Over the years, Boise has really grown to become a musical extension of Portland—almost like a second lay of the venue land when it comes to the couple of miles that make up Downtown Boise and Treefort Music Fest. Having just celebrated its 10th birthday, there was something a little extra special about this year’s fest. Maybe it was the overall celebration itself—or the fact that it was the closest we’ve come to some semblance of “the old times” in many ways—but the fest had many shining moments, even if they were peeking through a vail of vague normalcy in the midst of what has been the most unnormal existence in our natural lives.
More ELEVEN Photos of Treefort 10 in our Treefort 10 Scrapbook!
The first day of Treefort carried an energy similar to rolling out of bed on a Saturday morning: excitement is afoot! But getting excited for the excitement is like peeling back the layers of an exhaustion onion. Still, Shannon and the Clams—one of the first up on the Main Stage—didn’t let the easy atmosphere deter them from getting everything started properly. Under the Boise haze, they played their set of subdued soul-surf and doo-wop-pop, a nice appetizer for lengthy days of motley moods to come.
It rolled smoothly into Mercury Rev, who have always had a reformed ecclectism to the way they perform. Frontman Jonathan Donahue has got a penchant for an entertainingly flowy and mildly melodramatic stage presence, accenting performative moments with interpretative dance moves and longing looks into the distance. Much of their set was made up of songs from their 1998 release Deserter’s Songs, an album with a production alliance to Donahue’s former band The Flaming Lips. They did a cover of the track “There You Are” which was nothing short of fitting.
Wednesday rolled into its night hours with hefty indie zeal, dominated by the El Korah Shrine and the Sonic Temple Blue. Though it hadn’t quite reached the packed capacities of days to come, El Korah was livened by Blunt Bangs’ power pop. There, they barreled through tracks off their recent full-length debut Proper Smoker. Tracks like “Decide,” “Odessa” and “Speed Reader” were of particular note, showcasing the best vocal range of Reggie Youngblood (formerly of Black Kids).
Guided by Voices had their first of two sets thereafter. Hordes packed in to see them run through only a fraction of their extensive discography. They had one of the longer sets of the night at an hour and a half, but it didn’t even scratch the surface, song-wise! What surprisingly did manage to scratch a surface of something was lead singer Robert Pollard jumping up and doing a toe touch mid-air.
The night took a turn for the dancy at the Sonic Temple Blue with Dante Elephante’s set. The Santa Barbara musician released Mid-Century Modern Romance last year, mixing bits of indie, R&B and soul in quite the delectable aural cocktail. “Find Somebody to Love” and an ode to his hometown upped the humidity in the room, but it was the set closer “Call Me (On the Phone)” that really got considerably turnt. He came out into the middle of the crowd, barefoot, and belted out the last of the song as show-goers stretched for him, his moves, and the mic.
Methods Body proved a somewhat unexpected and much needed performance. The Portland-by-way-of-Corbett duo are both incredibly expansive yet minimal in their execution, incorporating myriad samples and loops. At the El Korah, their improvisations kept the audience on their toes, filtering in bullfrogs and chimes in what eventually seemed like a sound machine on stage. It flowed nicely into one of the first sets at the Egyptian Theatre—Boise’s very own Throes. While Methods Body was intentionally and artistically discordant, Throes’ approach was intentionally metal. Their energy was felt almost overwhelmingly in the chest—aurally assaulting in the sound mix. Still, the set was an effective start to the metal performances at the fest, offering up one of the nicest mosh pits probably ever.
Thursday reached an even elevated point with Osees on the Main Stage, thanks to their known and characteristic liveliness. John Dwyer is always entertaining. His high holding guitar playing proved to be forever enthralling. Amid jokes about buying $800 GBV box sets, it was easy to get lost in the synchronicity of the double drummers. Dwyer turned meditative on moments when he hit the keys. Even more meditative was M A N E’s closing set at The Funky Taco. With a near neck-breaking venue, M A N E graced the loft stage adorned in twinkle lights of reds, purples and blues—the perfect visual setting for their neo-soul/indie R&B.
Friday came in hot with frenzied energy, thanks in part to Seattle’s Spirit Award taking on The Olympic. At times, frontman Daniel Lyon likened a vigor similar to that of Dennis Lyxzén of Refused, frantically exuding sonic possession. After a particularly raucous last song fueled by heavy reverb and intense shouting, Lyon chucked the mic down and immediately went to the bar, ravenously downing a cup of water. Not long after, The Prids shoegazed out in the dark, red-tinged room of The Neurolux, playing their new Boise-recorded tracks “Liar of My Dreams” and “Small Amounts.”
