If you’re unfamiliar with Treefort Music Fest, prepare yourself for an unyielding wave of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Boise’s humble yet ambitious music festival might not have the notoriety of staples like Coachella or Bonaroo, but based on our experience, it will soon. No, it’s not just because that’s where we had the best corn dog of our lives. But perhaps that does play into it.
The fest is more than a mind-splattering good time, and below we’ve parsed out a few things that made this year’s Treefort a seriously special occasion. Let’s get started.
Boise is a nice place, but it’s the people living there that really elevate it to destination status. Catch this clip of Ealder Bealu‘s set at the local Masonic temple, cleverly abbreviated as Sonic Temple. They’re a super sick progressive psych / doom band for sure, but more importantly, they’ve been good friends of ours for years. It’s easy to get to know bands, shake hands, and totally forget who you were talking to the next day. But not Ealdor Bealu: they made us breakfast burritos, cured our hangovers, and showed us a ton of new music. They also have a new album coming out called Psychic Forms that we’re pretty stoked about.
We left just in time to catch their set after our six hour drive from Portland, so this is literally some of the first footage we captured from the fest after unloading all of our gear into an AirBnB. Seeing our old friends shred was just the medicine we needed, and it set the tone for everything that followed. Oh, and check out that ridiculous light show courtesy of the Mad Alchemy design crew. What a trip. I remember thinking, “there’s no way these dope lights are going to be happening for our set,” but luckily, I was wrong.
It was also extremely cathartic to catch up with our friends in Zeta. If you’re a regular reader of the blog (or any underground blog) you’ve most likely heard of them by now. Zeta played multiple sets this year, and in each of them, they left nothing unsaid, no punches pulled. Their shows are consistently legendary, and their final performance legitimately made me cry when Juan Chi got into the pit and sang with everyone. They told us later that this pure, incredible moment was actually born from a pedalboard malfunction. We couldn’t possibly have known – all we saw was love, and lots of it.
Fun Fact: we had a hilarious moment backstage at the vegan Artist Lounge, where we discovered Treefort’s vegan chili, and that it was way better than expected. But we also found out that if you don’t act quickly, it’s pretty much swooped by anyone with access to the green room. You live, you learn.
Candidly, it was just good to be with my own band again, tromping Treefort and the PNW. I had forgotten what it feels like to feel like you can solve any problem that comes your way from right where you’re standing, because your best friends are with you. It’s pretty nice. Living in the desert while working on a documentary is an exercise in self-preservation at best, so partying with Childspeak again was really the reminder that I needed that there’s a lot more to life when this whole thing is over.
We also got to catch New Jersey’s Hit Like A Girl, who unleashed a salvo of charming, thoughtful emo on us right before our first set at the Mad Suede Brewery. The band’s balance of tenderness and teeth was honestly as captivating as the venues house cocktails, which are out of this world.
Keeping it close to home, we’d be remiss not to mention one of the most explosive sets from this year’s fest. When we were done with our set at Sonic Temple Red, we moseyed over to Sonic Temple Blue after hitting the bar, feeling pretty great. We sat in these massive Masonic armchairs and watched Spoonbenders, who have been making waves out of Portland for a while now. It was pretty awesome – I wasn’t sure to expect, but it wasn’t the facefull of howling rock and roll we were treated to. It was really cool to see the band infuse heavy, psychedelic post-rock with style and modernity without giving in to the tropes. You know how a lot of rock and roll bands, particularly retro flavored ones, come across as tribute acts? We’re happy to report that Spoonbenders are far beyond this, relying mostly on sheer ass-kicking and volume. In that order.
Of course, were stoked to catch Holy Fawn on the last night of their tour, and they seriously gave it their all. The band conquered both injury and malfunction onstage without breaking so much as a sweat on stage, delivering that signature cold yet beautiful embrace they’ve become known for. Many moons ago, we saw them for the first time when a little band called Muscle Beach Petting Zoo opened for them with Gazelle(s) in Eugene. It was a pretty good time. But not as good as this.
