For the truly committed, the overnight festival—and camping out—is full emersion. If going to a show and then heading back home to tuck yourself in is like a first date, these camp-out festivals are a true, full-on relationship. And, dry Oregon summers coupled with good-natured and polite crowds make for ideal weekend getaways.
There is an increasing number of high quality outdoor festivals, some feeding off each other and all increasingly efficiently managed.
Probably the gold standard is Pickathon. What started more than a decade ago as a stripped down overnight hoedown has grown over the past few years into a massive festival. It is still dynamic, with campgrounds tucked into the woods and simultaneous stages ranging from natural amphitheaters to sets played in horse barns. The lineup rivals anything in the Pacific Northwest, and arguably now sets the standards, with popular artists like Heartless Bastards and Ty Segall, and an impressive lineup of up-and-coming musicians, but the popularity has become part of its own struggle, prices aren't outlandish, but also not a steal and car camping and RV parking is already sold out. (July 31-August 2, Pendarvis Farm, Happy Valley, $272).
More accessible and stripped down—and emerging as one of the strongest festivals in the Pacific Northwest—is Wildwood, a collection of gritty and bearded musicians (Willy Tea Taylor, Knoxville's Matt Woods) as well as a curation of fun-spirited, boot-stomping bands, like R&B favorite Ural Thomas, and the jangling folk-rock of Wild Rabbit from Bellingham. Increasingly, the festival is also pulling bands from outside the region—like Texas old-tyme country-rockabilly crooner Emily Herring and Alabama honky tonk Banditos. (July 17-19, Roshambo Artfarm, Willamina, $85.)
The most "traditional" camp-out festival is StringSummit—and hosted at the original Pickathon venue with the original blueprint of hippie-dippie standup bass plucking longhairs, this four day festival is an earnest, fun romp, with longstanding acts like Yonder Mountain String Band and the Del McCoury Band anchoring the lineup (and playing multiple evenings), but also with a few outliers like the eerie and charming crooners, Shook Twins, and another sister act, the guitar pickings and trippy harmonizing of Rising Appalachia. (July 16-19. Horning's Hideout, North Plains, $205+)
Closer to Bend, and probably the most postcard picture-perfect of the summer festivals, is 4 Peaks. With many returning attendees, the mood is familiar and friendly. The lineup is less rock than Pickathon and less grit than Wildwood, and more funk (like beboppy, jazzy The Motet), roots (like Rusted Root) and Americana. (June 19-21, Rockin' A Ranch, $140 pass)
While most of the overnight camping festivals loiter around the idea of Americana music, and are more likely than not to include a mandolin with at least every other band, What The Festival busts clean from these county fair stereotypes, and functions more as a millennials' version of Burning Man, with illuminated art installations, light shows, massive wading pools, club music, and electronica beats. Many of the more delux camping options (yurts, etc.) are already claimed, but there are still car camping spots, or roll the dice and count on your average-to-good looks to find you a sleeping spot (June 19-22, Wolf Run Ranch, Dufur, $225+). (PB)