Pickathon 2010, from the other end
Photos by Joseph Schell
For all my talk about unwinding during my write-up of Day One at this year’s Pickathon, maybe I should have knocked wood. Saturday late morning, I ate the wrong thing, and wound up paying for it for the rest of the day and night. But, that didn’t stop me from cramming as much music as possible into my perfectly healthy ears.
I kicked off the morning with a little more of that tight bluegrass from Town Mountain, and a second cup of coffee. Much as I loved their set, it was early enough in the day that it took Elliott Brood to get the old eyes wide open and ready to rock. The sheer amount of energy they exude onstage is downright infectious. According to that stage’s emcee, EB guitarist/backing vocalist Casey Laforet punctured a lung last year, keeping the trio away in 2009. The band made their Pickathon debut at noon on Saturday as if they’d been storing up energy for the past year for this specific performance.
Later, on the same stage, Frazey Ford rested my mind from having thought it was made up about her recent release. The few times I’d listened to the disc, Obadiah, I felt like the whole vibe was lost on me. Suddenly, though, seeing her perform the songs with such earnest emotion, I got it. By the end of the day, despite what tends to be my 15-minutes-per-set festival attention span, I’d spent more than an hour and a half watching Ford make her music. It was the show she gave in the barn that night, though, which earned its way into my heart as one of the finest moments of the weekend. And, since everyone loves a well-done cover tune, I can’t go much further without mentioning her delivery of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.” She moved the melody around just enough to own it, but not too much as to remove the song from the way it was intended to be sung. Besides, her voice is such a peculiar, remarkable animal. Not many people can touch that tune without making it sound like a karaoke performance. Ford, of course, is an exception.
Another memorable set came deep in the woods with Langhorne Slim – certainly one of the most raucous performances I’ve yet to see in that space. Though I’d thoroughly enjoyed the Americana-rock of Black Lilies in the barn, I found myself wishing I’d had more time to spend in the woods with Slim and his band. But alas, there’s so much going on at festivals, there were other places to be. I headed back out to the clearing in time to catch the end of an energetic and curiosity-piquing Roadside Graves. And there I parked for the night (saving my jaunt into the barn for Ford’s evening show), catching Fruit Bats, Black Prairie, Punch Brothers, Red Stick Ramblers, and the Heartless Bastards.
Typing that last sentence is probably the best reminder of the exceptionally wide array of music welcome at a place like Pickathon (and also a place like NoDepression.com). Though Heartless Bastards eventually brought out a stringband element, the first half of their set rocked so hard and distorted, I nearly forgot I was at a festival which began more than a decade ago as a picking party. In fact, Heartless Bastards wound up in that same place in my heart with Frazey Ford and the Punch Brothers, classified among the very best performances of the weekend.
By the time I woke Sunday morning, I knew my grumbling stomach wasn’t going to allow me another day of consuming music. I packed it up early in the day and headed back to Seattle. You can see photos above from Joe Schell, and more are on the way from Annaliese Moyer. I’ve been looking forward to scenes from that final day. (If anyone has video, embed it in the comments.)
To be honest, after falling hard for her Hadestown project, I’m only sorry I missed this brief set from Anais Mitchell: