For a festival that was dedicated to bluegrass, Americana, and olde-time jams at its inception in 1999, Pickathon's announcement today that Mavis Staples will be at the road-trip-worthy festival outside Portland this year seems like one of the oddest pairings since peanut butter and pancakes. It should prove to be just as delicious.
"People appreciate boundaries that are pushed out in different directions," says Pickathon organizer Terry Groves. "I don't want to be another festival with the same 10 bands that everyone else has booked."
Staples will be joined by more than 40 artists--from indie rockers like Vetiver and Laura Veirs to Cajun dance band the Pine Leaf Boys and country rockers Truckstop Darlin'--at the festival, August 5-7 at Happy Valley, Ore.'s Pendarvis Farm outside Portland. Three-day tickets, which include camping, but not parking, are on sale for $130. Groves says he expects the fest to swell by about 50 percent, as it has annually, to about 3,500 paid attendees, and more than 1,000 volunteers, staff, and musicians.
Compared to a festival like Sasquatch!, which has had great success shooting directly at the heart of the indie zeitgeist, Pickathon's lineup seems scattershot. In many ways, says Groves, that's the point. "This is an art project to someone like me," Groves says. "It's as exciting organizing [it] as it is performing at [it]. I think that not having your own taste defined by what other people perceive is kind of a goal of mine, personally. Once you become expected to do the same thing year after year, it's kind of lost a lot of its spontaneous magic. Our crowd grows every year, so I know we're doing something right."
Groves says Pickathon has had their heart set on bringing a legend on the order of Staples to the fest for a number of years. A near-perfect star alignment made Staples the right fit. "We've really struggled with really wanting to bring in more diversity as far as the lineup goes," Groves says. "And finding the right match for somebody who is at that level, that's current and is doing things this year, has been a struggle."
Pickathon should get a boost--if not a bit of affirmation--after Staples' new album, You Are Not Alone, produced by indie-Americana stalwart Jeff Tweedy, picked up a Grammy Sunday night for Best Americana Album (Americana as in Blind Boys of Alabama, not Wilco).
The lineup, as announced this morning. More bands are expected to be announced.
Lee Fields & the Expressions
Ray Wylie Hubbard
Pine Leaf Boys
The Builders and the Butchers
Sonny & the Sunsets
Whitey Morgan & the 78's
Mike + Ruthy
Strand of Oaks
Ages and Ages
Joy Kills Sorrow
Ted Jones and the Tarheel Boys
Rock Plaza Central
Cahalen Morrison & Eli West