Cedric Burnside / Gabe Lee / Mike Harmeier / Margo Cilker (Photos: Greg Homolka)

Believe it or not, there was a time when your favourite unbiased nation artists did not have numerous festivals scattered throughout the map to play. Aside from touring native venues, the closest factor for them to paying to play at SXSW in Austin can be to play at a competition, or current in a resort room at Folk Alliance. Of course, lately there could be two or three festivals geared in the direction of unbiased nation and roots artists on any given summer season weekend, giving guests a dizzying array of decisions to maintain their noses on.

But one of many very first festivals to see the worth and rising significance of unbiased international locations and roots was Pickathon outdoors of Portland, Oregon. This was the place the careers of seminal artists like Sturgill Simpson, The Avett Brothers, Lake Street Dive and plenty of extra started. That could sound like an exaggeration to you, however those that had been there and witnessed these moments will swear by it. Likewise the artists and their representatives.

In 2022, Pickathon lastly returned to Pendarvis Farm within the Happy Valley from August 4-7 after an prolonged hiatus through the pandemic. Faced with growth hitting the place like by no means earlier than in recent times and different points, they’ve determined to vary their strategy to the competition. Instead of blending a couple of huge levels with some smaller ones, they divided the competition space into “neighborhoods”. This allowed for extra shade below the long-lasting fir timber through the day and extra intimate performances to recollect.

Pickathon has lengthy since advanced from completely showcasing unbiased nation and roots music to masking all forms of music creators, however twang stays a spotlight of the competition. And whereas so many festivals get distracted by the large names making a splash, Pickathon takes the time to actually get to know the artists they’re showcasing and see the trajectory they’re headed into. They guide the large flashy headliners earlier than they take off. provides contributors distinctive alternatives.

The final time the Pickathon was held was in 2019, Tyler Childers performed the competition the weekend he launched his album Country Squire, which was the identical day Mike and the Moonpies surprisingly launched Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold, and likewise held court docket at Pickathon. The Moonpies received Saving Country Music’s 2019 Album of the Year. This speaks to how “Moments” blossom from the Pickathon expertise.

In 2022, Mike and the Moonpies returned to Pickathon, nonetheless holding the title belt as nation music’s biggest dwell band, albeit maybe with a powerful challenger now within the reunited Turnpike Troubadours (who performed the Pickathon in 2015). But the Moonpies did what they might to fend off any comers throughout their two pickathon units.

Mike and the Moonpies return to Pickathon

Speaking of spy artists on a meteoric rise and getting her publicity earlier than the remainder of the world is aware of about it, Bella White blew many heads together with her debut album Just Like Leaving, together with Rounder Records, which later signed the Canadian-born artist and re- launch of the disc. Now she’s able to take it to the following stage with a brand new single referred to as “The Way I Oughta Go” forward of a brand new album. We can very effectively speak about the truth that eventually she would be the “next”.

Bella White

Another artist who slips below the radar however is able to blow up is Gabe Lee, who’s rapidly changing into many individuals’s favourite songwriter. From singer-songwriter stuff to full blown high-octane honky tonk, Gabe Lee can do all of it. Why this man is not taking part in festivals coast-to-coast at this level is absurd, however it speaks to Pickathon’s eager consciousness that they booked this man that everybody else will desire a piece of for years to come back.

Gabe Lee

Margo Cilker additionally slips into this class of “to watch” climbers. Crushing her poor little soul in tune after tune, mimicking the sounds of a determined coronary heart, Margo Cilker one way or the other makes all of it sound so candy too. Luckily she’s been making the rounds at many West Coast festivals this summer season and has a number of extra in Bristol and East at AmericanaFest after coming back from a tour of Europe later this month. Things are going effectively for Margo.

Saving Country Music lately gave an outline of the varied subgenres of nation music, and made positive to provide a particular label to the earliest type of nation music, sometimes called old-time. Believe it or not, there are nonetheless youthful artists on the market who not solely draw inspiration from these primitive people tunes which have turn out to be the constructing blocks of nation, however are dedicated to retaining them alive within the trendy context. Vivian Leva and Riley Calcagno are a duo that has completed this whereas additionally mixing these influences with extra trendy kinds. But once they be a part of the group The Onlies with Sami Braman, it is pure old-time bliss.

Old Time’s youngest band, The Onlyies

There had been many different artists on the pickathon in 2022 and sadly yours actually could not take the competition with them this 12 months since I coated it COKE RESISTANT again in texas. Here, too, there at the moment are extra festivals than weekends on the calendar. But happily, Saving Country Music correspondent and photographer Greg Homolka was there to maintain up with all of the nation music actions and take some images.

There had been a couple of hiccups on the 2022 Pickathon, together with parking tons filling up early and founder Zale Schoenborn having to go to the sector himself and discover more room. But most significantly, Pickathon has returned after the drama of current years and can hopefully proceed to be a thriving competition that may present a stage for most of the Pacific Northwest’s best nation and roots musicians and a foothold for others throughout the nation and when at all times magic strikes, a launch pad for artists who deserve it.

All images by Greg Homolka.

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Mike Harmeier, Omar Oyoque from Mike and the Moonpies

Catlin Rutherford and Omar from Mike and the Moonpies

Zachary Moulton from Mike and the Moonpies

Gabe Lee in Pickathon’s Lucky Barn

One of Pickathon’s many artwork installations

Valerie June

Margo Cilker

Western artist Kassi Valazza

Riley Dowling from The Deslondes

Vivian Leva and Riley Calcagno

Frank Fairfield and Meredith Axelrod

tobacco city

Mariachi custom


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