As the fourth annual Treefort Fest in Boise, Idaho comes to a close, it's been another mightily successful year for the young festival. We'd like to offer a big, heartfelt thank you to all the bands and fans that turned out to our 2015 showcase at Treefort this year as well. Photos are up and we'll have videos up soon. If you're new to Treefort, you might scope our inaugural and 2014 recaps of the fest. Here are thoughts on Treefort Fest 2015.
- Treefort is Growing Up: As a testament to the amount of soul, sweat and energy the Treefort team has pumped into the fest, it seems surreal to remember sitting with Treefort organizers Drew Lorona and Matt Dalley in January 2012 as they wondered how they'd pull off their inaugural event. While Treefort is still young, it's an entirely different ballgame. At this point, national media outlets report the lineup, it's become the "largest Portland festival" on earth, it's being hailed as a remedy to the bloated SXSW and you'd be hard pressed to find bands, managers or writers along the West Coast who haven't heard of it. As TV on the Radio blazed through a raucous version of "Staring at the Sun" to close down the main stage on Sunday, you had to recognize how much Treefort has grown up in four, short years.
- The cultural fabric of Boise: Anyone who has attended Treefort grasps how inextricably tied to Boise it is. Watching the symbiotic relationship between the fest and the community is a beautiful, inspiring thing. From the sea of volunteers to local businesses/media and obviously the music community, the City of Trees absolutely rallies and embraces Treefort. Boise Mayer David Bieter even declared Treefort as the 2015 Cultural Ambassador for the city, along with a $25,000 grant. From the moment you arrive at the airport and see Treefort banners hanging in the terminal, you understand the degree of local pride and investment Boise has in the fest. In the 2015 festival climate, this is still unique. While other festivals might catch flak for booking the same headliner multiple years in a row (Built to Spill), Boiseans take these (absolutely packed) Treefort sets to revel in their civic and cultural history. With the expansion of Hackfort, Filmfort and Yogafort, Treefort continues to connect and expand larger, more diverse parts of Boise. Simply put, Treefort would not be what it is without Boise. And, increasingly so, Boise would not be quite what it is without Treefort.
- Choosing Identity: I've been asked dozens of times what makes Treefort special. This could very well be a two hour panel discussion at Treefort's Watercooler sessions. But the focus on "emerging artists", tailoring itself as a "festival of discovery" and spotlighting younger, eager, enthusiastic, hungry musicians is undoubtedly at the core of Treefort's identity. As pointed out before, festival director Eric Gilbert stated, "there are some names out there that don’t necessarily have the best live show, but people will pay to see the mythos of that person. That’s the model that we try to avoid." As the festival grows--and the financial demands increase--there is certainly a balance between providing opportunities for new artists and keeping the lights on. Time will tell how this plays out in the long run and how much of said identity Treefort will choose or need to maintain. However, it's interesting to consider the trajectory of the fest in light of the immense success they've found so far. We've all got seven friends who recite the "I don't go to Sasquatch/Coachella/Outside Lands anymore because it's changed so much." I hardly think the TF crew will let that happen. After all, this is still the festival where children of Boise's School of Rock hand-make the gift bags for bands. But the growth of the festival will require that they decide how change is handled.
- "Growing Pains": As discussed above, with the growth and success of Treefort, their will be inevitable changes. Personally, I think it's far better to be standing on this side of the tracks than the alternative. Yet it's interesting the hear the remarks on Treefort's "growing pains" from multi-year attendees. Gripes I heard included longer lines and larger crowds, higher ticket prices and difficulty maneuvering through the crowd. With all due respect to those who felt these sentiments, it goes to show how good Treeforters have it. By pulling off such a wonderful and seamless experience year after year, Treefort has put the expectations sky high. Anyone bummed about having to wait in line to see, say, Of Montreal should try out the Sasquatch entrance line or realize nearly every show at SXSW carries line--if not two. If you had to wait in line, consider there are 25 different stages of music (and there was an app for that). If you're worried about ticket prices, consider Treefort costs a stupidly-low 27 cents per band ($119 early bird ticket / 430 bands). That's an insane value. Treefort's success brought high expectations and I suppose they may have to address some of these things in the future. But any of these gripes indicate the plans in those January 2012 meetings I mentioned have utterly and completely worked.
- Value: Let's go back to to that whopping 27 cents per band stat. In a festival world where any single fest's tickets and travel alone often eclipse a month of Big City rent and utilities, this is becoming increasingly relevant. Sure, you're pining for Kendrick and Tame Impala. Yet, believe it or not, Kendrick and Kevin Parker played a few, smaller shows before the Sasquatch main stage. And the sheer quantity and diversity of those smaller sets Treefor offers is greater than ever. Regarding the larger shows, tickets for the Bay Area tour stop of Treefort headliner TV on the Radio were starting at ~$45. Consider the $119 early bird Treefort price and the relative value. You'd be hard pressed to find a better bang for your buck. Though the onus of getting out there and discovering new artists at Treefort in totally in your hands.
- Treefort Makes Your World Smaller: Last year, I reflected on how refreshing the face-to-face connections are at Treefort. In an increasingly online-oriented music industry, that refreshment continues to grow. It's amazing how seemingly distant connections evaporate at Treefort. The fest simply makes your world smaller. At one point at our showcase, a member of our Saturday Boise band knew one member of our Friday Seattle band who knew a Treefort organizer who played high school shows with our sound guy. If Twitter rants, fabricated online beef and canned press emails have you down, Treefort's warm greetings, hugs and high 5's are the remedy. I joke last year that I had to travel several states away to Boise to meet the band I shared a practice space. This year, the same was true for a band that literally lives down the street. Treefort's intimate vibes lower walls and offer a distinctly different environment. Hell, I even got to meet some of my musical heroes (TVOTR) face to face. I'll accept the "growing pains" for that any day.
See you at Treefort Fest 2016