Tucked away in a southern suburb of Portland, Oregon — that is quite literally called Happy Valley — and heading into its twentieth (!) year, Pickathon is quietly becoming one of the most anticipated folk-oriented festivals of the year. Though the event began as a fundraiser for Portland radio station KBOO back in 1999, it’s quickly grown into one of the most beloved and diverse festivals on the west coast.
Because it’s more rural than other regions, the Pacific Northwest sometimes misses out on high-profile bookings, and though the event started off as local bands playing to crowds that barely cracked 200, the last several years have boasted big fish like Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Future Islands and their biggest get to date, Feist in 2013.
Held at Pendarvis Farm since 2006, this year’s iteration is a treasure trove of folk, country, R&B and experimental music. Big psych-folk names like Phosphorescent and Broken Social Scene are at the top of the bill, with country breakouts like Colter Wall, rising R&B star Jamila Woods, and widely-lauded new folk songwriter Bedouine rounding out the undercard.
Zale Schoenborn, who founded the event, told Willamette Weekly a couple years ago that the fest has now grown to his ideal size. “Everything gets easier where we’re at now,” he said. “It’s the golden age. It took forever to get here. Let’s try to keep it in that sweet spot.” In keeping with Schoenborn’s own ethos, here’s our selection of artists that fix this year’s Pickathon firmly in the sweet spot.