Pickathon 2022

Pickathon 2022 – a Review

Earlier this Summer I wrote a short piece called Gentle Guidance about how to enjoy this summer’s offerings – as I knew they’d be different and we’d be different. Earlier this Summer I had planned to attend the last String Summit – then I got Covid and had to sell my tickets. I thought that attending Pickathon might assuage some of my remorse and sadness, but like Charlie with the football, it didn’t have quite that effect. I’ve attended Pickathon 3 times before and I thought my visit in 2017 would probably be my last – sadly, much of what I found missing/wrong that year seems to have continued to be part of the festival. But Pickathon does a lot well, too – so I’ll start there before adding the “room for improvement” section.

First of all a little bit more back story. This year there was a very welcoming and friendly Pickathon FB group this year. This was something that was missing the last time I attended, and I was grateful to find it. This group led me to the purchase of a weekend ticket for $300. I also posted that I was seeking a parking pass and a friend reached out and sold me his for $70.  That’s also where I found a Spotify playlist featuring music from all this year’s performers.

Positive: the Pickathon ticket system allows easy transfer of tickets between people – well done!

I dilly-dallied around on Friday and then saw a message that Pickathon had oversold their parking and that parking at the festival was sold out and that people should instead make their way to the Clackamas Transit Center and they’d be shuttled from there. OK, minus one point, but luckily in my case I had friends near the festival I was staying with – so headed to their house and got a personal shuttle to the festival. Once there I was able to get my wristband and parking pass in about 20 minutes of standing around in a weaving line. Great – soon after I walked into the festival and started finding my way.

In 2019 there had been a terrible accident when 2 Guildworks workers had fallen to their deaths after the festival as they were taking down the collection of white fabrics that had flown over the main stage area every year for years. I somewhat expected that that area would have had some sort of memorial, but instead, it felt very empty and simple compared to other years. I met a few friends on the way which was nice as I was traveling solo.

One of the cool things about Pickathon is that it takes place at Pendarvis Farm which is a big property with a lot of woods on a hill. So, all of the stages are on hillsides – either in the woods or in a clearing. There are pathways everywhere and you can go get lost in the woods which is where thousands of participants and volunteers make their homes for the weekend. When I first attended in 2007? or so I recall hardly anyone camping – and even then it was tough to find a place that was level. But nowadays people come early and bring shovels and brush hooks and make camp all over the place. There are also lots of hammocks.

Positive: there are some really fun art pieces that are great to look at during the day and I’m sure are even more fun at night when they’re lit up.

 

Positive: by every music stage there is a DJ stage – when there’s no live music playing a DJ steps up and plays tunes. Most of the DJs are from local stations like KMHD and XRAY.fm – some of my favorite music in 2017 and this year came from the DJs! The DJ stations also had the best fidelity – surprise surprise 🙂

I spent Friday wandering around – seeing some folks I hadn’t seen in a while and trying to avoid breathing in too much dust along the pathways. A couple of people had put together a singles and solos meetup @ 4 pm – and I went to that and had a fun time with those who attended. It reminded me a little of my time at WDS – attending Meetups for a couple of days straight.

Highlight: I got to see Yasmin Williams perform. She’s quite a talent and she also mentioned on the stage that she attended my alma mater – NYU. In all my years of attending musical events, I’d never heard a performer mention NYU before – and my heart nearly leaped out of my mouth. My NYU years were pretty special. It sounds like they might not have been as good for her – but still, it was a fun moment.  The juice/smoothie place at this stage made me ginger carrot apple juice which was delicious!

Another Highlight should have been hearing/watching Nubya Garcia on my favorite stage – The Woods Stage. And here’s where we get right back into a central problem with Pickathon (that I talked about in my 2017 write-up). It’s the same issue I have with many music festivals. I sat for an hour with a new friend leading up to this show. The DJ behind us was from KMHD and was playing some delicious cuts. Eventually, though it was time to get the band ready to play. The sound people spent about a half hour testing out the bass and drums. I think it makes sense to take the time to get it right – but it was the volume that was the problem. Why subject an audience that is there for the music to testing out drums and bass turned up to 11? And this seems to be a common occurrence at Pickathon.

Then, there’s the volume level of the music, in general. A friend send me a video from Pickathon 2010 yesterday and it was so subtle and lovely. You would probably not ever hear that anymore at Pickathon. I sure hope someone at Pickathon reads this – or, perhaps take a freaking poll?  Pickathon goers – do you want to hear all the music at such a high volume that you and your kids should probably be wearing significant ear protection all weekend? People – save your hearing! There’s also the general cacophony aspect – if you click on the fun video image above – you’ll hear DJ music playing at the same time as a nearby stage is playing – this was happening a lot.

It’s Really Simple: Turn Down the Volume

I have a couple of other minor suggestions – but the above is my main beef and probably why I’ll not return. Pickathon does a great job of picking interesting music for all of us – but then makes it challenging for (me, at least) to enjoy. Of course, that leads to people having conversations over the music – but that’s another story.

