Review: Treefort Music Fest’s Best Year so far

Thunderpussy at Treefort Music Fest 2017

Treefort Music Fest kicks off the annual festival season in the Northwest and now in its sixth year, Treefort has become one of the must attend events in the country. Where else can you catch over 400 bands, sample a wide variety of micro-brews and ciders, learn a whole lot about technology and see new and emerging films?

Treefort Music Fest has become a seasonal celebration to explore new music and bands from around the country. With a heavy dose of the Boise music scene, bands from Seattle, Portland, Denver, Los Angeles, London, New York and points in-between come to Boise to hang-out for the long weekend.

I drove over from Seattle with a rough idea of some of the bands I wanted to catch, which is really hard with so many options. My Treefort started on late Thursday with my first stop at Neurolux to hear Seattle band Sundries. I had recently seen them at a Planned Parenthood event at the Wild Buffalo in Bellingham and they completely rocked it. Once again they impressed a packed house with their sonic sounds.

Following was Battlehooch from San Francisco. Their sound was interesting, kinda of a mix of psychedelic pop and very entertaining. I then ventured over to the Linen Building to catch The Birth Defects from Los Angeles where they exploded with their punk metal thrashing, which was quite amazing!!!!! Up next was Chastity Belt from Seattle. This band has been getting a lot of attention and their dreamy indie rock fit the bill nicely to finish up my early evening.

Battlehooch at Treefort Music Fest 2017

One of the neat things about Treefort is being able to meet new people and see old friends. Over the years, I’ve met some of the organizers and staff, band members and fellow photographers, building a very nice community of Treeforters.

My Friday kicked off early, attending the Fort de Party presented by Eleven Magazine and Party Boyz. The first band playing at the showcase introduced me to Holiday Friends from Astoria, Oregon. Their energetic songs were a great way to start the day. But my main reason for attending was to catch Seattle’s rockin’ divas Thunderpussy. In this intimate showcase, Molly Sides, Whitney Petty, M’Leah Juluis and Ruby Dunphy displayed why they are becoming one of the must see bands in the Northwest. And this was their first set of the day as they headed over to the Main Stage.

On the Main Stage, with dark clouds and a steady rain, Thunderpussy  took the stage by storm, literally. With searing guitar riffs, sexy high kicks and head-bangin’ hair flying, the pussiez’ wowed the packed crowd to the point that no one cared about the inclement weather. Following was Delicate Steve, the guitar slinger from New York making his much anticipated return to Treefort. I first saw Delicate Steve at my first Treefort in 2013 and he is simply amazing. It’s not too often that an instrumental band can hold a large crowd, but with his thrashing bottleneck guitar playing it is really quite something.

I then headed off to catch a couple bands at The District, one of the many venues hosting music. In this intimate space you’re right there in the lap of the artists. As I walked in, Gentle Spirit from San Francisco were playing. Their sound floated through the room with wonderful flows that had folks sitting on the floor taking it all in. The next artist to perform was Ana Lete, a Boise local whose vocals and subtle guitar tones created a refreshing contrast to sounds of the day.

When I first arrived at Treefort on Thursday evening, stopping for a bite, a couple women noticed my photo laminate and asked me to join them at their table, this is what makes Treefort so special, complete strangers connecting to share in the communal environment that is Treefort. During dinner, they highly recommended that I not miss LED at the Egyptian Theatre on Friday evening. They described this artist as a dance presentation and I have found that photographing dance is quite exciting, so I was definitely going to get myself there.

So, as I left The District on Friday evening and headed towards the theatre, I was stunned that the line for the venue was extending down the entire city block. After I got inside the theatre it was packed for a standing room only audience. As the lights dimmed, the musicians took the stage in reflective costumes while taking up their instruments. With a progressive rock foundation, LED created a sensory soundscape that filled the room. And then the dancers took the stage, and they presented an amazing display of movement and acrobatics. The combined display of dance, creative lighting and orchestral prog made this a one of a kind event that dazzled.

As this was a double bill, the other artist performing was Magic Sword where “good will always prevail.” At last year’s Treefort, Magic Sword was the overwhelming hit of the festival. In this performance they were the headliner featuring members of the Boise Philharmonic. With their driving synthesized orchestral rock and video display, Magic Sword showed why they have a loyal following.

Magic Sword at Treefort Music Fest 2017

On Saturday, the clouds had flown away and clear skies greeted me as I headed to the Main Stage to see the opener Eilen Jewell. I was ready to hear some americana infused music and she did not disappoint. From Boise, Eilen has been getting national attention and her songs and band were fantastic. Certainly a must watch artist who captured a lot of new fans, including me. Following was Andy Shauf from Saskatchewan, Canada. His melancholy songs and guitar playing floated through the air as folks listened intently.

At this time I floated over to the Treefunk at PreFunk where I caught Gentle Spirit once again. Performing on the outdoor stage their music went to another level that was quite different from the night before. Being in the sunshine was truly warming and their music carried everyone away. As I went for a beverage, one of the members of the next band asked if I could stay and photograph them and I am glad that I did.

Jacob Miller & The Bridge City Crooners were amazing! A throw up of swing infused bebop rock, this band from Portland had everyone dancin’ and shakin’. These guys were a gas and I’ll be watching for them for sure. I then went over to the Freakout Records 2nd Chance Showcase where I caught Tele Novella from Austin. Man, they were a lot of fun and another band I can’t wait to see again.

