Boise isn’t one of those places where you hop out of bed and say “I think we should go to Boise this weekend!” Actually, I don’t think it would have ever been a destination on my list, but then low and behold Treefort Music Festival was born. So many people talked up this fledgling festival last year, I decided it would be worth a shot to check it out for myself. Despite the rave reviews, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I stepped off the plane and headed downtown. I had done my homework and made a preliminary list of bands I wanted to see, but you know as well as I do that Bandcamp samples don’t accurately depict a group’s sound like a live show does. This theory proved itself many times over throughout the weekend in both good and bad ways.
The first solid act I encountered was Hollow Wood, straight from Boise. I wasn’t sure if they would be just another Americana/Folk group complete with seven members and the same tired feel Seattle has been saturated with over the past couple years. Don’t get me wrong, those bands are among my favorites, but I’m parched for something fresh and different. Thankfully, in Hollow Wood’s music there’s a beauty and intensity that makes it more like a mashup of soul, emo and folk than the bluegrassy style we’re used to here. Singer/guitarist/percussionist/lyricist Adam Jones plays with abandon as the words spill forth, and you can tell his heart is wrapped up in every syllable. The rest of the band creates the swelling and dissipation that makes the music so powerful. Even now, I can remember being wrapped up in it as the crowd (seemingly half made up of the band’s family and friends) cheered, danced and clapped their way through the set. It’s probably no coincidence they’ll be playing with Hey Marseilles in mid-April as our hometown boys’ tour runs through Idaho.
Though I do love my fair share of major musical acts, especially when it comes to photographing the enigmatic performers, but Treefort was something different for me this time. I decided I wanted to throw myself into the Boise music scene head first. That would probably mean I’d run into some really horrible stuff, but I’d also get a sense of what was bubbling below the surface of a town so near by yet so far away from Seattle. I noticed, as I perused the abundance of musical acts offered at this year’s festival, the leanings were much more toward electronic, dance and techno than I had expected. The China Blue venue offered nearly non-stop dance and dj music throughout the weekend, and one of the best acts I caught was in the very small China Blue Lounge upstairs from the main area. It had a glowing floor surrounded by about 4 feet of walking space, then dead-ended into the bar. Barely enough room for 40-50 people to cram in, yet it instantly became a party when Slow Magic, clad with a tribal mask and drumsticks in hand, started up his computer. Creating an unstoppable urge to move, dance and jump, his energy was infectious as he beat a pair of tom toms to his left and intermittently played with the laptop to his right. Within minutes, the whole place was sweating and dancing to the irresistible beat. I managed to get out of the overstuffed room but did not relish leaving one of the best parties all weekend.
By the time Saturday rolled around, the freezing weather was getting to me a little. Granted, the sun was shining bright, but my fingers were getting too cold to push that little camera button, so I ended up spending a lot of time indoors. The Red Room was probably one of the toastiest venues of the weekend, and lucky for me I was spending some time there while the Hoot Hoots played their set. What an incredibly fun band! There’s a big difference between a band that’s pretending to have fun so the crowd gets into it and a band that goofs around and has fun even if there were three people in the audience. The Hoot Hoots were the latter and we danced and made idiots of ourselves right along with them. Their music is solid and their on-stage antics just help you loosen up and have a great time. The hooded rainbow cloaks they were covered in didn’t hurt the ambience of silliness either.
Sunday was my “take it easy cause you’re about to fall asleep standing up” day. I caught a few shows early on in the day including a hard-core punk show in what had been (up to that point) a very subdued venue called The Linen Building. The entirety of the crowd consisted of eight to ten male teenagers and random fest-goers looking for any show other than the main stage act. What happened after I walked into this set was madness. The vocalist of the band Raid kept running down into the audience and inciting a small riot. Eventually the security guard outside came in and threw out the teens who’d been moshing (I stepped quickly out of danger more than a couple times before retreating to the staircase to capture shots from above). This was a true hard-core punk show, the songs lasted no more than 90 seconds each and they were all screamed to anyone who would listen. It was interesting to experience that at noon on a sleepy, sunny Sunday. After that, I walked around town with the two enigmatic female fronts of Seattle group The Tea Cozies. They were enjoying their delicious beers (despite the ridiculous cold) as I people watched in a slight daze. We enjoyed perusing the racks of the local vinyl/coffee shop while catching an in-store performance from afar. All in all, it was the best kind of lazy Sunday and a great end to my little trip to Boise.
There were a lot of bands that are worth mentioning like Kithkin‘s insane set at Neurolux, the all-acoustic Seattle bands mashup show at the same venue, Pickwick‘s solid and energetic set on the main stage (they’ve kicked their performance up a notch), Sun Blood Stories also on the main stage, Ugly Hussy complete with trumpet at The Crux, Flashlights getting the party going at The China Blue, Y La Bamba with their hot Spanish-drenched performance, and Nick Jaina at Pengilly’s Saloon as big fat snowflakes fell to the ground outside. It was a whirlwind of sun, sub-freezing temps, wonderful music, locals getting their groove on and beer. If you’ve never been to Boise, Treefort is a great way to experience it for the first time.