Missives from Pickathon, Part 2

The circus is gone. The kids that remain are crawling the ground under the apple trees for green fruit, which they toss up onto the shading, stretched fabric. It’s at an angle, so the fruit always bounces back down. Every so often, a cry of “APPLE!” goes up. I haven’t figured out the rules of the game.

Samantha Crain is playing in the other barn, but I’m back on the barn porch where I was earlier. I can hear her just fine from here, and this is where the wi-fi is. It’s quiet, relatively, and there are few people around — a situation that can be hard to come by at a festival. I just ate a hot dog that billed itself as the world’s best, and while I’m not sure that’s a provable statement, it was damn good, topped with horseradish cream and homemade relish and some sort of saeurkraut-like topping. The food here beats the pants off most music festival food. I just keep eating. A cucumber-lime-jalapeno Sol Pop. Pesto pasta with the hot dog (totally chance, and delicious). A couple of pints of Deschutes’ Twilight — but really, it’s too hot to drink.

It’s really hot. It was touch and go there for a bit, too hot, smotheringly hot, the kind of hot that makes you want to take a nap in the itchy grass were it not so itchy. It was the moment that reminded me why going to festivals alone is a crapshoot — you hit that hot and tired phase, you might just give in to it. But a friend texted and told me to meet her in the shade, where water was abundant and easily accessible. I poured it over my feet and found myself back on earth. So we sat and watched people — tiny shorts! high-waisted skirts! — and talked and sat some more, watching Justin Townes Earle and his impossibly long legs, and then the Lost Bayou Ramblers, with their multilingual singalongs and upright bass tricks (the bassist balanced on his instrument and played at once. I can hardly explain).

Festivals are better with company, with someone to make your observations to when you’re not, y’know, near the wifi. Friends travel in packs and save blanket space for each other; kids crawl around blankets and squirt you with water bottles when you ask them if they want to. In the backstage tent, along with the beer and pretzels, there’s a huge tub of Red Vines and rugs for sprawling. Did I mention this place is kid friendly? I think I did. But also, it’s just friendly. It feels clubby and small, in a good way; you find yourself passing the same people over and over again, winding up in line next to the person who was a blanket away earlier. My also-press friend tells me there are about 2,000 people here. Right now, I think they’re all congregating in front of the two main stages, all on the grass that was empty earlier. As the sun goes down, shadow spreads comfortingly across the main lawn. It arrives just in time.

I can hear Hillstomp from the main stage. Weren’t they just at Papa’s? Is Pickathon the intersection of 3rd and Blair, writ large and forested? Everyone here does look a little bit familiar.

If I don’t go watch Samantha Crain, I’ll regret it.