20 Reasons to Check Out Pickathon on Its 20-Year Anniversary

2018 marks the legendary music fest’s 20th birthday, and it’s as alive and kickin’ as ever.

By Sam Pape August 1, 2018

Pickathon 2016

Image: Fiona McCann

In 1998, a small-scale, folks-roots festival to benefit KBOO launched, attracting audiences in the—well, dozens. Twenty years on, Pickathon, back at Pendarvis Farm this weekend, has become a much bigger but still small-scale event—a joyous, beforested, barn-stomping, family-friendly, foodie-music fest with a waste-free ethos and a winning music lineup.

In honor of the fest’s 20th birthday, here are 20 reasons you can’t miss this year’s installment:

Three days of amazing music spanning all genres. From new acts …

Like classic rock-worshipping, guitar solo-shredding Sheer Mag; soul singer/poet Jamila Woods, whose community work in her home city of Chicago and frequent collabs with artists like Chance the Rapper have brought her national recognition; and folk-rock supergroup Glorietta, whose upcoming self-titled debut promises instant classic status.    

… to old.

Think emo forerunners Built to Spill, indie mini-orchestra Broken Social Scene, and the oldest band at Pickathon (or, uh, ever?!), the Blind Boys of Alabama, founded in 1939. 

From all corners of the earth …

Riff-centric, Grammy-winning Tinariwen from the Sahara Desert in Mali will take the stage, along with Italian garage-punkers Bee Bee Sea and Ukrainian “ethno-chaos” folk quartet DakhaBrakha.

… and our own backyard.

Singer-songwriter Haley Heynderickx and classical guitar virtuoso Marisa Anderson, both Portland locals, will make the 30-minute drive to the fest.

Plus DJs …

Radio hosts, collectors, and indie label reps alike will spin records the old-fashioned way—like, literally spinning vinyl—throughout the weekend.

… and comedians and spoken-word artists.

Unwind from your music-packed days with some late-night comedy at the Lucky Barn stage, or get introspective in the mornings with spoken word and storytelling on the Woods Stage.

Speaking of stages …

They’re stunning. While some employ elaborate light displays and overhead canopies, others’ woodsy designs blend seamlessly into the surrounding forest. And the Treeline Stage, a towering display designed by Portland State’s School of Architecture, will be re-constructed into buildings for the Kenton Women’s Village in North Portland after disassembly.     

There are 80 gorgeous acres to explore …

Pendarvis Farm, the longtime Happy Valley home to the festival, is sprawling and illuminated by colored lights along the trails to help guide you on your way. Though it’s the kind of place you may want to get lost in, anyway.   

… and pitch your tent in for the weekend.

Camping spots are plentiful, and you have your choice of vibe: find a spot in the “Quiet Zone” for silence after 11 p.m., or post up in one of the “Jam Zones” to shred your acoustic guitars and djembes until the sun rises. But it’s all first-come, first-served, so be early and vigilant.   

Eat great food …

The requisite Portland staples—Pine State Biscuits, Podnah’s BBQ, and Pok Pok, to name just a few—will help you feel right at home.  

… and drink local booze.

Options are plentiful—from Oregon breweries like Elysian and Buoy to distilleries like Dogwood and New Deal—in beer gardens around the festival grounds.

But stay hydrated!

Luckily, doing so is easy: there are water stations all around the grounds to keep your canteen full. Who needs those $15 festival plastic bottles, anyway?

Find pop-up art installations all around …

Art is another main focus of the fest. You’ll find massive, interactive sculptures, cutting-edge LED and VR tech, an exhibit featuring work from Mexico-based women at the Galaxy ArtYard, and much, much more.

… plus the Pickathon Curation Series.

Far and away the most intimate experience at Pickathon, the Curation Series pairs food and drink from notable bartenders with up-close-and-personal artist performances for an hourlong experience. (Tickets are sold out this year, but the event is filmed and posted to Pickathon’s YouTube channel after the fact. It’s well worth watching).

The fest is capped at 3,500 attendees.

Hellish Coachella crowds be damned! There is actual room to breathe here, thanks to the organizers’ conscious effort to keep attendance at a manageable size. 

Get your fit on between bands.

Yoga, acupuncture, and massage are all available to help keep the experience as stress- and pain-free as possible. (After all, music festivals aren’t exactly known for being particularly relaxing.) Plus, showers with complimentary Dr. Bronner’s!

No car? No prob!

The 20-ish-mile bike trip is made easy with organized rides from Northeast and Southeast Portland on both Thursday and Friday, with guides leading the way and transportation of your gear to help lighten the load.

And you can bring your kids.

Keeping your little ones engaged (and not throwing tantrums) is trivially easy with day care, classes, and craft zones. They even get their own stage! The Wild Horse Stage features kiddo-friendly music performances and workshops all weekend long.

The weather should be bearable.

Though the fest will go on rain or shine, the forecast predicts dry temps in the 70s and 80s. Those Woodstock ’94 mud pits aren’t as fun as you might think … nor is standing outside for hours in 100-degree weather. Be sure to bring sunscreen either way!      

And do it all guilt-free: this is the most sustainable music fest in the country.

Pickathon has all but eliminated single-use cups, plates, and utensils. Instead, you can bring your own or purchase a $10 token to use the festival’s dishes all weekend long. Organizers have also installed solar panels around the grounds that offset 100 percent of energy used throughout the weekend. We mean, really … what’s not to love?


Thu–Sun, Pendarvis Farm, $125–320

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