Pickathon Tales from the Trails: An XRAY Recap

Last weekend, XRAY attended 2018’s Pickathon – the festival brought in over 60 musical artists and over 3,000 attendees per day. While the staff brought back photos, interviews and live performance recordings, they also got a few chances to enjoy the festival themselves.

Below you’ll find testimonials of each XRAY attendees favorite Pickathon moment and performance. Make sure to stay tuned for upcoming Pickathon photos and interviews from such artist Shakey Graves, Rising Appalachia and Charley Crockett and more.

But for now, enjoy our tales from the Pickathon trail.



Scott Osgood and Amalia Boyles backstage at The Galaxy Barn

The gratitude Broken Social Scene expressed before their set Saturday night at the Woods Stage was the exclamation point of my experience this year. Broken Social Scene requested to play, they were not asked. They wanted to be a part of the festival and thanked the audience over and over for being there. Humility is integral to this festival’s success extending from the volunteers to the performers. Everyone approaches the event as equals, working together to ensure everyone has a good time and is taken care of. There is a lot of thoughtful planning to make it sustainable, and even more effort to make it actionable. It’s a four day glimpse of what a more perfect world might look like, that only works because of everyone’s participation.

Favorite Performance: Broken Social Scene



Amalia Boyles interviewing Shakey Graves

What a magical weekend. Though only a short jaunt from Portland, Pickathon felt like it was worlds away from the daily grind. Time and again I was struck by the abundant reciprocity, welcoming attitudes and incredible music I found around every corner of this wooded wonderland. It’s impossible to narrow down a single favorite moment–so I’ll give you three:

First was when I stumbled, unknowingly, upon the Woods Stage late Friday night to discover Dahka Braka, a 4-piece Ukrainian group that whose performance was unlike any other I’ve seen. The rich tones of cello, the powerful vocal harmonies, the deeply satisfying percussion lines–this group stopped me in my tracks. I climbed atop a tree stump to get a better vantage point, and holy smokes was it worth it! Those hats may have stolen the show.

My second most memorable moment was interviewing Shakey Graves. My own amorous feelings of infatuation aside, it was a distinct honor to sit down with Alejandro to discuss the rewards and challenges of life on tour. I was struck by his humility, sincerity and down to earth attitude, especially as he divulged his struggles with finding good places to poop while on the road.

To complete my list of memorable moment, I’ll cite the ruckus dance party with DJ Chances With Wolves that lasted until sunrise Monday morning. Complete with vintage velvet couches, dusty area rugs, and tasseled lamps hanging from tree limbs, the Pump House was a secret stage home to intimate shows that were unlisted on the day’s lineup. I was lucky enough to be invited to these private performances throughout the weekend, finding myself in the audience alongside musicians whom I saw play hours earlier on the mainstage. Tucked tightly in the treeline above the festival grounds, The Chances With Wolves dance party left musician and concert-goer alike with feelings of pure, exhausted bliss.

Favorite Performance(s): Dakha Braka, Tinariwen, Bee Bee Sea, Revel in Dimes, Jamila Woods, and the 2nd performance of Shakey Graves.


Image from iOS

Photo // Erinn Gragson

A rushed night of moving, a hurried morning of beer bottling. Off to Pickathon the moment Eirin arrives at my door. Where am I going?

I arrive to the second week of summer camp. Codes are used, factions exist, territories are defined. What is this place? I run into an old friend and watch droney country. I sit on a hay bale and suck on my vanilla mint. I find Amalia and Scott talking with a cowboy.

I wander through the woods, past a man who checks my bracelet. It’s orange, and says “BACKSTAGE”, so he leaves me alone. There are lamps hanging from the trees. Door frames lurk without walls to hold them back. A gentle band [[“BUILT TO SPILL”]]  plays a Tom Waits song. I sit on the couch and reflect.



Photo // Erinn Gragson

Being a Pickathon first-timer, I was unsure what to expect of this highly regarded music festival. In so many words: it was magical. The stages are works of architecture masterpiece, and the musical layout diverse and full of amazingly talented bands. Japanese psych rock band Kikagaku Moyo blew me away, with mellow droney riffs and powerful breakdowns. Getting to see Broken Social Scene and Built To Spill played an old teenage dream, and it was exciting to watch local Portland artists, such as Rasheed Jamal, who always put on a stellar show. All that aside, my favorite performance was that of Revel In Dimes. With a touch of old school rock & roll and a bit of funk, this band rocked out so passionately they had the whole crowd moving!

Favorite performance: Revel In Dimes


Image from iOS

Photo // Erinn Gragson

I went into Pickathon 20 with a very open mind, I trust their excellent curation crew and knew that there would be plenty of incredible artists to discover. I was onsite mere minutes before being introduced to Italian rockers Bee Bee Sea, who lit up the Galaxy Barn that evening with a raucous set of garage, psych, and a 10-minute improvised rap (while their guitar and guitar amp were being replaced … they broke both as dozens of crowdsurfers crisscrossed the barn). Like most people, I left the barn in a daze and got lost in the woods for about an hour before finding my way back to camp.

Saturday, I made the most of the afternoon programming catching inspired sets by Japanese psych masters Kikagaku Moyo in the Galaxy Barn and Bedouine on the Woods Stage, before spinning records at the main stage between new favorites Sunflower Bean and northwest legends Built to Spill. Sheer Mag put out one of my favorite records of 2017 and one of my favorite sets of the festival Saturday evening in the Woods.

Sunday, is always bittersweet. The campsites start opening up as folks pack out to rejoin the rest of the world. Their loss, they missed out on last-chance performances by Jamila Woods, DakhaBrakha, Jen Cloher, Ezra Furman, Broken Social Scene, and Pickathon vets Shakey Graves closing out things at the Galaxy Barn. They also missed out on the after party at the Pumphouse with Chances With Wolves DJs spinning records in a makeshift living room in the forest. Such is the magic of Sundays at Pickathon.

Favorite Performance: Pickathon




Photo // Erinn Gragson

My absolute favorite part of Pickathon each year is running into everyone at Pickathon. From XRAY DJs and staff, to local writers and musicians, it always feels like a reunion of Portland music pals each year. We all spend so much time nowadays on our computers and email, I think it’s such a nice opportunity to get to catch up, check out bands, and share a dusty hi-five. A close second was having someone tell me the Fire Engines 7″ I played over at the Woods Stage while DJing was “kick ass”.

Favorite performance: I really love being exposed to artists from across the world that I otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to see live. After a few days of excellent sets from artists outside of my genre wheelhouse, I just wanted to hear something a little rowdier and inline with what I would seek out in a typical show here in Portland. Just when I was feeling incredibly wiped out on Sunday, I caught Italy’s Bee Bee Sea at the Treeline Stage. They were loud, they were energetic, and they were just what I needed. My favorite moment was when they covered “Demolición” from Los Saicos. My least favorite moment was when they covered Cher’s “Believe”.