Monday, August 07, 2006

The Cyber Scene in Portland, Oregon

by Tamar Alexia Fleishman.

It seems that no matter how old we get, the concept of Summer vacation never really vanishes, right? Hopefully, you have been enjoying yourselves in the sun. This week, I had the pleasure of visiting Portland, Oregon for the first time, to check out their 8th Annual Pickathon.

I have traveled to and fro, but it’s been a long time since I have seen a place so brimming with natural beauty as Portland! When you fly in, you see the Columbia River dividing Oregon from Washington, with the Cascade Mountains all right there. Gorgeous!

At Portland’s airport, near gate C-13 in Southwest’s corridor, they have a passenger service center. This is a convenient room where there’s an ATM, copy machine, cell phone chargers (bonus for me, who always forgets to charge things), phones, computer ports and a currency exchange.

Pickathon ( ) is a roots music festival that is deliberately loosely defined. I was invited there by my friend Roy Batchelor that I’ve told you about -- he is the guru behind , the Internet’s bad-ass country radio station. Many of the folks associated with Pickathon stayed at the Doubletree Hotel, with their fine Pickathon group rate and commitment to "green" business practices. When it was time to go to the festival, a bio-diesel bus was provided by the Oregon Bus Project (, a grassroots nonprofit that provides volunteers to Oregon political candidates who are committed to green policies.

So, onto the music! Many different groups played, from traditional bluegrass -- like the Earl Brothers -- to more indie rock. Not everybody was a "picker", either. Iris Dement played piano. Pickathon had three different stages, including an intimate barn that was used for smaller acts and workshops. The workshops ranged from banjo to clogging. Concerts were going from 11:30 am to past 2 am both nights.

One of my favorite acts was Danny Barnes. He did everything from rocking electric guitar on the big stage to delicate improvisational banjo, accompanying 8 year olds! His style is that of quiet genius -- Roy calls him the "Frank Zappa of country music".

When you’re at a festival, don’t you always think about food? I do. Pickathon had a lot of healthy choices, but I would have like to have seen some more affordable options, as well. One great item I snacked on was a vegan coconut ice dream, made of pure coconut milk and seasonings. Terrific! What made it even more terrific was their suggestion to go by the gate and pick myself some wild black raspberries for free to use as a topping.

The weather was picture perfect for both days, with absolutely clear skies. Clear skies does equal sun-damage, though. One great solution was the shaded beer garden, which had chairs and tables. For $6, you could get yourself one of 4 different types of micro brews and listen to the concerts in comfort. After 1 am, the barn also served beer. I am proud to say that I led a revolution in bringing chairs into the barn. I wasn’t really going out on a limb; the place had a laid-back atmosphere. I figured nobody’d get too mad if I moved chairs from outside to inside the barn.