Best ever? Pickathon returns, raring to go at Pendarvis Farm
It's likely that Pickathon, returning after a two-year absence because of COVID-19, will be sold out by the time the popular indie music festival begins Thursday, Aug. 4, at Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley.
But, not unlike what other festivals have done to keep and attract fans, co-founder and CEO Zale Schoenborn, partner and producer Ryan Stiles and Pickathon's cast of hundreds of crew members will be busy providing livestreaming during the festival, Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 7.
And, it won't be just an ordinary livestreaming experience, as there'll be plenty of behind-the-scenes material, vignettes, films and other features in the interlude between concerts on the many stages in the picturesque setting.
The two-year hiatus gave Schoenborn, Stiles and the crew plenty of time to refine their new livestreaming company, FRQNCY, which will be ready to go for the festival. It has been created and built for Pickathon, Schoenborn said, and offers a curated broadcast ($15) and all-access pass ($30), as well as an all-access pass with a T-shirt ($60).
Schoenborn and his people are all about creating an experience at Pendarvis Farm, what with stages among the trees and barns used as concert venues. This year, through an extensive venue layout change, there'll be "neighborhoods" with stages (Grove and Windmill during the day, Cherry Hill and Paddock during the night) and other locales for music, readings, storytelling and poetry, as well as areas with food and drink, wellness activities and art installations.
And, they want to convey the live experience with people watching on their home computer, TV screen, laptop and cell phone.
Schoenborn said FRQNCY is part of a new kind of event presentation. It was used last year many times, including with podcasts and bands at its own FRQNCY1 Festival in New York City, and most recently with the Portland Tedx Talk.
"We do a lot of film and livestreaming, and we didn't like livestreaming as it existed going into COVID," Schoenborn said. "Like on YouTube, it wasn't interesting.
"People love live events for specific reasons, and you have to implement those reasons, or get close to them, for any hope of it to be interesting. Connecting with friends, it's not the same texting with 1,000 people as it is hanging out with four friends. The ephemeral live experiences can't happen in YouTube context. You have to 'hang out' with friends. We want live experiences to be different."
Pickathon will give artists a 30% cut of FRQNCY ticket sales, "which is very high," Schoenborn said, "but it's their hard work that they're leveraging." And, bands get automated reports on what they attract via the platform.
The shows "will feel normal, more like a high-end production of a TV show, but not over the top. … We really care, so you're not watching dead camera," Schoenborn said. Pickathon uses many volunteers, and about 500 people will be involved in the video/audio production.
Schoenborn calls the music "our best lineup ever. People want to play Pickathon," and it's been absent from the music scene — for good reason — the past two years.
Acts such as Wet Leg, Valerie June, Sons of Kemet, Nubya Garcia and Cedric Burnside come with high acclaim, especially in their genres.
"For me, every year we build best-of genres we care about, and we're more diverse in styles than ever," Schoenborn said. "We go deep into a pick of somebody who represents the vanguard of that scene at the time. They may not be well known, but music scenes tend to get into their own mythology. And they tend to be right. And Pickathon falls into that slipstream."
Comedians include Kyle Kinane and Amy Miller. New to the festival will be author readings and signings, curated by Literary Arts, with the likes of music journalist Santi Holley, gastro explorer Cecily Wong, memoirist Justin Taylor, fairytale aficionado Michelle Ruiz Keil and more. The storytelling lineup includes Amir Baghdadchi, Zakiya Minifee, Patricia Wheeler and Eden Dawn; poetry readings feature Oregon Poet Laureate Anis Mojgani, Dao Strom, Mindy Nettiffee and Julia Gaskill.
Perhaps the most exciting change at Pickathon, which has been known for its setting, is the reconfiguring of stages at Pendarvis Farm. Again, the Grove and Windmill stages will be used for day concerts, and Cherry Hill and Paddock for nights. The Woods Stage returns, as does the Galaxy Barn, Lucky Barn and Orchard and other areas. (Deconstructed were the Mount Hood and Treeline stages.)
"Totally different. It'll be familiar, but entirely different," Schoenborn said, adding that the "parklike" setting has been enhanced. "We're making it more awesome and adorning it, and leveraging what the farm gives us."
All the changes, and return after two years, have people excited. The festival could always use more volunteers, Schoenborn added.
"You can feel the energy," Schoenborn said. "A lot of volunteers and core staff have returned. A lot of people are excited to be back."
For complete information, see www.pickathon.com. For livestreaming tickets, go to FRQNCY.live/pickathon.
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