Pickathon Festival started out as a much more roots, folk and bluegrass-oriented festival. As those genres were gobbled up by eager indie-whatever kids looking to break into a new style, Pickathon adapted with the change. Although bands like Nickel Creek, The Barr Brothers, Shakey Graves and Della Mae hearkened back to the festival’s old style, a surprisingly rock-heavy lineup was the face of the 2014 version of Pickathon Festival. Bands like The War on Drugs, Foxygen, Mac DeMarco and Brownout/Brown Sabbath were the big draws — but looking back at it, you couldn’t really tell much of a difference in the end. The 2014 version of Pickathon was still the excellently curated, family-friendly (and even more adult friendly) affair that the 2013 Pickathon, and every year before that, was.

Pickathon Festival 2014The reason for that is that in this day and age where festivals are hardly differentiated by anything except for stage names, Pickathon sets itself apart from the rest of the musical wasteland by removing its wasteful tendencies. Everything happens at Pickathon for a reason. The end result means that the random stages set up throughout Pendarvis Farm are stellar and sound issues are rarely a problem. Many of the shows are recorded and broadcast live courtesy of a horde of volunteers, which also creates a massive musical archive in the process. Beer, medical attention, phone chargers and general information are all handed out by bright-eyed and cheerful volunteers who are as excited to be there as anyone else. The devil is in the details at Pickathon, stretching from wall art in the portable bathrooms to showers set up within earshot of a stage. For one weekend a year, Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley, Oregon, becomes the happiest place on Earth for a few thousand people smart enough to know one of the best festivals in the country is happening on someone’s backyard. There is every reason to trek down the dusty roads to any of the stages at Pickathon, and no reason to leave.

Pickathon Festival 2014

 

“Let’s cut down this forest with a buzz saw army of guitars.” Jordan Smith, of Diarrhea Planet

Diarrhea Planet

This year, it seemed like the Pickathon lineup was for the boys and girls of rock and roll. No band epitomized that approach like a double billing of the six-piece Diarrhea Planet. The band has four guitarists all shredding a pop sensibility through the power of metal and punk, and in the grand scheme of things, their music sounds like their name — explosive and relentless. A band of this magnitude of rock can sometimes be a bit off-putting, but a smart time slot and the jovial approach the band takes live makes it seem like you are watching your best friend’s band play its first real show.

Pickathon Festival 2014

Their first set of the weekend began at 1 a.m. on the first night, with an apology to Gavin, the sound guy in the Galaxy Barn, for helping four guitarists and four vocalists close out the night. Once apologies were dispensed, Diarrhea Planet proceeded to relentlessly shred through their material, and despite the oppressive temperature inside the barn, the crowd responded accordingly. A new song devoted to the lost art of crowdsurfing had Pickathon attendees leaping on top of each other as the sweating, seething mosh pit took over the whole barn. When all was said and done, a hundred-plus people made the long walk back to their tents covered in a variety of different sweats, only to do it all again the next day. Diarrhea Planet’s second set at the famed Woods Stage Saturday afternoon was just as raucous. Although the cry for crowdsurfing fell on deaf ears, perhaps due to the gentle nature of the stage setup, the six-piece had no issue picking up the slack. Amplifiers were climbed on top of, crowd members were thrown on top of band member’s shoulders mid-guitar solo, and outside of the fact that the sun was still up, it was hard to distinguish any less enthusiasm from the drunken barn burner less than 24 hours previous. At the end of it all, it could all be summed up in guitarist/vocalist Jordan Smith’s approach to the afternoon, as he said, “We are playing in the woods. Let’s cut down this forest with a buzz saw army of guitars.”

 

Mac DeMarco

Mac DeMarco went from releasing II to only the most attentive reviewers to being quoted live as, “I wrote this song before Pitchfork started sucking my dick.” It is a crass analysis of his fame, but Mac DeMarco doesn’t give a shit at all about what other people are saying. This doesn’t translate to some primadonna, holier-than-thou attitude on stage, however; he banters with the crowd, swills beer, and belches like a 12-year-old while telling crude jokes. Then the music kicks in, and Mac DeMarco and his band play their brand of sleazy, lounge rock like a bunch of grown ass adults. The set keeps flowing from one to the next, and the only question is how weird it is going to get. For Pickathon attendees, there were two levels of weird.


