Deeds: Year 3 felt like a turning point for Treefort

mdeeds@idahostatesman.comMarch 28, 2014 

treefort, music, downtown, boise

Van Carney, with the Virginia-based band Pontiak, collaborated in “Band Dialogue II,” a large-scale piece written for 10 bands to play all together. “It was such a collaboratively awesome effort,” said Carney. The bands, all Treefort performers, played the more than 30-minute piece, plus an encore, at Rhodes Skate Park at 15th and Front streets. “Making all that noise in unison — it’s a blast,” Carney said. “Especially outside in such a beautiful setting. Composer and director Seth Olinsky proposed the idea to Treefort. “It was very much a community spirit ... getting bands together and being creative,” he said.

KATHERINE JONES — kjones@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

Last weekend's Treefort Music Fest ran so smoothly that Eric Gilbert broke a sweat only once. On Sunday afternoon, his Finn Riggins/Delicate Steve team put a beatdown on overmatched Wooden Indian Burial Ground/Genders on a competition-height hoop and backboard erected on the back of a van.

The same Idaho sunshine that caused musician basketball players to shed their shirts also bathed the entire festival in good vibes, good music and good fortune - for four-plus days.

"This year felt a little easier in a lot of ways," acknowledges Gilbert, Treefort's festival director and the keyboardist-singer for Boise band Finn Riggins. "I was really impressed. The weather being so nice helped a lot."

The timing of those warming rays couldn't have been better. This was a make-or-break year for Treefort, which lost money in 2012 and 2013. Maybe that's why a rumor swirled that this would be the final Treefort.

"If it just bombed, it would have been hard to move forward," Gilbert admits. "But it didn't bomb."

Instead, Treefort exploded - albeit in a controlled fashion. It will take more time to tally final numbers, but organizers seem confident that they'll be in the black. Finally.

They've already set the dates for Treefort 2015, officially bumping it to five days: March 25-29.

Turning a profit in year three would be impressive, because this easily was the most ambitious Treefort. With more than 360 bands, 17 venues and lots of "subforts" Downtown - Hackfort, Yogafort, Storyfort - it seemed plausible that Boise would be stretched too thin.

Nope. Early indications suggest that festival attendance averaged at least 7,000 per day, up from 6,000 in 2013. About one in four of the presold passes were purchased from outside Boise. The Treefort app was downloaded 2,500 times. Alefort, the brewfest tent located next to the Main Stage, sold 3,500 taster cups, up from 1,200 last year. (Read more about Alefort)

Police say there were no significant problems at Treefort.

I took my little boys to the Main Stage on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. It was totally family-friendly.

Almost without exception, Treefort felt like a well-thought-out, professionally run festival.

Local production company PSI dialed in the behind-the-scenes action at the Main Stage, El Korah Shrine and Linen Building, keeping sound and lights top-notch.

Even most of the 400 Treefort volunteers seemed to "get it."

Out-of-state musicians couldn't dish out enough Treefort praise: "Damn, @treefortfest was fun. Boise, you're a gem," tweeted Florida folk-rock band Roadkill Ghost Choir, which unleashed a tremendous, dynamic set at The Bouquet that somehow evoked both My Morning Jacket and Kurt Cobain.

"I was really pleased with how many artists spent multiple days here," Gilbert says. "It just started feeling like summer camp for bands. It was really fun."

Ten bands simultaneously played a song composed for mass performance at Rhodes Park. Festivalwide, Boise saxophonist Andy Rayborn, who works at The Crux, jumped in with 10 bands. Collaboration happened everywhere - "even Built To Spill ending with the whole crowd on their stage and stuff," Gilbert says. "Just doing stuff that is outside the norm for them."

Despite the success, skeptics and naysayers will linger. But Gilbert hears fewer of them.

No, Treefort isn't all about hipsters. (More like hoopsters, right?) No, it isn't all about Boise trying to become more like Portland. (Even if nearly 50 Portland bands were here.)

"Really," Gilbert says, "it's not what we're up to. I think when people experience it, they're like, 'Hey, wait, this is something I enjoy!' "

Did you miss out? Good news: You'll have another chance next year. Don't blow it.

Photos from Treefort:

Day 4

Day 3

Day 2

Day 1

BEST OF TREASURE VALLEY

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Michael Deeds co-hosts "The Other Studio" at 9 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM.

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