Off to Pickathon: What I’m Looking Forward To
Pickathon is one of the top roots music festivals in the US, and from its inception, it’s consistently been at the cutting edge, not only of the folk festival industry, but any festival. Pickathon coined the term indie-roots, by bringing together old-school roots artists like the Foghorn Stringband with up-and-comers who weren’t afraid to bend the tradition. Pickathon tapped into Portland, Oregon’s nascent roots movement, and now that this movement has brought us top bands like The Decemberists and Fleet Foxes (recently relocated to Portland from Seattle), they’re still bringing great indie roots bands. This year the headliners are The Fruit Bats, Black Mountain, Thao, Vetiver, and Mavis Staples, all “staples” of the indie fest circuit, but unlike other big festivals, Pickathon is carefully curated and will feature some unexpected surprises.
I’m heading down on Sunday for the day for my first time at Pickathon. Can’t wait! And here’s a few artists I’m looking forward to:
Joy Kills Sorrow
Just saw them at the Triple Door in Seattle and they gave one hell of a show. Lead singer Emma Beaton is hypnotic. Her voice is stunningly powerful and her stage prescense is totally accessible. I think it’s a bit rare in roots bands to have a lead singer who’s really just that; i.e. who doesn’t play another instrument. It’s a throwback to the old days of rock n roll, but Emma truly justifies her position as lead singer, tying together the virtuosos in the band and giving the group her own intense stamp.
Cahalen Morrison & Eli West
Well, duh… I love this roots duo and it’s about time that Seattle gets a chance to show up those rootsters in Portland. Cahalen & Eli, like Joy Kills Sorrow, sound utterly fresh and new, and do so by playing and singing songs that soud as old as time.
It’s a perfect example of Pickathon’s vision that a true-vine old-time fiddler like Bruce Molsky can be feted at this indie roots festival. There’s noting “indie” about Bruce’s music, it’s just incendiary old-time fiddling, impeccably researched and deftly played. He’s one of the best living old-time fiddlers and his albums are a joy to listen to. This is my first chance catching him live!
Corrine West & Kelly Joe Phelps
I am completely intrigued by this duo. Kelly Joe Phelps has been one of my favorite artists for ages, ever since his first albums that completely rebuilt country blues from the ground up. He’s one of a kind, an impossibly good slide guitar player, a soft, introspective singer, and a true roots music visionary. Now he’s joined singer-songwriter Corrine West for a duo that’s exploring the intersection of folk and roots, wherever that may be. Should be a great show.
Not sure if I can stay up til 1am on Sunday to hear Charlie Parr, but I’m sure as hell gonna try. Parr draws from Piedmont blues for his muse, and plays like a possessed soul. Looking forward to checking him out live!