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.
Set Times: Friday, 8:50-9:50 PM, Saturday, 9:20-10:20 PM
One of the biggest names on the lineup in his own right, Matthew Houck pricked up even more interest around his headlining slot this weekend by dropping a new single this week. “New Birth In New England” evokes Paul Simon with its playful, story-telling vibe, and promises that the psych-folk outfit’s next album could be a bit of a departure for the band. Attendees this weekend have a good shot of hearing something new during his multitple sets.
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Words cant begin to describe this past weekend! I’m honored to be included in the legacy that is the @newportfolkfest Just walking into my trailer was nothing short of the reminder. Here’s just after my set, sharing a room with the photographs, taken by Robert Corwin (also pictured), through which most of us have vicariously experienced the history of nff. He told me captivating stories of capturing the greats and he’s not slowing down any time soon!
Set Times: Saturday, 1:00-2:00 PM, Sunday, 11:40-12:35 AM
Last year this stunning folk ingenue flew onto the American scene with her quiet, elegant self-titled debut. Still picking up steam as a national force, 2018 is sure to hold even more accolades for Azniv Korkejian, who is easily one of the best new artists in the genre this decade. Between her wise, soaring alto and fingerpicked classic folk melodies, Korkejian still manages to make the genre feel new in an era where many practitioners come off as derivative she is spectacularly original.