photos and words by Alex Crick
It’s exactly 505 miles from the KEXP studios to the heart of downtown Boise and that’s exactly how far I traveled to catch the inaugural year of Treefort Music Fest. Featuring 138 bands from the Northwest and beyond Treefort Fest bills itself as a new and emerging artist festival, which it was in every way.
After arriving in Boise late Friday afternoon, about a day and a half after the festival had already begun, I caught my first performance with Sister Crayon. This talented California quartet features a soulful electronic sound led by the powerhouse voice of Terra Lopez.
The next act was Why?, a Cincinnati based indie rock/hip-hop mix whose lead singer Yoni Wolf rhymes to a unique mix of piano, guitar, and drums.
A few blocks away, fans were lining up outside a club-sized venue to catch the highly-anticipated show by alt-country rockers Blitzen Trapper.
Capping the night off was a stellar performance by Seattle’s own Hot Bodies in Motion. Lead singer Ben Carson hypnotized the crowd with his powerful gravely voice while the rest of the band kept the crowd grooving to their bluesy garage rock.
Saturday kicked off with a panel discussion on the Future of Music Journalism featuring a mix of bloggers, music writers, and a photographer (myself). An interesting discussion ensued regarding the ethics of music journalism and whether bloggers would be willing to trade a positive review in exchange for free tickets or access to the artist. In the end, we all seemed to agree that the power was shifting away from more established outlets and moving towards to the internet. Blogs were making the bigger publications take notice of undiscovered talent.
Meandering over to the main stage I caught the Portland band AU whose low-key experimental pop style seemed to resonate with the crowd. AU was followed by Typhoon, a unique act in that they seemed more like an orchestra with the 14 members on stage. It was hard to pin these guys down as their music featured complex blending of many different genres, but lead singer Kyle Morton held it together and made it work.
Next up was art rock trio Brainstorm who played before a sparse crowd, yet still put on a good show.
The highlight of the evening were Boise hometown heroes Built to Spill whose 20 year career has influenced numerous bands from the Northwest and beyond. Having formed in Boise in 1992, the band had no problem filling the main stage with fans both young and old. They played a selection of hits including “Stab,” “Joyride,” “Goin’ Against Your Mind,” and “Carry the Zero.”
While everyone seemed to be at the main stage, a decent sized crowd was at the nearby Nerolux to catch Seattle pop-rockers The Globes.
As the clock moved closer to midnight the festival switched from an indie rock extravaganza to a more electronic beat. Denver’s Flashlights upped the BPM as they complimented their high energy performance impressive light show.
Sunday kicked off with an impressive main stage performance by Boise’s own Atomic Mama whose bluesy garage rock morphed into a an electronic dance frenzy.
Over to the Linden Building, I caught another Boise act, the First Borns whose mellow rock featured strong punk undertones...
Then I was back at the main stage to catch a few songs of indie-pop rockers Tennis.
Meanwhile over at the Neurolux, a sizable crowd of young women swooned over Bellingham artists The Learning Team. This five piece boy band showed impressive talent both in their pop stylings and their proficiency on a wide variety of musical instruments.
It had been a sunny festival weekend but as Sunday went on a batch of sinister looking clouds moved in. They held their fury for the entire day but just as art rockers Of Montreal hit the stage the clouds let loose, dousing the audience with a steady downpour. The crowd completely oblivious to the accompanying downpour danced on to the entrancing sounds Of Montreal.
Of Montreal’s psychedelic inspired performance featured ghosts, giant poofy flowers, and masked superheroes who relied on the audiences hands to fly them around the venue. While it the bands best performance the audience didn’t seem to care they we’re too busy having a good time.
Alas, all good things come to an end and while the festival continued for another five hours after Of Montreal’s set featuring heavy hitters such as Motopony, Koko & The Sweetmenats, and The Cave Singers. As much as I would have enjoyed staying, I had to make the long journey back to Seattle.
Looking back, I would consider the inaugural year of Treeefort Music Fest to be a resounding success. This was a highly organized and tightly run festival with no visible hiccups that one would associate with a fist time adventure. The festival provided a fantastic glimpse into a wide variety of emerging and established artists and I left with distinct impression that while Treefort may be a small it’s well on its way to becoming a regional tour de force.