Every summer for the past twenty-plus years, music-lovers have flocked to an 80-acre farm outside of Portland, Oregon to attend an event called Pickathon. The three-day-long festival takes place from August 2rd through 4th this year, and this year, the lineup is huge: 65 bands, including Sudan Archives and Damien Jurado, will play at least six uniquely constructed stages, delighting the notoriously friendly audiences and leaving a surprisingly small carbon footprints.
Pickathon does not offer concertgoers the typical festival experience. The whole event is relatively chill, with a cap on just a few thousand tickets keeping things small, and a focus on sustainability keeping things earth-and people-friendly. You won’t see plastic cups and nine-dollar beers. Instead, you’ll see Klean Kanteen cups purchased once and reused by their owners, with little trash.
Everyone involved injects their own creative energies into putting on the event. Carpenters build stages out of dreams, with rock and roll barns and garden stages gushing greenery in the woods, as if they had sprouted up naturally, incorporating the musicians into the ecosystem as much as the butterflies and birds. Natural materials are used sustainably and synthetic materials are used thoughtfully. This distinct approach to producing a music festival makes Pickathon unique among the standard festivals that are so indistinguishable from one another that the musicians don’t even know where they are. When you are at Pickathon, you know you are at Pickathon.
If you attend Pickathon, tickets for the weekend are available at $325 for adults, $165 for teens aged 13 to 16, and free for kids 12 and under. Camping in the woods is included in the ticket price, which is notably high in order to keep things clean, natural, and sustainable. Sylvan camping accommodations are full of surprises, with $6 showers engineered with as much thought and ingenuity as the stages the musicians perform on. After all, the musicians are camping and showering in the woods, too. Oregon-based craft, food, and beverage vendors offer quality goods to feed both the belly and the soul. But they’ll let you bring in your own food if you really want to.
It is not every day that you get the chance to camp out among the fir trees and enjoy live music from some of the best musicians around. Pickathon is not about the details and numbers that create such a rift between the creative people make music and the industry people who make millions selling music. But rather, it is about the experience of live music outdoors, the way it should be. There is something magical that happens when you mix music and nature in the way that Pickathon manages to merge the two. It is convivial, chill, and most of all, it gratifies that thirst that lives within each of us – that thirst for a rhythm you can move to, groove to, and kick off your shoes to. Because it is the rhythm of life, the heartbeat of the universe, that guides us in what we do and how we treat the Earth. That is what this music festival is about.