For it’s sixth consecutive year, Treefort Music Fest is beginning to draw massive crowds for its amazing lineup of music and arts. With multiple stages and venues, comedy, art, performance, dance, and seminars, Treefort feels like a SXSW-lite.
The small-city/town atmosphere works wonders for it. The venues are intimate, feeling somewhat cobbled together based on their incredible diversity—from shrines, to theaters, to bars, to record stores, to festival-specific tents, it really gives the sense that there is an incredible amount of local support for Treefort. That welcoming atmosphere is everywhere—storefronts boast welcome signs to “Treeforters,” you cant help but be accosted by friendly locals on the street, and the security and administration for treefort is endlessly accommodating and warm. The intimate nature of the venues, the relative compactness of the event itself, its integration with the city—all of it gives Treefort this amazingly authentic feel.
And the lineup is nothing short of incredible, boasting no shortage of local Boise acts as well as a healthy LA contingent including Death Valley Girls, Open Mike Eagle, Mac Demarco, the Growlers, Dead Meadow, This Will Destroy You, Rituals of Mine, and Touche Amore.
Of particular note, however, is Treefort’s surreptitious dedication to intersectional inclusivity throughout the music world. Sporting a more diverse lineup both musically and identity-wise than I would wager you to find at almost any festival…and all in the second reddest state in the nation next to Alaska. This dedication to progress is present throughout the festival—wether it be from entire stages quietly set aside as showcases for badass women in punka and women of color in soul and indie, or bathrooms decorated with all-gender-inclusive signs and banners to diversity.
With so many stages running at the same time and secret shows popping up all the time, it would be impossible, even for a photographer sporting all the special badges you could find, to hit them all, but here are the sets that really stood out from the pack and the acts you would do yourself a favor to check out:
Sly Moon Sutra: Knowing absolutely nothing prior, but with a name like Sly Moon Sutra, the Buddhist in me had to check it out. Sly Moon Stura opened up festivites, playing the first official show of the festival (and the first I checked out following a secret show by the Meat Puppets at the local record store) and they knocked me sideways. The Boise jazz/hip hop/indie band-by-way-of-Fugazi defies any hope of categorization. Live, they manage to teeter just on the edge of completely out of control and tight jazz musicianship with hip hop verses and full on Ian Mackaye stye caterwauls.
Death Valley Girls: For some dirty, punkish, rock n roll, Death Valley Girls put on a great set on Thursday. Sporting a LA-based artist, Kenneth Anger-inspired Lucifer Rising patch that I was super stoked to see, the band played a dimly-lit but ferocious set with a classic LA rock sound reminiscent of contemporaries Plague Vendor or The Coathangers, who were headlining the night.
Open Mike Eagle: I once had dinner with Open Mike Eagle by accident. Long after, I discovered his record Hella Personal Film Festival, and totally was blown away. To say I was looking forward to his set at Treefort is a bit of an understatement. Luckily I wasn’t disappointed. With a low-key, relaxed style that is as easy and effortless as his flow, he quietly serenaded the crowd while simultaneously remixing his songs and his vocals through an effects pad.
Stepbrothers: Stepbrothers’ drummer Charlie approached me just after Leafraker’s set on Thursday. He was such a nice guy that I made it a point to catch him at both of his shows the next day—for the incredibly heavy BLACKCLOUD and then for the Superheaven-esque Stepbrothers. Their set was crushingly heavy , perfecting the Superheaven formula of 90’s alt rock nostalgia, stoner metal riffs, and hardcore attitude.
Cult Bride: Wow. I listened to this band one hour ahead of their set while taking a survey of what the day had to offer and was pleasantly surprised. Live, however, this Boise-based quintet is a powerhouse. Imagine a reincarnated Denali but with strings. Their set was tight, soaring, heartbreaking, and intriguing and I really hope they break out in a big way.
PEARS: New Orleans’ PEARS took the cake for the most energetic and explosive live show of the week. Careening like a cannonball, they rocketed across the stage with feral growls and pounding punk. Their live show was ferocious and totally unbeatable for sheer movement and energy.
Emma Ruth Rundle: LA’s Emma Ruth Rundle is wrapping up a tour with Deafheaven and This Will Destroy You. Listening to her record, a more quiet alt-americana affair, I was not expecting the gut-wrenching heaviness that she gets with her backing band. Like Chelsea Wolfe mixed with Neurosis, albeit with some less avant-garde influences as well, she cast a spell on the audience as they stared, rapt, and unable to turn away.
KOLARS: I keep crossing paths with KOLARS. Somehow in the last year I have managed to miss the LA-based duo for one reason or another, so when I heard they were playing just before Thunderpussy on Saturday, I made it a point to get there in time. And holy hell was I not disappointed. The band has managed to create something totally new in rock n roll—an entirely unique style of percussion where drummer Lauren Brown tap-dances atop her bass drum while pounding out rhythms on the toms. Mixed with the killer guitar lines from Rob Kolar, the duo create a mesmerizing and infectiously fun live show. They had every single person in the room dancing by the time they closed out their set (complete with an encore, despite being the opener) with an Elvis Pressley cover.
Thunderpussy: Rock n roll is best experienced live. No band embodies that creed than Thunderpussy. I caught Thunderpussy for two of their three sets this week. The Seattle-based classic rock n roll band put on one of the most tantalizing, sultry, and rocking live shows of anyone in the business. Their consummate showmanship and handle of branding coalesces into this glam-monster of a show that rivals the classic greats of rock. Imagine Janis Joplin vocals over a supergroup comprised of members of Aerosmith and AC/DC wearing clothing designed by KISS’ stylist. Yeah. They are that good.
St. Terrible and the Gospel of Nothingness: When I left St. Terrible’s set, I walked outside, leaned against a wall, and took some deep breaths. Their set was something wholly consuming—it was encompassing, obliterating the boundaries between performers and audience members as surely as the boundaries between folk and indie rock. Speaking with a friend after the set (in emotional, wavering tones), I tried to describe what I had experienced. The closest I came up with was “they are like the post=apocalyptic Slipknot of folk who are also a gospel choir…it was incredible.”
Rituals of Mine: I am a diehard Rituals of Mine fan. I have seen them at least half a dozen times. Whether they open up for Deftones or Tricky or The Album Leaf, the Sacramento (and sometimes LA) based trip-hop/ambient indie act always gives the headliner a run for their money. The set they put on at Treefort though? Put every other set of the weekend to shame. Vocalist Terra Lopez’s otherworldly vocals careen between desperate, fervent whispers and full on tortured belting and her stage presence is consistently mesmerizing—even when I thought I had seen most of their tricks before. This band is doing something totally new—carving out their own territory in the music landscape with an ambition and confidence that is unparalleled in the music scene at this time. They are going to hit LA on 3/31 at the Regent and I urge you to make it to that show.