There probably isn’t a Help show that’s ever occurred without some high-level erratic energy. Their Friday set at El Korah was no different. If anything, it was more elevated! Boise showed up, and it was evident how much the city’s aurally enlivened residents craved this type of release. Help unlock something from within: an aggressive evocation that caused a fevered pit. At one point, vocalist and guitarist Ryan Neighbors handed his guitar off to an audience member and leaped into bracing hands for a crowd surf, leaving the stranger to shred. And they did.
The heavy set flowed effortlessly into Spoon Benders’ Neurolux set. Each of the band members emitted a beguiling prowess. Packed, eyes were enthralled by Alice Cooper-esque makeup and their innate ability to keep post-garage from ever sounding stale.
Jam rock band W.I.T.C.H. (We Intend to Cause Havoc) started off Saturday on a great note. They brought nothing but legitimately good vibes to the Main Stage. Helping popularize a genre mired in political and economic unrest in the’70s—not unlike what current generations face now—Zambian band W.I.T.C.H. was able to connect on with a “sick of the system” crowd far passed a liking for African-infused psych and garage rock. Their messages in tracks like “Thou Shalt Not Cry” and “Living in the Past” had a certain resonance.
Akin to that resonance was the energy of Prism B!tch at Sonic Temple Blue. At the end of the set, one of the members crowd surfed to the middle of the room, still decimating the guitar, arriving back onstage to the singer dropping the mic and holding up a cardboard sign scribed: “love.”
Back at the Main Stage, slow sippers and easy vibers mellowed out to Typhoon under glum skies. The audience seemed to be centering themselves to the band’s serene instrumentals and sappy harmonies. In opposition over at the Linen Building, Tacoma’s Enumclaw lightly trolled the crowd. Harsh tones ruled over “2002” and “Fast N All,” but they requested everyone crab squat during their song about houseplants and then pogo up during the chorus to “test how smart Treefort is.” Everyone passed the test.
Everyone also passed the vibe check (so to speak) over at Death Parade’s set at The District. The coffeeshop venue was more than intimate. Guitarist, vocalist and principle songwriter Laura Hopkins and Éirinn Lou Riggs (keys/guitar/backing vocals) were one with the crowd. Hopkins emotively belting out tracks from their newest record IT WAS WORTH IT TO LOVE, though it hurt so bad. In being so close, the audience was able to feel the pain Hopkins put into those lyrics, unleashed from themselves. At one point, Help’s Ryan Neighbors took the liberty of shutting all the lights off, allowing the band to fully focus on dishing out sounds as dim and distorted as the world surrounding them.
Back at The Egyptian, Portland metal dominated in the fierceness of Witch Mountain and Yob, two bands who not only have playing together on lock, but each have their individual ways of being entirely captivating. For Witch Mountain, part of this has to do vocalist Kayla Dixon and the consuming intensity of her eye contact compounded with the power of her voice. In Yob’s case, Mike Scheidt’s intense facial expressions were illuminated by the soft blue hues and piqued by pummeled drums, leaving Saturday feeling just as heavy as it should’ve.
Sunday was a bit of the same in a different way—a heaviness characterized by the impending truth of returning back to daily life. Still, those who played that day made sure they sent the fest off on a good note. Jenny Don’t and the Spurs’ second set of the fest at The Hideout was one of those good notes. The outdoor stage showcased the band and their snazzy attire swimmingly. Even in the midst of their energetic outlaw country, there was a lot of room for emotion and vulnerability. Frontwoman Jenny gave a sweet speech of appreciation and mourning for the unexpected loss of their late drummer and Portland legend Sam Henry, along with words of praise for their fill-in drummer Dean Miles. They then dedicated their song “Still as the Night” to Henry, before picking up the western pace again with “Take Me to Jail.”
From outlaw to R&B, Night Heron brought insatiable seduction to the Sonic Temple Blue with tracks from their album Instructions for the Night. The splattered, kaleidoscope lighting only helped further set the mood, the horns hitting extra hard when and how they should.
With the festival ending on Oh, Rose’s emotively upbeat tones, the one-two punch of near gothiness from the third Spoon Benders set of the fest and Vision Video, plus a string of esteemed influence in Kim Gordon, Quasi and Built to Spill, the 10th Treefort was a little bit of proof that when in the midst of familiar faces and loud sounds, you can really block out the ills that bind you. Even if only for the temporary.