’Twas the day before Treefort and all through the town, not a band was playing ... but the volunteers of Decorfort were out in full force.
In the days — and minutes — leading up to Treefort Music Fest’s official launch on Wednesday, more than 20 volunteers and some Treefort staff headed out to all the venues to string up bunting and hang colorful panels. Treefort takes over Downtown Boise through Sunday, with more than 400 bands and a wide range of activities that includes several satellite “subforts.”
Each music and subfort venue and the surrounding streets get the treatment. This idea of giving the event its own visual feel extends to the new window paintings throughout Downtown that help dress up the entire city.
Decorfort is headed for the second year by artist and designer Sean Aucutt, who also plays percussion with Basque rock band Amuma Says No (though Amuma will not be playing the festival this year).
He spent a number of years creating windows at Urban Outfitters in the BoDo district and took over Decorfort from Bronwyn Leslie, who headed it for the first four years.
It’s an all-consuming job, and Aucutt was already looking a little haggard this week from his long days.
“Wait until you see me tomorrow,” Aucutt said. “Every day gets a little more intense.”
Aucutt is the Decorfort camp counselor. He arrives at the Shrine carrying rolled-up panels and banners, with a loose plan based on the past years. Then he lets his crew add their own touches.
“We start planning in November and making things in January, and sometimes that’s not soon enough,” Aucutt said. “The Treefort volunteers are amazing. They show up on time, do what they are supposed to do over and over. This could not happen without them.”
The team was giving JUMP the Treefort feel on Tuesday, in time for the Wednesday evening openings of Hackfort and Yogafort.
Aucutt oversees production of myriad signs, buntings, banners, placards and other items that will become part of the detailed look at every fort. They reuse what they created in the past and add to it, because “Treefort grows every year,” said Shelley Jund, who is volunteering for her second Decorfort.
“It’s nice to feel like you’re involved, and you’re a part of something,” Jund said. “I can go out during Treefort and say, ‘I helped do that.’ ”
The big push came on Wednesday, the official launch of the fest. As the Main Stage goes up for its Friday opening, Decorfort descends to dress the set and the surrounding area.
This year, Decorfort is adding a large-scale mural of a Treefort landscape created by Trademark Signs, a Boise company that does all the official fort signage. Aucutt came up with the idea of the “Treefortland” scene, and the artists of Trademark went to work. It will fill the space on the east side of the tented Main Stage area, on the beer and merchandise side.
“We’re going to transform that area into something special,” said Trademark artist Sam Johnson. “It’s just a joy to work on these projects and spin off the visual world James (Treefort illustrator James Lloyd) created. It’s such an illustrative, fun style.”
Decorfort came on board early in Treefort’s development as organizers saw the benefit of having a signature look. Now in year six, that attention to detail continues to help Treefort create its own culture and character in the world of festivals. The festival’s personality connected with people in Boise and beyond, and helped it establish an identity that the grew even stronger as Mayor Dave Bieter named the festival the city’s cultural ambassador.
Co-founder and musician Eric Gilbert came up with the Treefort name, inspired by the fort his father built for him in his family home’s backyard. It speaks to an ideal of childlike playfulness that Gilbert and fellow founders Lori Shandro Outen and Drew Lorona strive to instill in the festival. And it fits into the local aesthetic.
“Once it came out, I recognized the subtle references to Boise — the City of Trees, Fort Boise,” Gilbert said. “It was a natural fit.”
The look it inspired is neo-camp chic, a mix of rustic twigs, funky flags, arrow-shaped signs that point to destinations and a bunch of quirky characters created by Lloyd, a noted illustration artist.
“It’s a mood that I try to convey that’s happy but kind of dark in the details,” Lloyd said. “It’s humorous and playful, and totally Treefort.”
You’ll find colorful skulls mixed in with the geometric shapes, falling leaves and slightly creepy giant eyes.
Lloyd grew up in Pocatello. When he was a teenager, he would sit outside clubs and draw poster art for the bands that came through town. Gilbert’s band Finn Riggins played there often, and the two became friends.
Lloyd moved to Boise several years ago to study illustration and art at Boise State University, and reconnected with Gilbert, who turned to Lloyd for the first year of Treefort. Lloyd created the logo and came up with a weird character with eyes that moved in an animated gif on the website. This year’s mascot is a man made of bricks — inspired by turrets Lloyd drew one year — and a humorous “Log Guy with Nest Head.”
“Every year I try to do something a little different,” said Lloyd, who works for Treefort year-round and does freelance illustration on the side.
“I don’t do them with a narrative in mind, but I like to add enough details that people can come up with their own narratives with what they bring to it.”
Treefort Music Fest
Through Sunday at various venues in Downtown Boise. $185 five-day wristband; $299 zipline pass; $99 for an under-21 wristband. Day passes: $65 to $95; main stage-only passes: $35 and $45. Also, add-on event ticket: $25 for the FiveThirtyEight live broadcast. TreefortMusicFest.com.
▪ Built to Spill’s Doug Martsch will play a solo show: 7:30 to 8:15 p.m., Boise Contemporary Theater, 854 Fulton St.
▪ L.A.-based indie rapper Open Mike Eagle: 10:15 to 11 p.m., El Korah Shrine, 1118 W. Idaho St.
▪ Hip-hop rockers Why?: 11:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., El Korah Shrine.
▪ All-female punk rockers The Coathangers: midnight to 1:15 a.m, The Linen Building, 1402 W. Grove St.
▪ Check out Boise comic Emma Arnold and a lineup that includes Georgia-based Lace Larrabee at Comedyfort at Liquid Laughs, 405 S. 8th St. Free with Treefort wristband; $10 general.
▪ Filmfort will screen Oscar- and Emmy-winning director Terry Sanders’ “Liza, Liza, Skies are Grey” at 5:30 p.m. on the second floor of The Owyhee, 1109 W. Main St.
▪ Obsessed with the fake news phenomenon? See what a panel of journalists, including the Idaho Statesman’s Anna Webb and Bill Dentzer, has to say at Storyfort’s “Bury the Lead: Fake News, Real News & Journalism,” at noon at The Owyhee.