The first set in the Woods Stage involved random bonnet-wearing, a Coldplay cover and Mac Demarco announcing the last song and crowdsurfing approximately 100 feet away from the stage and back for a good five minutes while the band kept jamming. On Sunday night, in an effort to close out his set on an even better note, Mac Demarco and company reached back into their bag of tricks for a little number that he acknowledged they don’t do much anymore because no one likes it. The band proceeded to play covers of Shaggy, Tool and Limp Bizkit (just to name a few).  It was an ugly and messy affair that you could only sit back and laugh at, and it showcased the weirdness that is Mac Demarco the best. Sometimes you get the crooning lounge singer, and other times you get a Fred Durst impersonation. The roll of the dice is the thrill of it all.

Jonathan Richman

Jonathan Richman is a weird guy. When he was in the Modern Lovers, he released one of those albums from the 1970s that every music lover should have a copy of in his/her catalog. He has been doing his own solo work for quite some time, and it really is one of the more bizarre things you can experience. He has a simple stage presence – just him, an acoustic guitar and a drummer who doesn’t have much to say. What takes place is anything but simple. Richman is like a musical James Joyce on stage, singing songs in Spanish, French, Italian and Arabic whenever it is called for. He sings about anything and everything with a bright-eyed, child-like enthusiasm that is engrossing. For this reason, you don’t care much when his songs keep meander into levels of senselessness that make it impossible to follow along. His charisma reaches levels few people can achieve, and it translates throughout his entire set — weird, rambling story songs, crazy dance moves and everything.

 

Courtney Barnett

Pickathon Festival 2014 Courtney Barnett might have been one of the biggest surprises of the festival, and just another indication of the rock leanings of Pickathon this year. Her albums (or EPs turned into an album) have a production focus on the deadpan delivery of her rambling, comedy-tinged lyrics. That is a fair focus because Barnett has an excellent voice. In the live setting, Barnett, backed with a bassist and a drummer, have a completely different feel than her album. Whereas her recorded material is the best sort of music for a dinner party, Barnett shreds on a guitar in the live setting. The fact that she was wearing a Kurt Cobain t-shirt should have been an indication, but referring to Barnett merely as a singer-songwriter doesn’t do her enthusiasm justice. Singer-songwriters sing gently and accept the subsequent applause with quiet nods of the head. Barnett introduced her set with a short quip about tightening bra straps. Rock n’ roll was never the cleanest affair, and Barnett, despite the vocal focus of the album, is a different beast in a life setting. In the best way possible.

 

Parquet Courts

Pickathon Festival 2014 One year ago, Parquet Courts were closing down the Galaxy Barn in a memorable fashion to a load of people who most likely hadn’t heard much about the young band. With another album under their collective belts, Parquet Courts returned to Pickathon for the second-straight year and delivered one of the best sets of the whole weekend on the Woods Stage. It might have been because the band only played one set over the weekend that they could focus their energy all into that one hour, but most likely, the greatness was derived from the excellent energy shared between a young and rambuctious crowd with a young and rambuctious band. Parquet Courts haven’t been around the block for too long, but their live presence showcases a band that has seemingly been at it since the dawn of time. They meandered between both full-length releases with ease, stretching out songs with their trademarked stoner/lo-fi fuzz and smashing into the next one on the setlist. For a weekend that placed such a heavy emphasis on rock and roll, putting a band that released one of the best rock albums of the year was a smart play by Pickathon.

 

Pickathon Festival 2014 Live Show Photo Gallery

Pickathon Festival 2014
The scene at the main stage, Pickathon Festival 2014

Pickathon Festival 2014
The scene at the main stage, Pickathon Festival 2014


Diarrhea Planet at the Woods Stage, Pickathon Festival 2014


Diarrhea Planet at the Woods Stage, Pickathon Festival 2014


Woods at the Woods Stage, Pickathon Festival 2014

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