I spent this past weekend at Pickathon roots music fest outside Portland and although the idea of camping in the woods among 2,000 hippies may sound like a horrible time, it was actually fantastic. Pickathon is a great music festival for a couple reasons (you can bring in your own food! No funnel cake for days!), including that they feature many more female artists than most mainstream festivals and invite a mix of big name artists and small fries.
Headliners included Feist and Sharon Van Etten, but I want to highlight four great female-fronted bands I'd never heard much about before this past weekend. If you ever get a chance to see any of these groups live, go for it! They made sleeping on the ground and eating meals composed solely of trail mix totally worth it.
When Lady launched into their set, I heard multiple people turn to each other and ask, "Who is this band?" The modern doo-wop group suffers from being completely un-Googleable, but the lineup of three singers and a backing band were a hit the minute their hand-clapping good-time tunes hit the stage. Frontwoman Nicole Wray is one of those unstoppably expressive singers whom it's impossible to take your eyes off of—decked out in waist-length purple hair and with a voice that seems to stop time, onstage Wray had all the style, wit, and energy of a sexy sixties soul crooner.
LAKE STREET DIVE
I could hear the voice of Lake Street Dive vocalist Rachael Price literally from a half-mile away. I followed her loud and clear vocals through the woods to their stage at Pickathon and discovered an audience rapt with attention, all eyes glued on Price, who shone in front of the microphone with the rare, playful quality of a woman who just loves to sing, sing, sing. I was so enamored with Price that it took a minute to recognize the talents of stand-up bass player Bridget Kearney, who attacked each song with ground-shaking enthusiasm and strength. Dive in.
I knew nothing about male-female duo Lightning Dust when they took the stage and the promotional description of their musical inspiration is equal parts meaningless and misleading: "skeletal synth pop, modern R&B beats, the films of John Carpenter and absolute minimalism." In reality, their music is hypnotic electro-pop with a strong bass beat that makes me want to dance and nod in a slow-jams kind of way. They've got an interest in music that goes far beyond dancing, though—if you stop to listen closely, their creative arrangements stick with you. Give 'em a listen.
PURE BATHING CULTURE
Being from Portland, I'd heard locals Pure Bathing Culture on the radio a couple times, but seeing them live was a whole different, engrossing experience. Keyboardist Sarah Vesprille and guitarist Daniel Hindman make up the ethereal band, whose smooth and spooky songs feel like slipping into a warm lake at night: a little unusual and dark, but deeply nice, special, and comforting.
Want more music? Check out this folksy summer mixtape of 12 other great bands and from Pickathon.