A plethora of Portland area music lovers gathered at Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley, OR over the weekend for Pickathon 2022, a four-day celebration of music and community that featured an array of artists from a mix of genres. The festival made its triumphant return after a two-year hiatus with a little something for everyone including indie pop stars Wet Leg, Wu-Tang‘s GZA, London jazz torchbearers Sons of Kemet, alt-rockers Built to Spill, and so much more.

After several days of a triple-digit summer heat wave, the weather relented for the first couple days of the festival, allowing attendees to enjoy the scenic forested grounds before temperatures rose again Saturday and Sunday. Nestled in the rolling foothills of the Cascade Mountains just ten miles from downtown Portland, Pendarvis Farm offered a picturesque setting, with views of majestic Mt. Hood in the distance and a sprawling layout with multiple stages spread throughout the property, some indoors, some outside. The grounds were decorated with wooden structures and various interactive art installations that transformed the festival into a colorful psychedelic wonderland after dark, and the atmosphere was celebratory, but dusty—like definitely have to take your car to the car wash after dusty.

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(Photo: Liz Devine via Pickathon)

With multiple genres represented in the lineup, everyone seemed to have one or two artists they were most excited to see, and everyone seemed to leave with at least one new favorite they discovered at the festival (personally, I was most excited about Sons of Kemet and was converted by Emma-Jean Thackray). For those partial to jazz, there were Sons of Kemet, Nubya Garcia, and Nate Smith + KINFOLK; for indie fans, there were Wet Leg, Built to Spill, and Goth Babe; and fans of hip-hop had GZA and Sampa The Great; not to mention the bluegrass, folk, hardcore, and electronic music that rounded out the lineup. Most artists played two sets on two different days, and performances were strategically staggered so fans could easily catch their favorites not once, but twice.

The music kicked off on Thursday with an afternoon set by country singer-songwriter Kassi Valazza. Campers set up their temporary homes and got acquainted with their neighbors as the festivities ramped up. By dusk, attendees were situated and ready to enjoy sets from indie synth pop band Automatic, blues guitarist Cedric Burnside, and Austin’s premiere dancehall band Mike and the Moonpies. TV Priest kept the party going late into the night with a 1:00 a.m. set on the intimate Galaxy Barn Stage.

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TV Priest performs on the Galaxy Barn Stage on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. (Photo via Pickathon)

Things heated up on Friday with highly anticipated sets by jazz saxophonist Nubya Garcia, alternative country band Hurray for the Riff Raff, and rap icon GZA with his band Phunky Nomads. Indie pop sensation Wet Leg played a headlining set on the main Paddock Stage, which was a highlight for many, especially the younger crowd, and British jazz ensemble Sons of Kemet made a forceful impression with their first set of the weekend. The London-based quartet recently announced their impending break-up, which meant their two sets at Pickathon, plus an appearance in Seattle on Saturday, were the group’s final U.S. performances.

Sons of Kemet – Pickathon – 8/5/22

[Video: J4LM]

Emma-Jean Thackray also made a splash with her planet-themed set on the Cherry Hill Stage. She was bumped from 1:00 a.m. to a prime 9:00 slot originally reserved for TV Priest, who instead played an unannounced secret session at 1:00 a.m.—a time-honored Pickathon tradition—and she made the most of the opportunity.

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Emma-Jean Thackray performs on the Cherry Hill Stage on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. (Photo: Jason Redmond/@fotojay via Pickathon)

Thackray’s innovative blend of jazz and R&B with live house grooves was a perfect transition between Wet Leg’s singalong indie pop and Sons of Kemet’s dub-influenced jazz, and her set was one of the most discussed performances of the weekend. The British composer/trumpeter/singer definitely made some new fans on her first-ever trip to North America (myself included).

Operator Music Band kept the party going late into the night with deep, danceable grooves in the Galaxy Barn, which grew hot and steamy with the packed-in crowd’s body heat while the temperature dropped outside. Late-night ragers gathered around a communal camp fire outside the barn as Friday night bled into Saturday morning.