Originally, when Treefort’s lineup was announced this year, there were some acts we knew we had to see. But one of the best parts of the fest is calculated misdirection. It comes in many forms – makeup booths, yoga sessions, documentaries, comedy sets, art exhibits, eyeball humanoids rollerskating around… but also bands. And of course they do – this year’s lineup alone included like 500 bands. All of this and more feeds into the fest’s ‘never a dull moment’ narrative.
At one point, we were sad because the line to get into the Lightning Bolt show was an endless barrier. But we didn’t even have time to be miserable about it – we saw YOB instead. On a personal note this was very fulfilling for yours truly – when I worked at a Guitar Center in Eugene, guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt would come in fairly regularly, sometimes even with his son. While we never exchanged more than a few words, it was incredible to see this mild-mannered mystic absolutely demolish the Egyptian Theatre, even when one of his amp’s tubes started to die. It actually made the whole thing even heavier. Check out this clip below, or head over to our Instagram where we live-streamed the heck out of it.
You would think after being pummeled with metal for nearly an hour, we would have wanted to walk it off and get to bed. Especially after having played one of our own sets the same night. But absolutely not. We kept on keeping on, and eventually caught Jeff Rosenstock, the prolific punker behind projects like Antirctigo Vespucci, Arrogant Sons of Bitches and Bomb the Music Industry. We know we were there because we have the video, and there are some residual memories in our skulls as well. But it was probably 3:00 in the morning by the time we were actually done. Then I drunkely put tinfoil into the microwave with some mozzarella sticks. There were no explosions. Turns out, that’s not a universal law – I ate them. Maybe that’s why I’m having a hard time remembering…
This was far from the end of our discoveries though. For instance, after hearing a ton about The Oh Sees and generally ignoring the hype, we caught them on the first night. While the whole ‘two-drummers in an indie/psych band’ thing is a little odd for this style of music, John Dwyer did his damndest to squeeze every last drop of fuzz into the mix, which we easily appreciated. We also really loved those McClusky style barks, featured below.
There’s also no way we could fail to mention Deafheaven‘s downright immaculate set, which may or may not have been the highlight of the entire festival for many of us. They played the best stuff from Infinite Granite, a couple cuts from Ordinary Corrupt Human Love and closed with their indisputable classic, “Dream House.” This was the melting point for us, and for the first time since the pandemic, we moshed our asses off. It’s also probably how we came down with this mild variant of Covid. But honestly, we are not complaining. Hearing those songs come to life, and becoming a part of that life through the moshing and madness was a life choice, is a memory that will cling to us for decades to come. Fun Fact: Bri (my co-guitarist in Childspeak) had never really checked out the band, but enjoyed it, and described it the set as ‘ballerina metal’ thanks for George’s impeccable antics. It’s a phrase we can’t really un-hear, but hey, she’s got a point. We love to see it.
Last, but far from the least, the inimitable Deer Hoof. These San Franciscan legends likely need no introduction for math rockers and indie fans. The set was no doubt one of the most math rock moments of the entire festival, but to see it on the main stage was a real treat. So often math rock gets sidelined by the groovier stuff at fests like this, so their magnified presence was a great moment for the scene – and so many members of the audience. The band’s bizarre, almost antagonistically weird banter is a performance all its own. The last time we saw Greg Saunier speak was at Neurolux a few years back, when Eric, the festival organizer, slipped the band I was touring with (Thom Simon a couple tickets while we were in town, so I had actually forgotten to brace myself for existential crisis when Greg walked over to the mic. He speaks the opposite of how he drums, but with the same style, and it pulls you in like a slow-motion meat grinder. But for the most part, a pleasurable one.
There were a million more moments to capture at this year’s fest, we’re aware. In fact most of what you see here are small selections of a pretty massive archive we put together. It can feel a little ridiculous holding your phone over everyone trying to get an angle while simultaneously ordering a drink, but if it means more of you come to Treefort in the years to come, mission accomplished.
Seriously, what an incredible few days of music, food, and amazement. We highly recommend you keep your eyes and ears open for announcements for the next Treefort Music Fest, whenever that is. If you wanna replenish our coffee fund, which was brutally tapped after the first couple days, please and thank you – do it here. Otherwise, we’ll be getting back into the swing of things with new content and site fixes by the end of the week.