Entering into its fourth year, it’s safe to say that the Treefort Music Fest remains one of our top festival picks. The Idaho showcase just keeps getting more interesting (and bigger) and the city of Boise welcomes the hordes of hipsters with open arms. The mayor even declared Treefort the city’s 2015 “cultural ambassador” which sounds much better for tourism than what one local called “the potato thing.”
For those of you unfamiliar with Treefort — it’s a five day showcase festival that features hundreds of artists at over twenty different venues. Along with all that music, there is art, theater, yoga, film, beer, and even a small technology conference. Treefort is modeled after South by Southwest and it’s no accident that it takes place the following week after the Texas mega-festival. Boise is on the way home for hundreds of Northwest based roadtripping musicians.
The community support of local music is the soul behind the success of Treefort. At a Storyfort panel discussion about the history of the Boise rock scene the moderator noted that, “local music can have as big an impact in your life as the Led Zeppelins of the world – these are people that you can see and talk to.” The Treefort Fest doubles down on that statement bringing in local acts from all over Idaho who are fully stoked to be playing their home state festival. As long as we’re talking about local music, do yourself a favor and tune into Radio Boise. It’s an amazing radio station that you can listen to anywhere in the world and even had some wicked in-studio performances over the weekend.
Treefort continues to evolve in all sorts of delightful and amusing directions. A Wednesday night show at the Cathedral of the Rockies with Josh Ritter and Alynda Lee Segarra was one of the highlights of the festival. Downtown in the spacious Rose Room, Yogafort provided daily breaks with a multitude of yoga classes paired with atmospheric tunes from DJs. At Flimfort, I managed to catch a strange film about Juggalos in western New York while over in Hackfort we rubbed shoulders with our techie friends. We even managed to catch some theater – and by theater I mean two guys doing all six Star Wars in under thirty minutes. It’s as funny as it sounds.
Festivals are an avenue of discovery and the best ones are the fests that surprise you. 400-plus artists on the bill can be overwhelming and we heard this from more than few attendees. I saw one woman rushing down the street with a cellphone pressed to her ear loudly playing one of the bands. “I wanted to see if I liked them,” she told me as she hurried past.
This is why I tend to only pick a few bands and let the festival take me where it will. While festival roulette occasionally leads to some odd places, more often than not, this is where I discover my new favorite bands. When you go from “let’s just stay for one song” to “let’s stay for another” to “let’s stay for the whole set”, that’s a true festival connection. This is how I came across Cymbals Eats Guitars, ELEL, Pert Near Sandstone, and Lee Gallagher and the Hallelujah.
A super-friendly city, amazing lineup, unique venues, and a budget friendly price along with a spirit of discovery keeps Treefort fresh. Despite a few long lines and the oversized lineup, Treefort still retains its underground vibe and remains one of the best undiscovered gems of the Treasure Valley. We can’t wait to see what they do for the fifth anniversary.