One of the best things about Treefort Music Fest is that a wristband isn’t required. Even a wallet, really.
There are totally free day parties, band showcases and second-chance shows from the start of the five-day indie festival almost until it ends Sunday in Downtown Boise. Many of them welcome all ages.
I like to call it “Freefort.” (Trademark soon.) And get this: Treefort organizers are perfectly fine with cheapskates crashing their indie party.
“We think it’s a great opportunity for people to get a taste,” festival director Eric Gilbert says. “It’s also a good opportunity for people with wristbands to catch what they missed during the night shows because of schedule conflicts. That’s why we call them ‘second chance’ shows.”
Here are some of the top Freefort options. For a comprehensive list of thrifty Treefort activities, check out the festival website.
▪ My favorite Freefort destination is PreFunk Beer Bar, 1100 W. Front St. Its annual showcase, Treefunk, rocks until 10 p.m. each night. With 39 taps of craft beer, food from Gem Street Kitchen and 35 bands over five days, music nerds should just bring sleeping bags. Dig noisy guitars? Veteran Georgia shoegazer act Dreamend will overload amps in the vein of Explosions in the Sky on Friday (7 to 7:40 p.m.). On Saturday, check out joyous folk-pop band Kuinka (8 to 8:40 p.m.). The Seattle group’s live show recently “knocked out” the host of NPR’s “All Things Considered.” 21 and older only.
▪ If you don’t know where to find Camp Modern, let your nose guide you. Sizzling eats, cocktails and bands collide at this outdoor fire-pit bash at the Modern Hotel, 1314 W. Grove St. Food and drink is served from 3 to 9 p.m. each day with “whole lamb on the spit, grilled chorizo, solomo” and more. You gotta pay for the grub and libations, but the music is free. Performances run from 3 to 7:45 p.m. Friday, 1 to 7:45 p.m. Saturday and 2 to 6:40 p.m. Sunday. There’s plenty to love, including the soul-singing skills of Christine Fink and her Omaha band, High Up (4 to 4:40 p.m. Friday), Seattle electro-dance duo Sisters (7 to 7:45 p.m. Saturday) and Boise favorites Thick Business (3 to 3:40 p.m. Sunday). All ages.
▪ The Record Exchange, 1105 W. Idaho St., always lines up a handful of free in-store performances. Even the Canadian beer is free at the Treefort Canadian Happy Hour with rockers Frigs and producer Fresh Kils (5 to 6:30 p.m. Friday). How about free local beer and free local donuts? Do the Treefort Existential Brunch with sitar-strumming Naan Violence and jazz-pop singer Robin Bacior (noon to 1:30 p.m. Sunday). There’s also a secret in-store show at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. All ages. Read more about the iconic Record Exchange here.
▪ Another Canada shindig: The aptly named Canada Party from 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday at Woodland Empire Ale Craft, 1114 W. Front St. Four acts will perform, highlighted by Lido Pimienta at 6 p.m. She’s a Main Stage act at this year’s Treefort, and one of Gilbert’s under-the-radar festival picks: “Toronto-based, Colombian-born interdisciplinary musician and artist-curator. Polaris Prize 2017 winner,” he says. “Along with some other Treefort scouts, I caught an amazing set of hers at Halifax Pop Explosion last fall.” On Friday, Woodland Empire also will bring back the Apes on Tape Showcase with six bands performing from 2 to 8 p.m. Best bet: Portland dream-pop band Wild Ones at 5 p.m. All ages.
▪ Downtown Boise has another new taco joint, and this one has an elevated stage. The Funky Taco, 801 W. Bannock St., is open sporadically during Treefort before opening full time in April. Add some hot sauce to your life Friday by checking out Denver psych-rock band Eldren from 3 to 4 p.m., and Washington-based singer and multi-instrumentalist Karl Blau from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. All ages.
▪ Also new this year: Live tunes at Boise Fry Co., 204 N. Capitol Blvd. The tater haven is hosting four acts on three nights between 8 and 11:45 p.m. starting Thursday and running through Saturday. Check out the Saturday showcase from Denver’s Moon Magnet Studios, capped by an 11 p.m. set by Treefort alum The Raven and the Writing Desk. All ages.
▪ Beer. There’s never enough. That’s why there’s a Payette Brewing Party at the brewery near the Boise Greenbelt at 733 S. Pioneer St. Seven second-chance acts will perform Saturday between 1 and 8 p.m. All ages.
▪ During the day, bands rock for free Friday and Saturday at The Olympic, 1009 W. Main St. The upstairs venue will host a Portland Party on Friday with bands from 1:10 to 4:40 p.m., and a Colorado Second Chance Party on Saturday from 12:30 to 5 p.m. 21 and older only.
▪ It’s a similar story at Neurolux, 111 N. 11th St., which stays free during the day before going into official Treefort mode at night. On Friday, performances go from 12:30 to about 4:45 p.m. at a day party called Another Banger in Boise. On Saturday, the Off Beat Arts & Music Festival from Reno, Nevada, will host a second-chance showcase from 12:20 to around 5 p.m. 21 and older only.
▪ Skateboarding and music will erupt from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday at Rhodes Skate Park, 1555 W. Front St. Skatefort will showcase visiting pro skaters while live musicians provide a roaring soundtrack to the aerial feats. New York-based rock trio The Muckers should unleash a perfectly fitting retro groove from 1:40 to 2:20 p.m. All ages.
▪ If you wander around, you’ll find more free entertainment. Remember, no wristband is required to enter the Alefort brewfest tent at 11th and Grove streets, which also includes the gourmet Foodfort tasting feast. (Alefort is 21 and older only; Foodfort is all ages.) And there are Kidfort activities galore for children at The Nest, 12th and Grove streets, ranging from Boise Rock School performances (3 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday) to a dance battle at 1 p.m. Sunday (sign-ups at 12:30 p.m.).