Treefort Music Fest could turn a profit this year

Downtown businesses cash in on the Boise festival's record turnout.

zkyle@idahostatesman.comMarch 25, 2014 

Shriner Blake Titus sells tokens for beer at El Korah Shrine on Day 3 of Boise's Treefort Music Fest. El Korah Shrine was a venue for shows as well as the inaugural Hackfort.


CORRECTION: This article originally misspelled the names of Dave Krick and Bittercreek Alehouse.

Treefort Music Fest drew hundreds of bands and thousands of fans in its first two years, but the four-day music festival in Downtown Boise was missing one key component: profits.

Festival Director Eric Gilbert said he expects he'll find that Treefort made money this year once all of the receipts are added in a week or two. If not, he said the festival at least improved its bottom line, which is good news for music fans hoping the festival comes back for a fourth year.

The festival averaged at least 7,000 people per day, easily topping last year's 6,000 average, Treefort Associate Producer Drew Larona said. The festival doubled to 200 bands last year and had more than 350 this year.

"It seems like we at least didn't lose money this year," Gilbert said. "Once we let the dust settle, in a couple days we'll have a better sense. The goal this year was to not go in the red anymore."

Treefort Music Fest is a joint venture between Duck Club LP and its partners — Lori Shandro, Megan Stoll and Gilbert — and Shandro Entertainment LLC, which is owned by Shandro.

Larona wouldn't disclose the event's losses for the past two years, but he said Year 3 may be a turning point for the festival's long-term future. Good weather helped.

"On a personal level, I'm feeling a lot better post-show than I was leading into the festival," he said. "I'm definitely feeling more secure than when I was thinking we'd have another 30-degree weekend like last year."

The festival set records for the number of attendees (probably more than 7,500 Saturday night), bands, venues (17) and volunteers (about 400). The Treefort mobile app, which was downloaded more than 2,500 times, streamed sample songs from bands and helped fans create schedules from a matrix of artists and venues. Organizers sold out and needed to buy more over-21 wristbands Saturday afternoon.

The festival also added nonmusic "forts," such as Skatefort, Yogafort, Storyfort and the inaugural Hackfort, which drew at least 200 people to tech-themed panels at El Korah Shrine.

"The forts did surprisingly well," Gilbert said. "I was cautiously curious to see how they'd do."

The festival was good for year-round businesses, too.

Allen Ireland owns two venues, Pengilly's Saloon at on Main Street and Neurolux on 11th. He said nearly all of the patrons in his bars wore shiny Treefort wristbands.

"We had over 10,000 per day come in," Ireland said. "Our sales tripled."

Bittercreek Alehouse and Red Feather Lounge on 8th Street weren't official venues, but they hosted several unlisted acoustic sets from Treefort artists. Dave Krick, the managing partner of the restaurant and bar, said the combined businesses brought in at least $8,000 more in sales than they do during a typical March weekend.

"It was a demographic that was younger, but still with means," Krick said. "You couldn't ask for a better demographic in Downtown in terms of engaging businesses."

The festival brought money into the city. Larona said 24 percent of presold passes were bought by fans from outside Boise.

During most March weekends, about 25 of the 48 rooms are open at the Cabana Inn at 1600 Main St., Manager Ila Patel said. She had six or seven vacant rooms during Treefort.

"They all stayed for four days, and so far, I don't think we've had any problems at all," she said.

The Pie Hole on 8th Street was a natural destination for Treefort patrons wanting to grab cheap, quick slices as they walked between venues. Logan Finch, a Pie Hole employee, said there was no way to tally the numbers of customers that came in or pizzas that were sold over the four days.

"All I know is there was a lot more business than last year," Finch said.

Gilbert said patrons remained relatively in control at the rowdiest shows.

"There were some venues where crowd surfing was going on and there could have been some danger, but the crowds kind of self-managed it," he said. "People were looking out for each other."

The Boise Police Department didn't issue any tickets for open alcohol containers or respond to any significant incidents relating to Treefort, police spokeswoman Lynn Hightower said.

The main stage and largest venue was located on several blocks of Grove Street, which was barricaded for three days. The main stage was also home to Alefort, a sort of glorified microbrew beer garden.

Rob Landerman, president of Woodland Empire Ale Craft, said pouring at Alecraft gave him a chance to spread the word about Woodland, which opened in January. However, the Woodland pouring room on Front Street received only spotty increases in foot traffic despite being just several blocks away from the main stage.

"Business was definitely better than normal, but it also wasn't predictable or steady," Landerman said. "I know that was the case for several other businesses in the area."

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