Pickathon: A Music Festival With A Brain, And An Empty Stomach

In an era dominated by big name corporate festivals, the real meaning of these events — gathering outdoors to enjoy great bands and possibly some great food— is sometimes lost. "We're not Live Nation, we're not C3, we're not Superfly, we're not a huge, capital-rich company that can fund whatever we want," says Zale Schoenborn, co-founder of Pickathon, a roots-rock festival going down this coming weekend at Pendarvis Farm near Portland, OR. "We all have kids and lives and just one festival is pretty crazy for us right now."

Taking place on a lush piece of property less than an hour outside of the city, Pickathon not only features over 50 musical acts that the "imagination will allow," according to organizers (the lineup includes Dr. Dog, Blitzen Trapper, Cass McCombs and The War on Drugs), but an array of local and organic food and drink. Pickathon also bring some new and innovative ideas to the table as far as spreading awareness for environmental sustainability, partnering with companies such as Klean Kanteen. Pickathon founder Zale Schoenborn fills us in.

What is the point of all this?

Pickathon is... like putting together a humungous fine art project from the perspective of food, art, music and community. Having all these artists collaborate and put everything together is just amazing.

Why does it work in Portland?

Being in Portland, food, art and design is the way people interact with the land, and sustainability is part of the Pickathon experience. We kind of look at things with a very finite approach. We ask what would be the most influential and deeply personal kind of expression that we think really resonates as something special no matter what we approach in the weekend.

And what about the food?

Portland is such an awesome food town, full of local and sustainable food and every particular chef we involve has this ridiculous depth to his or her approach. Whether it's Bunk Sandwiches or Pine State Biscuits, these people are food stars and we love that none of them really do festivals. Food is really visceral, like music, and we try and find more and more every year to convince people of the quality of food at this music festival. There is a whole synergy; food isn't just a necessity and we really want people to see that. We are always trying to see what we can we do to make this festival reflective of what we think is amazing. It's easy to do when you're close to place like Portland.

Would you say a lot of the artists playing the festival identify with the food and sustainability aspects of the festival?

It's part of the overall "this is my favorite weekend of the year" vibe you are hearing. The whole package (music, food, sustainability) comes together in a thoughtful way and that's what makes us so different. You can't take one of the elements away. You have to have all of them to truly experience what we're trying to share. Its culture. It's a giant art piece and no one has see anything like it. It's a nucleus of amazing things and people are like: "what is going on here!?"

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