This year, Boise, Idaho’s Treefort Music Fest celebrates its milestone 10th anniversary. Since 2012, the festival has showcased international acts while raising up the City of Trees’ own musical talents. In its inaugural year, the festival featured 137 bands across four days and eight venues. All these years later, Treefort has topped up their schedule with an additional day and ballooned to over 500 artists at dozens of venues across downtown Boise. That’s not to mention the several “Forts,” where attendees can enjoy a beverage in the beer garden, skateboard on ramps, do yoga, and take in drag shows, live art, film screenings, and comedy performances. And those interested in tech and the inner workings of the music industry can expand their knowledge with numerous workshops and panels.
With only one pair of feet on the ground, obviously some amazing acts are bound to slip through Northern Transmissions’ fingers. But we ground as hard as we could between five venues on the first day, and we will continue to bounce between as many stages as we can until the fort walls go down for another year.
We start our coverage of Treefort 10 with a recap of the festival’s opening day, which held delights for fans of retro-rock, heartfelt pop, feel-good funk, and rallying cry hip hop. The day also featured the first of two sets by bonafide alt-rock legends.
Kicking off the music at 4:20 pm on the Main Stage, per Treefort tradition, were Seattle’s Acid Tongue. Though a core duo, Guy Keltner and Ian Cunningham were joined by a quintet of players to deliver robust rock ‘n’ roll that flared with glam vibrancy among sizzling guitar solos, rattling drums, the occasional saxophone, and dual hip-shaking tambourines.
Oakland’s Shannon and the Clams followed Acid Tongue, bringing their own retro-rock to the Main Stage. Though decked in colour-coordinated outfits—red, black, and white, neckties and half the band in polka dot shirts—the quartet’s take leaned more towards ’50s bubblegum and surf. But it’d be a disservice to merely describe the band as such. With milkshake-sweet vocals that deceptively burst into powerful flourishes, bassist/primary vocalist Shannon Shaw led the band through galloping synth-powered songs, among them the hypnotizing “Midnight Wine.”
Over at the Linen Building, JayWood (aka Jeremy Haywood-Smith) showed the Treefort crowd what Winnipeg audiences already know—and what the rest of Canada is quickly finding out: that the newcomer from the Prairies and his trio of musicians are talents to watch. The superb musicians rose above an incessantly crackling P.A. with slow jams and nasty jams alike, including their latest single, “God Is a Reptile.”
Along with traditional clubs and bars, breweries are also hosting live music all Treefort week. At Mad Swede Brew Hall, Iowa City-based songwriter Pictoria Vark, who tours as part of Squirrel Flower, captured an intimate audience’s hearts. With just her voice and bass, she unspooled disarmingly personal songs (“Wyoming”), gently self-deprecating tunes (“I Can’t Bike”), new music from her upcoming album The Parts I Dread, and likely the most beautiful version one will hear of Blink-182’s “Dammit.”
Of all the established acts at Treefort 10, few are more venerated than the kings of alt-rock, Dayton, Ohio heroes Guided By Voices. Of their two sets, their El Korah Shrine showing will likely end up being the one to see. As Robert Pollard half-joked himself, day two’s half-hour shorter Main Stage performance will be an “edited version of what you see tonight.” Ever the masters of economical songwriting, they packed the hour and a half with fan favourite after fan favourite (“Motor Away,” “Everybody Thinks I’m a Rain Cloud (When I’m Not Looking),” “Cut-Out Witch,” “My Kind of Soldier,” “I Am a Tree”) without ever shying away from new material (“Eyes of Your Doctor,” “Climbing a Ramp”); as Pollard declared, Guided By Voices aren’t doing “that county fair old shit circuit.”
Kitamaat Village breakouts Snotty Nose Rez Kids—the Haisla rap duo of Darren “Young D” Metz and Quinton “Yung Trybez” Nyce—unleashed a fiery set at Reef that rarely relented, except to shout out DJ Kookum on the decks for always holding it down for them. In a gesture of Indigenous solidarity, they also took a moment to express the honour of being on Shoshone- Bannock territory. Outside those moments, the frenzied energy built to a climax when they ordered the charged up fans to open a pit for “Sink or Swim.”
Snotty Nose Rez Kids would have been a perfect nightcap for anyone, but the party raged on with Whippin’ Shitties back at Mad Swede Brew Hall. Perhaps by design, Whippin’ Shitties could draw with their name alone; at the very least, they’d stir curiosity. They also already had the home field advantage as proud progeny of Boise (or maybe just progeny). Thankfully, their live show delivered. Whippin’ Shitties crashed upon the dedicated fans with a tidal wave of power- pop goodness including They Might Be Giants’ “Boss of Me.” “We don’t all get a happy ending,” they sang on “Movies.” But as day one of Treefort 10 came to a close, it seemed like everyone most certainly did.
recap by Leslie Ken Chu