Pickathon: Influence and Inspiration

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Pokey LaFarge on the Mountain View Stage

A couple of nights ago, the boys and I were listening to a live John Hartford album before dinner.
“Papa, do you think these guys will ever come to Pickathon?” Leo, 6, asked.
“No, that’s not possible,” I said, hoping the conversation would shift.

“Why not?” said Jack, 4. “They would be awesome!”

I balked, then just went for it. “John Hartford died about ten years ago. His body got super-sick and couldn’t get better.”
“Oh, so before we were born…” said Leo. The tone in his voice suggested he was sad he would never get to see this guy play music. It’s a feeling I share with him.

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The Black Lillies in the Galaxy Barn

Just last weekend, The Black Lillies band leader Cruz Contreras told me at Pickathon that John Hartford used to visit his parent’s home and play in their living room when he was young. It was an introduction to music that he didn’t really comprehend until he was older.

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Bruce Molsky playing for the live KBOO broadcast

These brushes with brilliance make a deep impact. KBOO’s Rachel Gold told old-time and folk master Bruce Molsky during the Saturday morning live broadcast from Pickathon that a workshop he’d done twenty years earlier had changed the entire route of her life. Molsky himself said during his Sunday afternoon workshop that he went home and asked if he could take guitar lessons after a jazz guitarist gave a presentation at his school when he was ten.

So while the boys seemed more interested in playing with all the other kids in camp than in the music, we did round them up for several acts they wanted to see: The Black Lillies, Breathe Owl Breathe and Pokey LaFarge.

On Saturday afternoon, we popped in the ear plugs and entered the packed and steamy Galaxy Barn for The Black Lillies. We only lasted a few songs before the warmth of the barn urged us along, but they’re still talking about those fifteen minutes.

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Breathe Owl Breathe on the Mountain View Stage

Walking around Pickathon last weekend, there were banjo licks, fiddling, foot stomping, story telling and riverboat references that caused me to think of songs from Hartford’s albums. So while he won’t be there in the lineup for the 14th annual, we see and hear little pieces of him in so many performers. And that is a good thing.

All images © 2011 Tim LaBarge

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