Saturday was a day of exploration as I was going to find some great new bands that I had never heard before. I headed over the the El Korah Shriners venue for St. Treible (and The Gospel of Nothingness ∆) who I knew nothing about. This band of a dozen players created a psychedelic mind-bender that enthralled the room. Looking like nomads from another time, these gypsy infused music makers were really fantastic.

Next from Brooklyn, New York was Plastic Picnic. Truth be told, my interest in hearing this band was my familiarity of two of the members of the band, as they were formerly from Bellingham’s Learning Tree. It was nice hearing the guys again and they too were appreciative that I was there to catch their set. Their music is a perfect blend of 80’s rock and indie sensibilities. Next up was The Lower 48 from Portland, and WOW were they something!!!! This three piece completely tore through a fuzz infused set that completely blew me away. All I can say is these three bands, all with different approaches, is what makes Treefort such a great festival.

My evening was going to wrap up over at Humpin’ Hannah’s with their colorful hostess Rocci Johnson. Yet again, another band who I knew nothing about completely surprised. Matt Hopper & The Roman Candles from Portland packed the venue and with a lot of swagger and flat out rock & roll, this band was fantastic! The next band to hit the stage was KOLARS from Los Angeles. Earlier in the day I was asked to take some portrait photos with Rob and Lauren by their PR company, so it was a given I was going to make sure I caught their set and man, I wasn’t disappointed. They were unbelievable. Rob is a Glam rocker to the core and his playing was an all-out assault on his guitar. Lauren was the unexpected marvel, pounding her drums and tap dancing with a contagious energy that surpassed any expectations. KOLARS is a band on the rise and not to be missed.

KOLARS at Treefort Music Fest 2017

This evening would wrap up with me catching Thunderpussy for a third time. What I learned from KOLARS is that the two bands had recently played back-to-back in Santa Barbara the weekend before and they complemented each other nicely. Of note as well, this was the third year in a row that Thunderpussy was playing Humpin’ Hannah’s and this was by far the most packed crowd ever to catch these rockers. The pussiez put on a great set and I certainly see them breaking out this year in a big way.

As I rolled into Sunday, the last day of Treefort, I usually try to catch some type of ambient/soundscape presentation and the Linen Building was the place to be. As I walked in, Sea’s Apprentice was on stage. with floating surf guitar riffs and haunting vocals, this was a perfect way to start the day. Next was the Kurva Choir lead by C.J. Boyd (who was one of my favs from 2016). With a soundscape of instruments and vocals, I was transported by their sound.

Again, one of the main reasons I love Treefort is the people I’ve met over the years. Two of those people are Reggie and Sarah who perform with The Sun and The Mirror. In year’s past they have performed as Darling Rollercoaster and I loved their moving instrumental excursions. In this performance, I learned from Reggie that is was going to be a special presentation. Their Grandmother, who is touched with dementia, was going to perform with the band. In their social media post prior to the show, Reggie shared that GrandMa was dressed and ready at 7AM for her debut.

GrandMa played her drums in unison with the evolving soundscape that was inspirational. Of all the performances over the course of the week, this was the most moving. I was in awe of the grandeur of this moment and it was truly special. Thank you to The Sun and The Mirror for making this music so important.

After that moment I was off again, to the Main Stage to catch Kate Tempest from London, England. The place was packed, and for good reason. Kate impressed with her in-your-face lyrics and attitude. She had everyone in the palm of her hand and she is certainly one of those artists that inspires. I then off for another dose of Holiday Friends at the El Korah Shriners. Once again they had the room rockin’ with their energy and rock solid songs. I’ll be looking forward to catching them when they hit Seattle.

To wrap up my Treefort 2017 was Seattle’s very own SISTERS featuring Andrew Vait and Emily Westman. I’ve been fortunate enough to see this band since their beginning. This duo presents their positive pop rock in a delightful fashion. With Andrew on keyboards and guitar and Emily on drum kit, both on vocals providing an infectious and groovy experience. What was so enjoyable in their performance was the all ages audience they are drawing. I stood next to two young girls, aged 10 and 12 who knew all their songs and were thrilled to be catching SISTERS live. I talked with the Mom of the 12 year old who had told me how her daughter was attending the Boise School of Rock and was inspired by SISTERS and their music. Yet another affirmation as to the power of music and community.

After four solid days of Treefort, my smile was ear to ear. Of all the music concerts and festivals I attend, Treefort Music Fest is one of my favorites and of course, I’ll be back next year. Thanks to all the staff, bands, artists and the citizens of Boise for making Treefort such a success.

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Peter Dervin

Peter Dervin Bio I was born in Los Angeles, raised on BOSS Radio KHJ 930AM listening to the Real Don Steele, grew up listening to Dr. Demento on KMET 94.7, graduated to Rodney Bengenheimer on KROQ-FM. Started collecting records in high school, I haven’t stopped. Moved to the Northwest in 1989. Became a disc jockey and program host on 90.7 KSER in Everett, I was there for 18 years. Owned a record shop from 1993-1995 called Orbit Records. Mike McCready from Pearl Jam bought a PJ 45 from me. I wrote music reviews for a monthly called “The Taste of Everett”. I was Editor of a trade publication called the “Northwest Landscape Professional” I had always been photographing at the concerts I’ve attended. In 2010, the Grateful Dead used my photos from 1980 on a Road Trips CD release. I then began the journey of taking my photography to the next level. I have photographed a who’s who of musicians, bands and artists. From Los Lobos to DEVO and everything in between. You can see my portfolio at www.peterdervin.com.

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