GZA w/ Phunky Nomads – “Cold World”, “Labels” – Pickathon – 8/6/22

[Video: JWarren Drums]

On Saturday, some artists were ready to play their second set of the weekend while others were just gearing up for their first. Notable daytime performances included singer-songwriter S.G. Goodman, hardcore punk band Soul Glo, and alt-psych rockers Garcia Peoples. After dusk, Built to Spill performed their only set of the weekend on the Cherry Hill Stage. GZA, Faye Webster, and Sampa The Great delivered their first sets, as did Southern songstress Valerie June, drummer-led jazz ensemble Nate Smith + KINFOLK, and Mardi Gras Indian troupe 79rs Gang. Emma-Jean Thackray played another prime-time set in the Galaxy Barn, earning yet more new fans, and Nubya Garcia and Hurray for the Riff Raff each delivered encore performances late in the evening.

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Soul Glo performs on the Cherry Hill Stage on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. (Photo: Brud Giles via Pickathon)

Sundays are often the slow day at festivals, but that wasn’t the case at Pickathon. As the temperature rose to a sweltering 99 degrees, the music chugged right along with daytime sets by Goth Babe—a definite festival favorite—Garcia Peoples, and Operator Music Band, which carried the festival into its jam-packed final evening. Pickathon finished strong with second performances by Soul Glo, Cedric Burnside, Faye Webster, Sampa The Great, 79rs Gang, and S.G. Goodman, plus an intimate Lucky Barn set by Built to Spill’s Doug Martsch. Valerie June also played another set, this time on the larger Paddock Stage, which hosted Nate Smith + KINFOLK’s encore performance as well.

Nate Smith + KINFOLK – Pickathon – 8/7/22 (Clip)


[Video: J4LM]

After playing a set in Seattle on Saturday between their Pickathon sets, Sons of Kemet played their last U.S. performance before the group’s impending breakup on Sunday night. The performance was a bittersweet celebration of all the band has accomplished in the past ten years, albeit many in the audience were probably unaware of the set’s significance. The band welcomed Portland’s own Esperanza Spalding to sit in during the performance, forming a quintet with band members Shabaka Hutchings (sax and flute), Theon Cross (tuba), Tom Skinner (drums), and Eddie Hick (drums).

With a socially conscious Afrofuturist ethos and a singular, percussion-heavy sound, Sons of Kemet have been pushing musical boundaries at the forefront of London’s jazz scene since forming in 2011. The driving rhythms of their deceivingly simple compositions were an immediate hit with the festival crowd, who danced and cheered vigorously throughout their sets. Consisting of tuba, sax, and double drums, the band’s unique instrumentation and inspired grooves brought a party vibe almost reminiscent of electronic-inspired brasshouse trio Too Many Zooz, except more spiritual and deeply rooted in the traditions of jazz, African, and Caribbean folk music.

Sons of Kemet With Esperanza Spalding – Pickathon – 8/7/22

[Video: J4LM]

After Sons of Kemet’s historic final U.S. performance, Goth Babe played his second set of the day to a surprisingly rambunctious audience. There were beach balls galore bouncing around the crowd, and at one point a couple sailed through the audience in a makeshift inflatable pirate ship. “I’ve never seen that before,” Goth Babe said from the stage. 79rs Gang then closed out the weekend with a late-night set in the Galaxy Barn.

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Goth Babe performs on the Cherry Hill Stage on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022. (Photo: Rob Kerr via Pickathon)

Pickathon really delivered in 2022 with a lineup fit to please just about any music fan. With an assortment of indie, hip-hop, jazz, and more, it was the perfect lineup for a local crowd with diverse tastes. With Northwest String Summit ending in 2022, Pickathon has all the makings to be the Pacific Northwest’s premier music festival, especially if they add a little more of the bluegrass and jam bands we’ll be missing in 2023.