Thoughts on Boise’s Treefort Festival 2012

Teens at Treefort Festival 2012

Somewhere along the 1,700 mile sprint from SXSW and Austin, up through the Dust Bowl to the welcoming, gregarious arms of Boise, ID and its inaugural Treefort Festival, the book I was reading made mention of Parkinson’s Law. This law essentially says a task will swell in perceived importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. So what the hell does that have to do with a music festival in Boise? Well over the past week, my brain has been trying to figure out how a small group of people in Southern Idaho went from entertaining the idea of a new festival last fall to pulling off one of the best festivals I’ve ever had the pleasure to attend within a few quick months.

By some splendid strokes of luck, I’ve been able to attend a number of major festivals in nine countries. From the swarming sea of souls at Coachella to ten person audiences along the Danube in Budapest, I’ve had a fair range of festival experiences. I bring this up not to toot the Bragpipe, but rather to offer a résumé for evaluating Treefort. All said and done, the inaugural Treefort Festival in Boise offered an experience in the upper echelon of all this schmuck’s festival experiences. Alas, here are some thoughts on what made Treefort something I’ll be yapping about to any plausible grandchildren of mine.

Organizers: It’s quite rare to get a legitimate, time-intensive response from anyone running a large festival. So you could imagine my surprise when both the press director and assistant director both sat down with me for coffee/beer when I stopped through Boise in January. Moreover, festival director Eric Gilbert both had me ride along in his tour van at SXSW and offered his home for me to stay in during the festival. Hell, I even know about half the fiercely-friendly family of Treefort press-master Matt Dalley now. This overwhelming friendliness and eager spirit from the Treefort head haunchos rippled through every aspect of the festival. Indicative of their infectious attitude, they managed to corral several hundreds of volunteers from the Boise community.

Size: Any festival with Built to Spill, Of Montreal, WHY? and eight venues is certainly sizable enough. But what fueled the charm of Treefort was its balance between a variety of acts, options and talent versus ease, access and comfort. Case in point: I waited in no lines–be it for entrance, beer or bathrooms–for longer than 60 seconds all weekend. Contrast that with SXSW, where I don’t believe I waited less than 60 seconds for any porta-potty the whole week. And where else can you be eight feet away from a packed, main stage Built to Spill show, leave to go catch two minutes of another band three blocks away and return to reclaim your original BTS view point? Riddle me that.

Participating Artists: Treefort is a self-proclaimed “new emerging artist festival”, with a total count of 137 artists. And while recognizable names certainly stood in the line-up, there were dozens upon dozens of truly new artists. Time and time again I was pleasantly surprised by another of the handpicked emerging artists. Better yet, the TF team allowed many of these new artists to fill headlining time slots as well. Wild things happen when you grant an eager emerging artist access to a prime time slot and a packed venue (see: photos of the Teens’ set). Additionally, all weekend long I ran into artists who had played earlier and were now dancing in the crowd supporting other bands. Ultimately, the TF team showcased new talent primarily from Boise and the Greater Pacific Northwest, but all around.

Inland PNW Vibes: The Pacific Northwest is obviously well renowned musically. Yet at this point in the game, there’s a fair share of pretension included in the *scene*. Passion aggression? Check. Hipster clichés? Check. Cross armed, no-dance, blank faced starrin? Check. Now, if you had east from Seattle or Portland, things chill out a little bit more. And while you might run into some hicks, it’s a refreshing departure from the Cool Kids. Anyhow, Boise mastered a stellar blend in the middle of the Venn Diagram of “Pacific Northwest Vibes” and “Not Snide Assholes”. Best of all,  people danced! The whole weekend. Try finding any venue in Seattle with as many dancers as the Janka Nabay set at Neurolux.

Small Touches: So many little, unrecognized aspects of the festival added up to make a great time. From the delicious, custom designed Treefort Ale to the friendliness of bouncers to the dialogues of the panel sessions, all small pieces of Treefort seemed attended to and cared for. Certainly small things are small things, but collectively they define a festival. Built to Spill remarked on the tasteful lack of monster sponsors midway through their set. Delicious food trucks were carefully placed. Pie Hole Pizza gave out free beer to wristband holders. The list goes on, but these careful details were much appreciated.

Eric Gilbert: When I grow up, I want to be an Eric Gilbert. Mr. Gilbert plays in Boise band Finn Riggins, who opened the festival with a wonderful set. Mr. Gilbert also curated the festival. Mr Gilbert also books bands off Tender Loving Empire records. Mr. Gilbert also spoke on two panels. Mr. Gilbert also danced as hard as anyone I saw at Red Room. Mr. Gilbert was also mentioned by nearly every single band at the festival. Hopefully you get the picture. But Eric’s dedication to the festival and the community channeled into every bit of Treefort. Indicative of his commitment, he was one of the last people I saw dancing at the end of Sunday night and he was back on Boise community radio bright and early Monday morning.

So do yourself a favor and go to Treefort Festival 2013.