Treefort Music Fest

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Dan Deacon performs at El Korah
The Edmund Wayne quintet of Seattle, one of many unusual ensembles at Treefort

The Treefort Music Fest is a five-day, indie music festival which is held at various venues throughout downtown Boise, Idaho in late March. The 2014 festival took place March 20–23 with the featured acts Built to Spill, The Joy Formidable,[1] and Poliça;[2] the 2015 festival, scheduled March 25th-29th, features TV On The Radio, Trampled By Turtles,[3] and locals Built to Spill and Josh Ritter.[4]


Little Miss and The No Names perform hardcore punk at an all-ages show at the Linen Building
Off Center Dance Project at a free performance at the Linen Building

Thoroughly grass roots,[5] DIY and free of corporate sponsorship,[6] and with an emphasis on emerging music, the indie-centric[7] inaugural Treefort festival took place on March 22–25, 2012 and featured more than 137 bands[8] from throughout the Northwest and as far afield as New Zealand and Australia,[9] as well as performance art, art installations, and disabled and modern dance,[10] seminars on the music business and social media,[11] and local beers.[12] (Initially the intention had been for a small two-day festival of sixty bands.)[13] There were eight stages extant (including free all-ages venues), and ten hours of music scheduled daily on Treefort's initial Saturday and Sunday; an estimated and unexpected 3,000 people attended each of the last full three days[14] of the festival's inaugural run,[15] and some forty national media outlets provided reportage.[16] Critically, the first day of festival was described as being "full of transcending bands,"[17] and overall the festival was characterised as having "the look and feel of a developing SxSW,"[18] and "a smashing success,"[19] and as well as having "put Boise on the map" in terms of Boise having finally established a music festival due to the high quality of the musicians.[20] The proceeds from Treefort benefit community radio station Radio Boise, KRBX 89.9 FM.[21]

Months before any bands had even been announced for the Second Annual Treefort Music Fest, scheduled for March 21–24, 2013,[22] the initial batch of early-bird priced wristbands had sold out in October 2012 in 17 minutes.[23] and succeeding ticket sales continued to be faster than those at the same time last year.[24] Treefort 2013 eventually signed up more than 250 bands [25] (some of whom are included in Treefort's sound cloud)[26] and features a lost yarn-bombed 560 lbs. monster (which is sorely missed) with a stone head as its mascot.[27] The Coachella Festival has been compared (unfavourably) to the Treefort Music Fest by Buzzfeed.[28]

The second annual Treefort Music Fest aimed at the fence "carefully," featuring a more diverse[29] set of acts,[30] but also more than 100 Idaho bands,[31] one of which, Boise-based Youth Lagoon, was one of Rolling Stone's "Twenty Must-See Acts" at SXSW;[32] it and Foxygen and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, also included in the twenty, performed at both festivals in 2013.[33] The headline act was Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings,[34] and fifteen bands came from the San Francisco Bay Area.[35] Three times as many passes were sold as in 2012; the festival's own app overloaded on Thursday night, and the opening venue, the Shriner's El Korah shrine,[36] sold a record amount of alcohol.[37] Festival organizers later estimated that they had come within 100 passes of selling out completely; more than 3,000 4-day passes were sold, and thousands variously journeyed to 13 venues throughout downtown Boise to watch more than 260 bands, with roughly 6,000 at the main stage on Friday alone.[38] Sold-out shows, as with Foxygen on opening night, led to people seeing, and being surprised by, bands they had not planned to see, a phenomenon which festival organizer Eric Gilbert described as a "win-win situation."[39]

Overall the four days of the music festival was acclaimed as turning Boise itself into the sociological third place as different artistic communities converged in a state and city where (the maximum of) six degrees of separation does not exist,[40] and was praised for its high organization and good spirits in showcasing the best independent music North America has to offer[41][42] and being a safe haven for all walks of life.[43] "Happy Treefort" became a common greeting,[44] and "Treeforting" and "Postfort" also entered the lexicon.[45][46]

The third annual festival, in March 2014, endeavoured to be more "green"/sustainable[47] and as of February had booked 350 bands (including solo projects and DJs, after rejecting over 1,000 other interested parties due to the sheer volume of talent)[48] featuring the best of upcoming non-mainstream music from such genres as pop, heavy metal, hip hop, electronica, folk, and classic rock. Furthermore, the festival branched out with a film festival, Filmfort, the tech festival Hackfort[49] (which was lauded by President Barack Obama during his January 21, 2015 visit to Boise),[50][51] Storyfort,[52] and Yoga Fort, as well as comedy showcases.[53] This synergy marked Treefort as having become "more than a music festival. It is a cultural phenomenon, not only propelling Boise’s music scene forward, but now connecting the city’s cultural communities of literature, technology, film and mind/body health."[54][55] The music festival too was appraised months later by the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO and president Bill Conners as having benefits to the city beyond that of tourism. (One quarter of those who bought tickets in advance in 2014 were from outside Idaho.) "It's become part of Boise's brand," he said. "It's a positive brand that helps attract innovative companies, tourists, conventions and investments, so we hope the festival continues." [56]

