4 Things Our Man In Idaho Learned About Treefort Fest This Year - Oh My Rockness

Festival Guide
March 30, 2016
photo: Alex Hecht, courtesy of Treefort Festival

Written by Scott Draper

Year #5 of the Treefort Music Festival is now in the books. In Boise, Idaho, far far away from everything else in America, this five-day festival takes place each year about a week after SXSW. The festival is growing fast, and the lineup keeps getting better. It's my favorite thing about Boise. Newbie rockers and indie heroes, blue grass fiddlers and thrash guitarists, skinny jeans and overalls – all come together in the peace, love, and harmony via music that is Treefort.

Some highlights this year included Yacht, Porches, Thee Oh Sees, Into It. Over It., and Youth Lagoon's high-energy last-ever U.S. performance. For the sake of posterity, and so you can start preparing for next year's festival, here is some Advice for Treefort 2017 Based on Treefort 2016:

#1: Grow and Love Beards

Seemingly every male at Treefort has a long-ass frontiersman beard. Normal Idahoans already have them, and there's also – little known fact – this new trend where hipsters are starting to wear beards (you heard it here first). At Treefort, the beard is somehow symbolic of the feelings of peace, love, and harmony that fill the air.

Several dudes achieved ZZ-Top length. Beard and mustache wax were common. One of my favorite images was of a choir of peacefully-bearded Anabaptists singing outside a loud bar full of bearded Treefort midday beer drinkers. Some champions on stage included Leftover Salmon's Kenny-Rogers-like-beard, Captain Redbeard's red beard, East Forest's audacious nest, and of course, the ever-present beards of Brett Netson and Doug Martsch.

If you are going to Treefort in 2017, and are able, start growing your beard now, for sure.

#2: Wear Your Rings

I pretty much always wear a beard, which feels correct since I live in Boise. I moved here 4 years ago. I knew little about Idaho before I moved here, except that Boise is the home of Built to Spill, My Favorite Rock Band Of All Time.

I had first seen them circa 2001, in Denver. They were already middle-aged-looking then, but they all were wearing these badass rings on their fingers – thumbs, index, right, left, all over, really, and just generally badass. I had never worn jewelry before that, but I went quick and got like 5 or 6 rings. I mean, some of those guys in the band were kind of frumpy, and they were wearing rings and were obviously very cool, and I'm arguably frumpy, but obviously was/am very cool beneath all that. I think my friends probably all ultimately agreed that even I looked boss, once I had the rings.

I've seen BTS play multiple times since moving here and got to see them twice at Treefort this year. I wore my rings. They didn't. But I could tell that people around me at the shows thought I looked pretty boss. It feels good to feel boss at Treefort, so wear your rings and your beard and see BTS every time they play.

#3: Explore A Wide Range of Venues

Downtown Boise unearths concert venues from a lot of unlikely spaces. Yoga studios, video arcades, something scary called "The Shredder" – music shows up anywhere and everywhere, and the quirky spaces are part of the fun. A popular favorite is the El Korah Shrine, where old-timer Shriners in their awesome hats roam around as vendors and sell drink tokens to the carousing kids. El Korah's short stage doesn't offer good sight lines to the bands, but the design and feel of the venue is an essential Treefort experience. Throughout the festival, the gents at El Korah also serve $10 all-you-can-eat breakfast to hungry rockers well into the wee hours of the night.

#4: Expect To Encounter Random Acts of Senseless Kindness Among Strangers

This is easily one of the deeply-kindest festivals you could hope to encounter. You see this across the spectrum of events. In addition to the main focus on music, there is also Filmfort, Comedyfort, Alefort, Kidfort, Yogafort, Skatefort, Storyfort, a line of port-o-potties called "Poopfort," like a thousand different forts. And everyone at all of them is at least generally pretty affable and often, at random times, senselessly kind.

My thin-wristed companion lost her very valuable 5-day pass wristband not once but twice. The first time, a bearded stranger noticed and returned it to her with gallantry. The next time, another stranger found it and turned it over to the venue staff, who graciously returned it much later. The kindly spirit might be expected in places like local band Hokum Hi-Fliers' genial annual square dance, but even hard-core MCs at Treefort are polite and cheery. The mood is cordial and upbeat and mutually encouraging even while waiting in icy cold late-night lines for acts like Diarrhea Planet and Thunderpussy.


The festival is still small (in a very small downtown). Despite some crowds for predictable events, things at Treefort rarely feel congested or tense. Everyone usually seems relaxed, charitable, and maybe even senselessly inclined to do unto others and turn the other cheek and heap blessings upon strangers. Don't be surprised when you see it. Charles Bradley warned about it this year during his effervescent Friday night mainstage show: expect to be victimized by love when at Treefort.


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