All that said – I actually had a pretty fun time on the day I attended. The next morning I woke up and thought: do I want to do the push-me pull-ya dance of being attracted to go hear some music only for it to be too loud to handle? And I decided that my one day was going to be it. An interesting part of that is that as I consider my time at Pickathon – there really is so much good going on there. The family area is lovely – and there’s so much encouragement for people to bring their kids (wear earplugs!). And there are a lot of great volunteers and the community that come together to make this big festival happen.  That’s fun to watch.

I imagine that this year’s festival was super challenging to put on. Pendarvis Farm is in a section of Happy Valley that is filling in with McMansions at a quick rate. It used to be possible to park right next to the festival – but that property is being filled in right now and was not available. So, we’ll see if Pickathon tries it again at their current location or ends up moving elsewhere.

Finally, so much would be improved if someone just got serious about the sound levels. I’d come back in a minute and probably camp for the weekend. But I won’t be back until Pickathon makes some sort of public announcement about this issue – which I doubt they will. No one likes to admit publicly they are doing anything wrong. I get that.

I’ll probably add to this review as I think of more things – and until we meet again – enjoy the music! Albert

PS – I am open to feedback – please leave a comment below or write me. Thanks. Also, if you enjoy my writing and thinking, I publish a few newsletters which you can sign up for here.

 

Pickathon 2017

Pickathon 2017
Pickathon

Here’s my note to Pickathon: (General Questions info@pickathon.com) – regarding the noise levels at this past weekend’s festival – and some commentary from friends on FB. FYI – Trade Up Music in Portland sells a variety of earplugs.

“Hey there, I had some great moments this year at Pickathon. I go to a lot of festivals – and I often write about them. Unfortunately, I am really upset about the sound level for most of the music this weekend.

I had to leave the venue early each evening and seek refuge somewhere else because things just got too loud. As someone who has attended a lot of festivals – I get it – loud music = fun, and freedom. But the incessant level of 11 at Pickathon was not fun for me. I’m 56, I’m getting tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and I’m also a big fan of great, live music. I think you probably had some really good acts this weekend, and I certainly got my fill of some of them at the Woods stage. But once the levels went up there, I was out of luck.

Here’s an article I wrote on the topic a few years back. If I’m to return to Pickathon, I’ll need some reassurance that the head cheeses have thought this through and make an effort to change things.

This was my first time back to Pickathon in 10 years (or so) – I think I was there for the first one at Pendarvis Farm. I really enjoyed so much about the festival – I’ll be writing a review which I will share with you if you’re interested. But the noise level made my appreciation sort of moot, because I couldn’t stay around. Thanks for listening. Please include a question about sound volume level when you ask people about their experience.

Mine – overall was awesome, except for the sound level. (fyi, think of the children – the levels they’re being exposed to is not safe…)

 Comments

Jaci LaVon Roe My mama has some hearing loss. She just went to some live music she was looking forward to and it was blasted too loud. She couldn’t even make out the words of the singer. It does not need to be so loud and for me it’s not fun and free when it’s like that, it hurts the senses. People need to give feedback about this because it’s a common complaint.

Albert Kaufman Thank you. It’s like they take a delicious ice cream cone and pour dirt on it.

Jaci LaVon Roe Yep. I’ve had that experience too, but certainly for people who already have some damage or loss, they/we still deserve to actually Hear and Enjoy the artists performance, especially paying good money for it. Mutual support needed.

Kristi Hart Excellent point, Albert. I notice this every time I go to a movie theater… as soon as it starts, I wish I’d rented a movie at home instead. Thanks for speaking up! I will join you in adding my comments on this topic to event feedback.

Albert Kaufman sadly, I think Eclipse will be more of the same and I think I’m going to sell my ticket.

Kristi Hart Albert Kaufman  you’re probably right. Maybe worth mentioning to the organizers/Symbiosis, to ask if they’ve considered volume levels in their planning?

James Hanley I have to wear earplugs at shows these days.

Eileen Snow Not to oversimplify the issue or problem….. What about using some earplugs that take the sound level to a level that works for you? I see a ton of live music, and various friends use them and tell me they come in all configurations to make one comfortable and able to fully enjoy. Highly recommend keeping a pair that works for you tucked I to your pocket! It’s a good way to be sure you don’t have to leave if things get too loud….

Albert Kaufman Yes. for me – great solution. For the slew of kids/teenagers/people with no clue… it’s not a great solution. And, we’d just all do a lot better to actually hear the music with the right volume.

Eileen Snow I hear you (figuratively)— but also want to impress that sometimes, I want to feel the power in really loud acoustics. Maybe the solution is some sort of warning about the dcb level to be expected at certain shows (fair warning), so that we can all be informed and choose to participate or not (or use earplugs or not)? Not sure that would take care of the younger set who think their hearing is invincible…..

