By Maddy Cristal
August 2-5, 2018
Pickathon Music Festival takes place on Pendarvis Farm in the appropriately named Happy Valley, just 30 minutes north of the ever-inspiring Portland. Pickathon is one of the most genuinely magical festivals on the face of this earth. Upon arrival one is instantaneously transfixed by otherworldly beauty of each handmade stage and the backdrop of the mesmerizing pit of the Pacific Northwest. The annual festival, now in its 20th year, is celebrated for its sustainability, family friendly crowd and impeccable lineups. This year was no exception, each delicious locally sourced meal is served on reusable plates and every delicious craft beer is served only in affordable metal cups that you are encouraged to take home as a souvenir. The 2018 lineup included some very established musicians such as Canadian supergroup Broken Social Scene, legendary indie band Built to Spill and bluesy folk darling Shakey Graves. It also included up and coming artists such as the soulful Jamila Woods, psych group Wand and folk duo Shovels and Rope. Each band performs twice at a different stage so you don’t miss a beat. Said stages include two barns, a gorgeous parachute paradise, a light altering art piece and the notorious woods stage, which is made out of an avalanche of branches. The campsite spills into the forest, which is quieter, cleaner and more respectful than most neighbourhoods. The three days are packed with excellent music, great people and an ever-present sensation of awe towards the surroundings. The following is a list of the extra special performances this year. Nobody gets out of hand, yet everybody has fun – fancy that!
Haram – Caught in the throes of a global heatwave, Pickathon was well… dusty. There was dust in everything; eyes,nose, toes and tent. So with aching backs and dusty eyes we meandered over to the 21+ Galaxy Barn to see Kikagaku Moyo, a definite must-see for those that are fond of psych rock. Only one problem: the barn is tiny and it’s all first come first serve. After a long wait it was apparent getting in was not happening. After a 45 minute moment of emotional and physical deflation the notably appeased crowd spilled out of the barn, those lucky bastards. In walks in the unearthly band Haram,and Arabic hardcore band from Yonkers, NY who made for an unexpected and immediate 180’ shift; the harbingers of cleanse. The pantheon of Kikagaku Moyo fans had dissipated into a handful of punks. You’d think everyone was insane for moshing in this dusty heat but it was what everyone needed. Within seconds of being in the Barn drinks and ice were flying from every direction. Everybody screamed and cheered as the liquid rained salvation on the heat-exhausted few. Haram’s frontman Nader Haram’s namesake and fittingly means ‘forbidden’ in Arabic. His presence onstage is beautifully chaotic and perfectly sums up their sonic onslaught of goth/hardcore.
Built to Spill – Built to Spill are best described as inimitable. To say every band of the early 2000s indie rock movement (Interpol, The National, Modest Mouse) are heavily inspired by Built To Spill is an understatement. They owe everything to these guys. Built to Spill exceeded the expectations of the 30 somethings crowd, clad in shirts they got at the band’s concert in the ’90s, politely singing along to every song. There’s nothing quite like seeing a band you worshipped growing up for the first time and have them deliver.
Broken Social Scene – Broken Social Scene are a band that is simultaneously misunderstood by the majority and worshiped by the minority. Perhaps this is the dream for a bunch of wildly talented Canadian weirdos who have made seven experimental and highly emotional records. Their set at the Woods Stage was a late night exhibition of a rare and profound occurrence. They are playing at the behemoth Deer Lake Park in Vancouver on September first while this stage can fit a few-hundred tops. People scattered throughout haystacks, corners in the woods and climbed trees to witness this incredibly generous performance. Most of the songs they played were from the groundbreaking 2002’s You Forgot it in People which is intricate, delicate and moving. Approximately 60 per cent of the crowd was in tears (present company included) by the band’s elusive ability to stir up a rich buffet of feelings. It wasn’t a regular concert, it was a place that existed for a short period of time between sensitive and music loving humans. The haunting “Anthems For a Seventeen Year-old Girl” concluded the set in which Toronto based The Weather Station came on stage to sing it in homage to the original singer Emily Haines. It was a real Canadian moment and there were very few Canadians to witness it.
Jamilla Woods – Jamila Woods is a Chicago-based R&B singer, songwriter and poet. Her music is extraordinarily sophisticated, liberating and impossibly smooth. She is a graduate from the Ivy league Brown University. She collaborated with Chance the Rapper on the song “Blessings” from his Grammy Award winning album Colouring Book. She also collaborated with with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on White Privilege II. Her debut solo album HEAVN (Jagjaguwar Records) is a phenomenal record that crystallizes the arduous labour of struggle while simultaneously honoring freedom. It is a profound exploration of emotional resilience and sounds like sonic honey to boot. Her single Holy reveals her lyrical precision and musical aptitude. She pretty much sang the album front to back and had an extraordinary band accompanying her. They are the perfect material for an NPR Tiny Desk. By next year she will be FKA Twigs famous but on this Saturday night she performed for about 150 completely stunned humans who avoided blinking because they didn’t want to miss a moment of her stunning set at the Treeline Stage.
Jen Cloher – Jen Cloher is a witty and talented singer-songwriter from Australia. She is signed to Milk! Records and has 11 impressive albums under her belt. She played two sets that were completely different and both earth shattering. Cloher also happens to be married to the remarkably successful and talented Courtney Barnett who join her on stage, unbenounced to the crowd who obviously lost their shit. Barnett didn’t say a word during either set, she just wailed her guitar with her nimble fingers and let her amazing partner do her thing. Cloher wavered between playing face melting tracks to speaking about her feelings in her charmingly quiet voice. Her songs are stories that are well told, one almost feels as if they know her upon her concerts. Her late nice set at the Galaxy Barn was a bonafide example of how and why rock ‘n’ roll will never die.