The third festival kicked-off with a "blast from the past" featuring the reunion of several notable Boise bands; the combined efforts of nearly 400 volunteers (vis-à-vis the nearly 200 for the inaugural festival and the more than 300 for the second) [57] supported bands from the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States over the course of the festival.[58] Treefort, which now has 40 staffers, had 140 bands during its inaugural festival in 2011, and included 140 local bands among the more than 350 during its third, a testament to the festival's burgeoning creativity.[59] The festival averaged 7,000 people a day, an increase over the 6,000 people a day in 2013, had to order more Over 21 wristbands Saturday afternoon, and was expected to turn a profit for the first time. Although approximately 7,500 attended Saturday night and local bars experience a boom in business, the Boise Police Department issued no open alcohol container citations or responded to any significant incidents.[60] Overall the third festival was described as having "veered more confidently than ever toward emerging artists in all genres" and having been an extensive community[61] and cultural event where "good attitudes all but fell from the sky."[62]

In August 2014 it was announced that Treefort has yet to make a profit (although it had come close to doing so in 2014), and that the festival was applying to change its business status from that of a limited liability corporation to a certified B corporation whose articles of incorporation and bylaws authorize the corporate board to consider social and other factors besides shareholder interests when making decisions. New co-owners and board members were brought in, and Lori Shandro, who had been subsidizing Treefort to this point, remarked that "I wanted to start something that can last forever... This thing could live on its own without me now." It was also formally announced that the festival would return in 2015,[63] with its website marking a shift to a five-day festival.[64] Treefort is also involved in public art in Boise via Bloomberg Philanthropies and Boise's Department of Arts and History,[65] and in December 2014 was designated Boise's 2015 Cultural Ambassador by Mayor David Bieter and awarded a $25,000 grant for its "... positive impact on the city’s visibility, economy and cultural scene." [66]

The fourth annual festival, in March 2015, has booked over 350 bands.[67]


Although the idea of a multi-day, multi-venue music festival has been bruited since the mid-80s,[68] Treefort itself had its roots in tragedy when producer Lori Shandro's husband died in a private plane crash in 2009. The head of an independent health insurance agency, Shandro in taking up interests divergent from her married life eventually formed The Duck Club, which brings musical acts to Boise throughout the year and which now produces the Treefort Music Fest.[54] Logistically, Treefort was inspired in part by the touring schedules of bands headed home from SXSW in Austin, Texas (some of which had been hosted by the Visual Arts Collective at a post-SXSW mini fest in Garden City, Idaho the previous year), as well as late March being the beginning of spring break for many Idaho schools.[69] A week before the festival itself, the Boise-based bands TEENS, Hillfolk Noir, Le Fleur, The Brett Netson Band, Finn Riggins, Youth Lagoon, and Built to Spill had themselves played at SXSW.[16][70] Producer Lori Shandro reflected on Treefort's genesis a year later at a Scenius town hall-style meeting on artistic endeavours and economic growth that "There were just a certain number of people who were all in the same place regarding [Treefort]. ... This sort of synergy happened to make the project come together rather easily... With scenius, there's the thought of trying to put the right people in the same place at the same time, and then things will happen. That's really how Treefort happened. Everybody had the same vision that the Boise music scene is ready to develop and be a force on its own two feet."[71]





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  10. ^ Whiteley, Sheree (2012-03-24). "Treefort: Local Dancers Kick off Performance Art Series | Cobweb". Retrieved 2012-04-08. 
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  16. ^ a b Ahmindohr, Surandajeesh. "Long and Winding Road: Boise's Music Scene Finds its Stride | Boise has always had talent but it took years of struggle to learn what do with it | Features". Boise Weekly. Retrieved 2012-04-08. 
  17. ^ Hoffman, Jeff (2012-03-24). "Killing Sasquatch: Treefort Music Fest Day 1 of 4". Retrieved 2012-04-08. 
  18. ^ "Photos/Review: Treefort Music Fest in Boise with Why?, Built to Spill, and a long list of Bay Area bands : The Bay Bridged – San Francisco Bay Area Indie Music". 2012-04-02. Retrieved 2012-04-08. 
  19. ^ "Treefort Music Fest: Day 4 in Photos and Video | SSG Music SSG Music - Your Favorite Source for Everything Music". 2012-04-02. Retrieved 2012-04-08. 
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