Words & Deeds

12 recommended, under-the-radar acts at Treefort Music Fest

Alvvays sometimes draws comparisons to Irish rock band The Cranberries.
Alvvays sometimes draws comparisons to Irish rock band The Cranberries.

If you’re an indie junkie, you’ve already made your list of performers to check out at Treefort Music Fest.

Slacker rocker Mac DeMarco headlining at El Korah Shrine and the Main Stage? Yep. Boise standouts LED and Magic Sword joining forces with the Boise Philharmonic at the Egyptian Theatre? Got it. Deafheaven bludgeoning the Mardi Gras? Meat Puppets luring your dad to Neurolux? The Bouncing Souls punking up the Knitting Factory? Check, check, check.

But with more than 400 acts at the five-day festival in Downtown Boise, there’s bound to be something exceptional hiding from your radar.

Treefort director Eric Gilbert is here to help. He’s put the time in. He’s heard the bands. Now he wants to see them get the attention they deserve — from you, the curious, eager, music lover.

Here are 12 acts this weekend that are unknown to many — in some cases, most — and come highly recommended by Gilbert.

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Friday, March 24

Sonny & the Sunsets: 7 to 8 p.m. Friday, Main Stage. San Francisco-based artist and playwright Sonny Smith will bring his band to Boise for the first time. “I’ve been intrigued by Sonny for a while now,” Gilbert says. “He’s a prolific writer. His albums cover a lot of ground: new wave, Talking Heads-inspired funk, Jonathan Richman-inspired rock’n’roll, some soul and garage-rock.”

Cy Dune: 8 to 8:40 p.m. Friday, El Korah Shine. “Cy Dune’s set at Neurolux at Treefort 2016 was one of very few full sets I caught,” Gilbert admits, “and it was one of the best sets of music I’ve ever seen. This is Seth Olinsky’s project. The Seth that created, composes and conducts Band Dialogue (5 p.m. Saturday at JUMP’s Celebration Circle). I hadn’t caught his sets in previous years and had no idea what I had been missing. It’s hard to describe but seemed like some sort of desert blues from the future with equal footing in the blues and post-punk with absolutely incredible musicianship, super-smart arrangements and unrepentant rock’n’roll swagger.”

Jacob Miller and the Bridge City Crooners: 9:20 to 10:20 p.m. Friday, Basque Center. This Portland band was booked at the Basque Center to take advantage of the dance floor, Gilbert says. He calls them a “throwback acoustic swing/R&B/Motown/early rock ’n’ roll six-piece with horns.” In other words, Grandpa might even dig them. “They’ll be playing a couple of other surprise sets throughout the festival,” Gilbert adds, “including a set on the new Treeline circulator bus that ValleyRide will be running late into the night to help festivalgoers get around town.”

Alanna Royale: 12:20 a.m. to 1:40 a.m. Friday (Saturday morning), The Olympic. “Nashville-based, soul-driven rock’n’roll with horns and punk roots,” Gilbert says. “I saw them crush a small club in Illinois after letting Built To Spill play a surprise set of about six songs on all of their gear a couple of years ago.” This late-night set will be a hot one, he promises.

Saturday, March 25

Helvetia: 6:30 to 7:10 p.m. Saturday, Linen Building. “I don’t know if people know the ties to Built To Spill,” Gilbert says of this experimental alt-rock group. Jason Albertini, who is Built To Spill’s bassist, is the brainchild of Helvetia, which also includes Jim Roth, Built To Spill’s longtime guitarist. The group formed in Seattle after the end of Albertini’s previous group, ’90s slowcore outfit Duster, in which he played drums. Gilbert praises “the incredible songwriting and textures” of multi-instrumentalist Albertini.

