Treefort Music Fest
Sister Crayon ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
As scaled down version of MusicFest NW that felt just the right size for Boise, happening over the course of four days in late March Treefort Music Fest boasts the same proximity advantage as SXSW with all of its venues being entirely walkable. In fact all the stages were located in a five-by-five block square, and a number of unofficial stages popped up in that radius as well. Inside the gates of the outdoor mainstage and out on the streets a bevy of legit food trucks were eager to serve. (Seattle, take a hint.)
Smartly inserting the takeover of Boise’s venues into the post-SXSW touring window, the fest was able to plan itself into the road schedule of a wide array of emerging bands from not just Idaho, Portland and Seattle, but from across the West, while additionally booking headliners with a potential to attract a larger under-21 audience than say MusicFest is going for. Though booking Northwest mainstays Cave Singers, Blitzen Trapper, the Maldives, and of course hometown stars Built to Spill is a thumbs up in my book and probably is what sold a huge portion of the tickets, this fest this year was special for its potential to expose Boise to the other young and less well established bands on the bill that might not otherwise make it to their neck of the woods, but should. In a place with no other real festival competition year-round, the weekend was also in a position to not just expose the fans to the bands, but also expose the bands to Boise in a significant way and give them a reason to come back.
Editorial Note: It’s pronounced Boy-sea, not Boy-Zee.
Eating a Bison Burger off of a Barrel ::: Camera Photo by Josh Lovseth
The festival could just as easily have been called the Treefort Music and IPA Fest. A number of beers were created special for the occasion, really good beer, including one I tried the first night somewhat ironically named “No Girls Allowed.” Ironic not because I didn’t get the Treefort theme, but because over the course of the weekend the lineup’s emerging female performers often stole the show.
Sallie Ford’s Thursday night headlining spot was no doubt a deserved one, and in typical fashion charmed the pants off the packed house with her cheer. Fresh from the recording of a followup to Dirty Radio and a bout international touring the band had a host of new material on the docket including the memorably named song called “Rockabilities” playfully retorting their not quite accurate designation as a Rockabilly band in Europe. Doffing her guitar for the final song she ventured into the crowd and any trace of previous shyness was lost in the moment and the crowds willingness to wig out with her.
Sister Crayon’s set on Friday was the best thing I saw all weekend. Early in the day’s schedule the late afternoon set for maybe 40 people was also a dramatic build and release of static energy as experienced by lead Terra Lopez. Unable to keep herself on stage, as Lopez ventured into the crowd and swept them into her aura, bringing their heartbeat into time with the throb of her loops and full body sway. With the same synth and electronic foundations this Sacramento band acts out the hard feelings that UK sensations the XX seem too self-conscious or divorced from emoting to properly articulate.
Lemolo’s late set in the Red Room was their first visit to Boise, and a stark contrast to the playful and much-loved-locally Vagerfly whom went on right before. Known for off the wall stage costumes, this night the Vagerfly duo had adopted aboriginal facepainting of sorts, a juvenile gesture and fit right in with their not serious at all songs, but came off as a poor imitation of The Trucks. Lemolo having finished work on their first LP were an imitation of no one on the other hand. Songs we’ve heard in nascent forms were now finished and recorded, and have the full delay and looping treatment for both the synth and guitar. Meagan Grandall’s vocals as they reach for the high’s are ethereal, the bass tones of her brooding humbuckers provide a moody swelling counterpoint.
Sister Crayon ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Vagerfly ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Lemolo ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
This event would never happen like this in Seattle, and I’m not just talking about the proximity situation making such an event unlikely. I’m talking about required Security and our nanny state in general. I’m talking about difficulties surrounding all-ages arrangements. At Treefort there were no fences denoting beer gardens. In Seattle there would be two fences and at least as many security guards separating any alcoholic drops from an under-ager by 5 feet. In Boise, folks under 21 were being allowed in certain bars and area’s where people were mingling among them drinking. For the most part, everyone got to see the bands they wanted to see, up close and without a bunch of fuss, and that is what mattered. I know, I know! Unthinkable in Seattle! In Boise nobody seemed to be batting a lash, and the two black XX’s on the backs of hands combined with allowing bartenders to do their job like they do any other night seemed to be working quite well.
Teens on-stage crowd surfing ::: Camera Photo by Josh Lovseth
Teens – where did that 40oz come from? ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Dude York ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
I was “Like Whoa” when in the first verse of the first song the crowd stormed the stage for TEENS midnight set on Saturday. This Boise band’s punk pace was tailor-made for those late hours for when your ready to do something reckless with the buzz you’ve just built up. At midnight with all that beer roiling in our belly’s, it seemed Boise had a major buzz. Band members got knocked over and equipment unplugged time and again, but the party had started and with short breathers between songs they still made it sound good. Near the end of the hour marathon, a few souls on stage came face to face with the ceiling as they went horizonal above the madly dancing crowd. (I could only reflect Security in a Seattle club would never have allowed even a tenth of that.)
Seattle bands were well represented, with Lemolo, Pickwick and Hot Bodies in Motion being the obvious standouts I came across in my travels. I might’ve said the same for the Maldives who were breaking in their new keyboardist, but even when throwing down a rock set at the Neurolux were hard to hear above the din of the overfull crowd and folks at the door arguing to get in however they might.
Seattle’s Dude York on their first time out of town were a smart booking ahead of the “bedlam” that TEENS would later create. But instead of the well-worn punk progressions that the veteran TEENS were dutifully sawing out, Dude York is still figuring it out and in the process mining rock and roll as the provocative act. Occasionally applying makeup to his face lead singer Peter was angling for a kiss from the crowd and nobody seemed to quite know how to respond to him. By the end with lipstick smeared all over the mic and his lips, and his eyes black from eyeliner, I couldn’t help but think the effect of looking upon this creepy Joker-faced visage might have been part of his ultimate goal. Amongst a place where folks are disarmingly polite, Dude York felt maybe too much of a raw provocation, too unedited.
I made a point of seeing some Portland bands that have escaped me so far including a trio of early alphabet bands AU, And And And, and Aan. Each was doing something entirely different with pop, though I think I can safely say AU (say it by spelling it) was my favorite. On the verge of the release of their new record, this duo plus one was sounding like a gold star representative of the PDX house party sound, a la Starfucker, but with a bit more room for pop experimentation along the way. It meant some weird jam moments for sure, but it also meant some really interesting pop progressions would surface from time to time.
Aan ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
And And And ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
AU ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
With a quality turnout all three days I was in Boise, the town is obviously thirsty for this type of event and they showed it. In the glow of it all bands who often were brand new to Boise were emphatically declaring their return to town for next year’s festival as they left the stage. Though I heard tale of similar festivals never quite getting off the ground in Boise, Treefort’s gangbusters reception will I hope change that poor history. Already it’s accomplished something that will be lasting: establishing Boise as being on the map for the bands that attended. And for me too.