that find a good reception in Eugene. Black Prairie's Chris Funk, who's playing his first Pickathon this year, says via email, "It seems to be a great combination of folk and indie rock, which is basically my playlist. Just enough bluegrass and Americana mixed with indie stars."
Funk says he's looking forward to seeing Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Heartless Bastards, Sallie Ford and others but, he says, "I usually just go to these festivals and wander, just try to see bands I've never heard of."
At Pickathon, that wander can take you to a stage in the middle of the woods and back out again, to where two main stages sit at the base of a gentle slope. Two indoor, barn-like stages round out the places at which bands usually play multiple sets over the course of the weekend. When asked what he's heard about Pickathon that makes is particularly appealing, Funk says, "It's a camping festival on a really great piece of property that is very, very close to Portland. I think if you run out of 'supplies' there is a New Seasons about 2 miles away, but it's got a great view of Mount Hood on this great horse farm nestled into a forest."
"Nestled" is the word that really sets Pickathon apart. You don't feel defensive, like you've got to guard your personal space or keep an eye on your blanket. It might get trodden upon by dirty kids' feet, but half an hour later, you'll be glad those same kids have super-soakers and are pointing them in your direction. You just nestle in for the weekend and forget that Portland is just a few miles away.
Pickathon takes place Aug. 6-8 at Pendarvis Farm outside Portland. Discount tickets are currently $115 (camping included; parking is extra), but will rise to $130 when the discounted ones are sold out.