On the weekend of March 20-23, Boise, Idaho, hosted 41 Portland bands for the third year of the Treefort Music Fest. I was curious to check it out after many friends reported how much fun it was the previous year, and it definitely lived up to its reputation! Organized similarly to SXSW and our own MFNW, with one wristband for access to all the different venues and shows (or, what MFNW used to be... let's pour one out for that), the town of Boise is an ideal location. All the venues are located in the clean and accessible downtown, just about 20 blocks in total. Although Treefort is a fairly young festival, I was more than impressed with its overall organization, professionalism, and welcoming attitude. People in Portland are nice. People in Boise are nicer.
Treefort recap! Lots of photos and lots more to read after the jump. It was a really great weekend of sunshine and music, and currently runner-up for best music festival of the year. (Pickathon forever and always.)
When looking at the line-up and deciding what I wanted to see, there was an internal debate whether—as someone covering the festival as Portland media—to focus on Portland bands, or to try and see bands from out of town instead. Honestly it was difficult to make a schedule; there were so many shows and so many great bands, it would have been impossible to see everything I wanted to. Locals that I talked to seemed to have the same discussion, but their answers sided on seeing bands that ordinarily don't come to Boise. My eventual answer? Anything goes, as long as I make it to all three nights of Boise locals Built to Spill. “No, I don't need to go to Built to Spill...” said the woman from the Airbnb I stayed with one night, “I can see them play the summer market.” Clearly that isn't my experience, and three nights in a row is a dream—a dream that became a reality! Each night at the El Korah Shrine was a very different show: New Songs (a stripped down three-piece with smiles on each of their faces), Old Songs (the whole band, all the jams, all the singing along), and Covers. The cover night was probably the second best set—with surprises and general appreciation for their musicianship in the air, but an entire set of all your favorite songs from over 20 years of albums is hard to beat. I don't regret being there.
I was glad to catch Poliça—one of the headlining acts on the mainstage, via Minneapolis—as I have missed them every other time they've been through Portland. The sun was setting by the time they started playing, 20 minutes or so behind schedule. (Not that I was complaining—the delay was enough time to catch half of Bearcubbin' at the Linen Building.) The fading light of the Idaho sky, brushed softly with pinks and purples, slowly transitioned to darkness, and the stage lights lent itself perfectly to Poliça's set. Ethereal and a little funky, Channy Leaneagh's voice is beautiful and smooth, effortlessly pulling you into the beats provided by two drum kits, bass, synths, and pedals. She is mesmerizing on stage.
Tartufi was by far the best show I saw from a band that I hadn't heard of before Treefort. Maybe I've been in a Tartufi-less hole that everyone else was outside of, but I was later told that they have a really solid following in the Bay Area, which is awesome, because they are really, really nice people that make really, really good music. Lynne Angel heads the band on vocals and guitar, looping her parts into math-y, intricate layering and singing into a bundle of three microphones attached to various pedals. Drummer Brian Gorman switches beats and rhythms, and goes from build-ups to breakdowns faster than is humanly possible, I'm pretty sure. Ben Thorne, super babe, is also a super boss on the bass. (See what I did there?) He has to have the best posture of anyone I've ever seen on stage, squared up with his bass with his wrists straight. His precision is obvious—he can do anything—rocking the hell out of it and singing back-up all the while. Check them out: here.
I was also happy to catch Seattle's Cave Singers—their shows are always worthwhile. With Derek Fudesco (ex-Pretty Girls Make Graves) on guitar and Morgan Henderson (ex-Blood Brothers) on bass, I would expect to dance at the very least. The bonus is Pete Quirk's vocal style: Pacific Northwest to the core, but unique in tone and recognizable to boot. I remember being obsessed with their first album, Invitation Songs, during the summer of 2008. It's full of sunshine and is still on my breakfast rotation. Their following three albums, however, haven't been as easy to get into. I've decided that the recordings just don't have the same energy as their live shows do, which is something kind of necessary to the songs. The upside of this is that it will forever be preferred that a band's live show is better than their album, rather than the other way around.
Also from Seattle, Iska Dhaaf-–a new project from Nathan Quiroga and Benjamin Verdoes—was not at all what I had expected. I remember Quiroga's previous Seattle project, Mad Rad, as a bunch of kids playing hiphop shows that cops routinely made appearances at. Rowdy enough to get them banned from a few Capitol Hill venues. Verdoes has a solo album out that is absolutely beautiful, and together Iska Dhaaf (translated from Somali as “let it go”) is smart, engaging, and surprisingly emotional. Their sound as a two-piece has presence and energy with a slight lo-fi and surf twinge that really worked to bring out their melodies. Really good, guys.
Thursday night the Linen Building had a great post-rock line up with Boise locals Red Hands Black Feet (soaring melodies from dark and intense build-ups that immediately found that soft spot inside me) and Texas' This Will Destroy You. TWDY might have had a 'we take ourselves very seriously' stage presence, and some could say say “they're just like Explosions In The Sky,” but I ask, what's wrong with that? They're still good.
Paper Bird, a band from my home state of Colorado, was the very last band I saw, and was one of my favorite shows from the entire weekend: a true dance party to wrap up the wonderful time that was Treefort. Their energy is outstanding, with seven members and three harmonizing female vocals, they truly bring their sweet and catchy songs to life on stage. Indie-folk with mountain bluegrass roots, they are sort of an anomaly in my usual music tastes... maybe they feel a little bit like home. They are supremely talented musicians, and cute too. They stopped in between songs to tell stories of the last time they were in Boise (they slept in a big pile on the very stage they were currently playing on), their current trip to Boise (they showed off a funny Polaroid taken earlier of one of their friends looking 'sexy'), and cheers'd their new bass player with a round of seven shots. The cherry on top.
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