Feist, Sallie Ford, Felice Brothers among nearly 50 artists at 15th musical bash

by: COURTESY OF PITCH PERFECT PR - Pickathon features a lineup of new and established artists.Dale Watson sings with a deep, Texas-bred drawl and shies away from neither twangy guitars nor heartbreak-themed songs.

Just don’t call him “country.”

“I play ‘Ameripolitan Music,’ ” Watson says. “Original music with prominent roots influence. I do not play country music.”

Watson is not one of those musicians who finds labels restrictive or without merit — when properly applied, that is.

“I like labels and categories. The push has always been to not have labels, that music is music. But that’s like going grocery shopping in a store with no certain aisles or sections,” he says. “There are some things that are good in modern country, but they are the exception and not the rule. In Ameripolitan music, integrity and quality is the rule.”

Much the same could be said for Pickathon, the rootsy, yet wide-ranging music festival held Aug. 2 to 4 at Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley. Watson, whose latest album, “El Rancho Azul,” was named after the Willie Nelson studio where it was recorded, will perform in Pickathon’s Galaxy Barn at 3 p.m. Aug. 3 and again at 4:20 p.m. Aug. 4 at The Woods Stage.

Pickathon day ($130, $25 parking) and weekend ($260, $65 parking) tickets were still available at Camping, but not parking, is included with the weekend pass.

by: COURTESY PHOTO - Just don't call Dale Watson a 'country' musician.Featured on five separate stages, this summer’s Pickathon lineup may boast fewer obvious big names than in recent years, although anyone who’s been near a radio or TV in the past half-decade, however, should recognize enigmatic Canadian chanteuse Feist, who broke through in 2007 with the relentlessly catchy hit “1-2-3-4.” Portland’s own Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside also will likely draw a healthy chunk of Americana fans from near and far, as will the heartfelt songwriting and sultry voice of North Carolina’s Tift Merritt.

The Relatives, a Texas-bred outfit that formed in 1970 but didn’t release an album till this year, will bring scorching psychedelicized soul to the Clackamas County countryside. Fronted by the Amy Winehouse-esque pipes of singer Rachael Price, Boston’s Lake Street Dive blends jazz, 1960s mod pop and classic rock a quirky amalgam, while Bradford Lee Folk & the Bluegrass Playboys will help Pickathon live up to its earliest, string-music-based origins.

Musical curation

Regardless of how famous an artist may or may not be, Pickathon founder Zale Schoenborn believes quality and musical integrity are at the heart of the festival’s soul. The process begins with a “playlist” featuring 800 to 1,000 artists who’ve released a new recording in the past year or so.

“We’re curating,” he says. “We look at the lineup each year as a new contemporary snapshot of artists who are kings of their own musical world. We go to as many music lovers we can think of in our inner and outer circles and collect their favorite bands.

“They may not have a (large) draw, but when you’re listening to them, you get that essence of their musical world that moves you. We put it all together in a collection. I’m confident it’s the most amazing music we’ve ever assembled to date.”

On a less harmonious note, Schoenborn, who works as a principal architectural engineer at Intel Corp., says he’s aware not everyone is comfortable with Pickathon’s weekend ticket prices jumping from $190 to $260 since last summer. Key reasons he cites include keeping crowd density lower, audience and artist amenities high quality, while creating a more realistic financial structure for the festival’s long-term health.

“It’s a big leap,” he admits of the independently run event that started as a fundraiser for radio station KBOO. “It’s our responsibility not to exploit people (but) the responsibility to do things correctly is not cheap. We were under where we needed to be by a lot.

“We’re going from doing something for the love of something to what it really costs. I don’t see our ticket prices going up forever.”

by: COURTESY PHOTO - Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside is a highlight of the Pickathon.

Woodstock west

Changes in the Pickathon experience this year include eliminating the beer garden to allow suds consumption throughout the main stage bowl area, and transforming the shower area by the Pickathon Cafe into a fifth stage area.

For the second year in a row, the wooded camping area will feature a “front desk,” complete with a concierge and scouts seeking out suitable camp sites and assisting with special needs or problems.

“We won’t have as much stress because of these guys,” Schoenborn says. “The camp scouts will help place you and fine-tune your site. It makes for a very graceful entry.”

Watson, who credits Nelson’s “Willie vibe” with making

“El Rancho Azul” an album he’s happy about, picks up a similarly zen-like feeling from Pickathon.

“I’ve played Pickathon before and find it a very different type of festival,” the veteran musician says. “It’s a bit like a mini-Woodstock. It is a beautiful area and, quite frankly, a pleasant change from the Texas heat.”

Endorsements like that make all the toil leading up to the event worthwhile, Schoenborn says.

“We’ve had artists crying on Sunday night. It turns into a very emotional affair for a lot of people. We design it to be like that.”

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