Erin Townsend The problem there is that when you’re up the hill camping above Woods Stage, it’s still too loud at your campground, or when you’re eating at the wonderful food court, it’s still too loud there from Main Stage. No escape. You can’t just choose not to attend the show.

Erin Townsend Great suggestion, nonetheless, it just may not apply in this case.

Albert Kaufman Erin: General Questions info@pickathon.com When emailing “info” please be patient with a reply. We’re a small staff and we receive a high volume of email every day.

Mike Meyer Cranking up old time music in the wilderness makes no sense to me. Alot of other Pickathon things don’t resonate with me either. I find way better acts, more of a community ethos, all for less $ at other events throughout the summer…

Albert Kaufman wow, if you’re saying that then … I’m really worried. And, add me to your newsletter, please.

Albert Kaufman And, any ideas on how to get these festival organizers to listen on this issue would be appreciated. I wish they’d all travel to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival to see how it can be done.

Marian Spadone Thanks, Albert. This is important and it’s kind of stunning to me how sound pollution and subsequent hearing loss aren’t more of a topic of awareness. I use earplugs at the movies these days almost all the time, and haven’t been to a concert in a while, partly because of this. (though I do use earplugs when hearing music too…) Even concerts billed as ‘acoustic’ are amplified. weird…

Megan Ruby Richards I was just researching a good pair of acoustic ear plugs to bring to symbiosis eclipse 
currently hear ringing in my ears, I can’t remember when that started! 

Albert Kaufman oh, I’m so sorry. I’m 56! I know it’s probably not age dependent, but tinnitus so far sucks sucks sucks. take care of those ears, dear. Sanderson Safety Supply Co is a good place to go for ear protection.

Mike Oxborrow Albert Kaufman Music stores stock them!

Aaron Overstreet I bring Isolator brand earplugs with me everywhere. They retain the quality of the music and don’t make it muddy like foam plugs.

Albert Kaufman cool. Thank you. I suspect I need to get some of these quick.

Matthew Mathis “Thanks for listening”! 
Anne Jones Sorry pickathon sounds like a yawn o Rama to me. 
Albert Kaufman It could have been a lot better (for me, at least) if the sound had been less oppressive. And, there’s lots of variety out here…

Dandelion Mae I agree with you Albert! I have hearing loss and struggle with the same issues. It’s just not enjoyable. The thing that gets me about it though is that even if you don’t have hearing issues, noise at that volume isn’t good for your ears; it’s just not.

Carolyn Stuart let’s include ALL amplified music events!!( if you need the vibration just ask someone to shake you?)
Hank Payne I’m sharing this because it is something that is affecting many of us. Its not just the “super bass car audio” any more. Audio intrusions and pollution comes from everywhere these days.

Howard Patterson My theory is that the music is so loud because the sound engineers have been turning it up to eleven for so long that they are significantly hearing impaired, and don’t understand how loud it actually is.

Albert Kaufman you’re onto something. that’s why I love me a live marching band!

Eric Fair-Layman I think it’s peer pressure

Lisa Wittenberg Hillyard Sound meters are now available for free on our phones. The decibel number of 85 is the level where professional conversations can happen about turning down the volume.

Noise cancelling headphones are available now. I am waiting for noise cancelling ear buds.

Albert Kaufman yeah – all well and good for the informed, but kids, teens, and most adults aren’t going to know what to do about this issue – at least I’m not seeing a huge awareness around it…

Albert Kaufman hello festival producers!!!

Albert Kaufman General Questions info@pickathon.com When emailing “info” please be patient with a reply. We’re a small staff and we receive a high volume of email every day.

Diyo McIlhatton A friend saw Ed Sheeran at Moda center the other night. He said it was very loud too.

Jack Baikoff I got myself a pair of special earplugs that are designed to not distort the music. They are somewhat pricey but are well worth it.

Eric Fair-Layman What kind?

Eric Fair-Layman I agree Albert although I am so used to it I didn’t think about it. Thanks for bringing this up. I also agree that it is a great festival otherwise.

Erin Townsend Thank you, Albert– i didnt go this year after volunteering the last 6. last year i left in a terrible mood Sunday night from anxiety caused by over stumilation that afternoon. There is now nowhere to get away to for a moment and escape the noise. when Ty Segall played mainstage last year on Sunday afternoon it was so loud i could still hear it from the Galaxy Barn beer garden. i could hear both bands at once and couldn’t focus on anything. people kept looking at me like i was crazy but it was TOO LOUD.

Albert Kaufman Agreed. General Questions info@pickathon.com When emailing “info” please be patient with a reply. We’re a small staff and we receive a high volume of email every day.

 

8.24.17 – I’ve shared my concerns with Pickathon and they seem to have heard me. I’ve also picked up some ear protection at Trade Up Music which I brought to the Beloved Festival and that seemed to make a difference.
8.23.19 – I learned about Hearrings – example below and they have a lot of kinds.
Hearrings

 

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