When I worked at One Reel I'd hear all sort of stories about what Bumbershoot was like back in the day. An anything goes fest of hippiedom where there wasn't a bag check, yellow shirted “behavior monitor” or multi-corporate sponsored stage insight. Last weekend when I high tailed it to the outskirts of P-Town for the tenth annual Pickathon I got a feeling this little but growing festival on an 80 acre working farm encapsulated the same good vibes those long time Reelers must have been talking about.
As the name implies Pickathon correctly bills itself an indie roots music celebration. Sporting three full days of twangy roots music, multiple stages and a “workshop barn”, (and yes, it's actually a barn) a few thousand people and tons and tons of kids under 10, the Pickathon could very well be the best kept secret in Northwest festivals.
We missed Friday, as I had to pick up my sugar from the Seattle airport late that night. We made it to Portland at about three, and were on the road to twang heaven by noon on Saturday. I'm glad I took the time to download a Google map to the event, because there was not one lick of signage anywhere along the two lane road that takes you to the Pendarvis farm. I might not have know I'd arrived at all if it hadn't been for this
and the sight of the tented main stage as we pulled up. We checked in with a sweet girl who let my other half in even though they'd forgotten to add my plus one to the list and when she jotted the +1 down next to my name and slapped a band on my hubby's wrist without batting an unmascaraed eyelash or radioing 19 other people for approval, I knew we were going to be in for one very mellow ride.
The Pickathon is probably the most family friendly music event I've ever had the pleasure of attending. As soon as we walked in we were greeted by the kids area where an Oz full of munchkins danced with ribbons, played with hula hoops and shook their mini groove thangs while their blissful parents looked on. It made me miss our own little monkey who'd been left back in Seattle in the Gramps care. Then I took a whiff of the doobie strewn air and was glad for a few hours precious of irresponsible grown up fun.
I have an almost phobic fear of hippies.
My longstanding belief that patchouli oil is not deodorant and the fact that more than 2 minutes of drum circle “rhythms” trigger a near psychotic reaction in the vortex of my brain, close to what those folks at Woodstock must have experienced after taking the fabled brown acid, made me a bit leery of a festival on a farm that close to Portland. But the prospect of interviewing Mr. Langhorne Slim in person for an upcoming piece and the excuse to spend the weekend childless with my hubby who's been scouting digs for us in Austin the past two weeks made me a bit more willing to brave it. And sure there were plenty of socks and mandles, hairy, hairy, lady legs and bad white people dancing, but there wasn't one drum circle to be found and while I may have been the only chick there in supportive under garments (since the baby's birth I favor underpants that pack my belly in super tight), I spotted at least a few others in lipstick. The BO seemed to almost always mingle with the smell of weed, the music was well curated and everyone was just so damn friendly it was a pretty pleasant experience.
As the Pickathon is a newish event it does still suffer from a few growing pains. The first and most notable is that they could use a dose of world music or a blues showcase or something that adds a bit of color to this Lilly white affair. Seriously, I haven't seen this many white people gathered in one spot since leaving North Dakota and trying to find someone at this event darker than my spray tan was like trying to find a fleck of pepper in a bowl of cottage cheese. Secondly, it's a little on the spendy side, averaging about $70 a day for an individual ticket plus parking, (cheaper if you purchase a package with on-site camping and parking included) which has got to cut down on day-of walk up sales. And thirdly: hand write it, knit it out of hemp yarn, use recycled box tops, but for the love of god, put up some damn signage to your event so out-of-towners can find you with ease!
But all and all, the pros of this event outweigh the cons. The vendors were all delicious and inexpensive, they had everything from vegan salad booths to pulled pork and after sampling most of it (see doobage smoke above) it was consistently great. Not that you need to rely on vendors, you can pack your own cooler full of goodies (excluding alcohol) and spend the day munching on Trader Joe's treats. There is a smart green approach to everything, from solar heated wash water and lights,
to giant tankers of drinking water (no plastic bottles necessary) and many, many recycling stations for every piece of waste you can imagine. The main stage is set up at the bottom of a hill so you can enjoy your concessions and the beer garden (which never had more than a two person line and four dollar beers) with a full view of the main stage.
And you could feel free to really, really enjoy your beer, as there were bio-diesel buses taking folks back and forth to the MAX station. For being in the middle of nowhere the sound was really great.
Pendarvis Farm has got to be one of the most naturally beautiful venues, (complete with fields and woodlands) I've ever been to. Not that I condone drug use, but if you were to want to, ohhhh let's say, take mushrooms and frolic through the forest with someone you love, you couldn't find a more idyllic setting. If I find my self in the NW again this time next year, I will certainly be packing up the kid and hubby to take in Pickathon 11.