"We curate music by soliciting a large group of friends, experts, and bloggers who create their favorite lists of bands," explains Zale Schoenborn, founder and executive producer for Pickathon, the three-day event that, over the past decade, has emerged as the alpha-summer concert in Oregon—in part because of the music selection, and in another part because of the diverse setting that harkens to summer camp.
"We find the Elvis of various music scenes at the time," Schoenborn goes on. "We are known for curating this amazing music that comes into pop culture after Pickathon. We will have 55 of the most contemporary snapshots of almost every music on the planet. We hope to have created a model where we grab the most amazing musicians, not the most popular."
Schoenborn continues, listing some of his favorites coming this year. "For bluegrass, Billy Strings and Don Julin, they have a hardcore, small following, a raw kinetic energy of people super passionate and into their music. That is one of the things we love," he says.
"Kamasi Washington is the most amazing jazz player," he continues. "More well-known is Leon Bridges, though he wasn't well-known when we booked him. He is like a young Sam Cook. Ty Segall is leading in the psychedelic rock world. The DIIV is the Kurt Cobain of the young culture."
"Most everybody will know one or two, and if they are into that music scene, they will be their favorite," he says. "If you know 10 to 25 percent of the artists, you are doing good. If you are standing there watching music, you may have sworn to hate some kind of music, but we want people to find themselves confused and getting it. A 'musical horizons' kind of approach. It is easier to say that we are there now. A lot of artists who come to Pickathon literally turn into a bigger draw on the West Coast and nationally after Pickathon. It is all those little things coming together."
But Pickathon isn't just about the bands that play there; it is about the venue they are playing in—and each of the individual stages scattered about the venue at Pendarvis Farm, just east-by-southeast from Portland. There is, of course, the main stage, but also another venue in a horse barn and another tucked into the woods. Each stage is essential to the Pickathon ambiance—and attitude for sustainability. Like the Treeline Stage, which is co-designed and built with Portland State University. (Check out their video on YouTube telling the story of its creation with pallets last year.) This year, a few semitrucks full of 20-inch paper concrete form tubes will be used to form a temporary masterpiece.
"It is diversion architecture," says Schoenborn. "That isn't their final resting home. They are manufactured for pouring concrete columns, and they will go back to being that."
"We've built a whole organization to create a small musical alternate reality," says Schoenborn. You feel like you are home in a lot of ways. People walk away saying that it was their favorite weekend of the year." He adds, "We focus on breaking down all the hassles of what a regular festival is like."
July 31 – August 2
Pendarvis Farm, 16581 Hagen Rd., Happy Valley
$270 adult weekend pass, includes camping. $150 teen weekend pass (new this year)