Clap! Clap!: 12:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday (Saturday morning), Linen Building. Italian producer Clap! Clap!, aka Cristiano Crisci, takes a unique approach to electronic music. His sonic concoctions include world, tribal and traditional sounds, field recordings, noises from nature and other influences. Paul Simon was so impressed by the 2014 debut album from Clap! Clap! that he contacted Crisci, who helped produce three tracks on Simon’s 2016 album “Stranger to Stranger.” The Clap! Clap! song “Kuj Yato” is used on the official Treefort promotional video. “We’re all really excited about Clap! Clap!” Gilbert says.

Lizzo: 7 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Main Stage. Describing Lizzo as under the radar is a stretch. After all, the hip-hop/R&B/pop singer hosted MTV’s new live-music series “Wonderland” last year. Either way, Lizzo’s gonna make festivalgoers feel “Good as Hell” (to reference her music video with 1.3 million views). “She’s probably the buzziest act playing the festival this year,” Gilbert says. “She’s on the verge of a big breakout and will definitely be a fun Main Stage set.”

Courtney Marie Andrews: 9:10 to 10:10 p.m. Saturday, Basque Center. If you’re planning to see Idaho singer-songwriter Eilen Jewell Saturday night at the Basque Center, show up early for Courtney Marie Andrews. She left home in Arizona at 16 years old for her first tour and has been a musician ever since — singing backup for established names and forging a solo career. “Her new record ‘Honest Life’ has been gaining a lot of steam, getting a lot of praise and earning her comparisons to the likes of Joni Mitchell, Gram Parsons and John Prine,” Gilbert says.

Low Red Land: 10:30 p.m. to 11:10 p.m. Saturday, Linen Building. Back in the day, Gilbert’s band Finn Riggins shared the bill with this San Francisco power trio, which used to play Idaho fairly regularly. “One of the best bands I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing with,” Gilbert says. “They haven’t played in several years but have reunited to play Treefort this year. Definitely one of the sets I’m most excited about, for personal reasons for sure, but also because they are one of the greatest bands that never really got as much attention as they deserved.”

The Seshen: 10:30 to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, Reef; 2 to 2:40 p.m. Sunday, Main Stage. Hailing from the Bay Area, this mind-expanding, electronica-laced soul-pop group is led by singer-lyricist Lalin St. Juste and bassist-producer Akiyoshi Ehara. Rich in textures and headphones nuances, The Seshen blends genres with a futuristic touch. “Anyone into space funk/R&B will be psyched for this,” Gilbert says.

Alvvays: 11:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday/(Sunday morning), El Korah Shrine. Pronounced “always,” this Canadian jangle-pop act first generated a buzz at the South By Southwest Music Festival. Alvvays’ debut album hit in 2014 and immediately resonated with the college crowd. The song “Archie, Marry Me” has racked up almost 2.5 million views on YouTube. Treefort fans craving fresh material are in luck. “There’s a new album on the way,” Gilbert says, “and it sounds like we’ll be getting a sneak peek at some of those new tunes at one of very few shows they are doing this spring.”

Sunday, March 26

Kate Tempest: 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Main Stage. This London-born performance poet is on a United States tour supporting her new album “Let Them Eat Chaos.” This should be an emotionally charged set, but don’t expect an hour of feel-good material. At least not based on “Europe is Lost,” the evocative song Tempest and her band performed this month on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” In 2013, Tempest became the only person under 40 to ever win the Ted Hughes Award, an annual honor bestowed upon a U.K. poet for new work.

Michael Deeds: 208-377-6407, @michaeldeeds

Treefort Music Fest

Wednesday, March 22, through Sunday, March 26, in venues in Downtown Boise. Passes are $185 for a five-day wristband; $299 for zipline pass; and $99 for an under-21 wristband. Day passes run $65 to $95. Main Stage-only passes are $35 and $45 in advance. Buy passes online at TreefortMusicFest.com or at the Treefort box office at The Owyhee through March 23 or at 12th and Grove streets starting March 24. Main Stage-only passes cost $10 more day of show. Kids 12 and younger are free with a paying adult at the Main Stage and age-appropriate venues.

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