The BK band shares their experience at the Boise fest, including new band BFFs, a(n almost) lost guitar and Boise’s “confusing level of kindness”
After SXSW, we moseyed over to Boise (which—who knew!—is actually incredibly sick) to hang with BdBK BFFs Atlas Engine at Treefort Music Fest. We’d heard for years that this festival ruled and can confirm x1000 that it’s absolutely true, so much like we enlisted our pals in Colatura to document their South By experience, we recruited Nick LaFalce of Atlas Engine to recount what was one of the best weekends ever. Below is his Treefort diary.
Read, enjoy the retroactive FOMO, and we’ll def see you in Idaho (never thought we’d say that!) next March.
We had heard so many good things about the Treefort Fest from friends that have played it, and I can speak for all of us that our expectations were still exceeded in all areas – the quality of music, the passion of the city, the lack of pretense, and the abundance of kindness from the people of Boise, Idaho.
THE HOUSING NON-CRISIS
We experienced the city’s confusing level of kindness before even arriving while looking for a place for us to stay. I found a Facebook group where people were volunteering to help house touring Treefort musicians. I knew our band of five plus our tour/merch manager (you might know her: the cheerleading, Brooklyn scene feeding, endless energy wielding son of a gun that runs this very blog) would be tough to accommodate, but I posted a Hail Mary – “who can help 6 people for 5 days?” Figured we’d be spread out across 6 different people’s couches, or maybe luck out with a basement floor. Nope! Not in Boise. We received a response from a family that was going to be out of town for the festival, but being former musicians, wanted to still be part of it. THEY LET US, A BAND OF ABSOLUTE STRANGERS, STAY IN THEIR EMPTY HOUSE FOR FREE. If you’re also from Brooklyn, or I imagine pretty much anywhere else in the world, this sounds incomprehensible at best and, more likely, a great way to get murdered. Well we’re here on the other side to tell you that some people are actually that nice. This made everything else so easy, and we can’t appreciate that enough.
After a full day of predictable air travel shenanigans, we landed around 3am EST. We headed to our house, met their 2 very old, cute, hilarious dogs and badass cat who were staying there with us, and tried to get some sleep for tomorrow’s show.
DAY 1: SHOWTIME AT THE OLYMPIC
Our official set was at The Olympic on Thursday, the second day of the festival at the same time as headliners Guided By Voices. So we had no idea if people were going to be there but we were again pleasantly surprised to have a full room of people to play for, including our two new friends from Boise, Lyndsay and Lizzy, who we met after seeing them singing along to our song “Secrets” in the audience (the best feeling that will never get old).
It was impossible not to make friends at Treefort – there is a very friendly atmosphere where everybody was ready to chat, so standing within arms reach of somebody usually resulted in a nice conversation. And how great is it when the people you’re hanging out with in line for tacos show up to your set the next day? I’ll tell ya, it’s pretty great! And similarly, through those little conversations we were able to get 3 more opportunities to play that weekend, and that’s all we wanted to do.
So after our set on Thursday, we hit the town and saw a ton of bands play (see band roundup at the bottom), made friends, drank tons, and got into bed with whichever pet was laying in it.
DAY 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO
We got up, some of us “worked from home” and then headed into town. Our 2nd set was at The Modern Hotel, an outside stage that didn’t require a wristband to attend. Now in a classic whoopsie, one of us (I won’t say who) left my guitar in the Uber that was driven by an octogenarian who mentioned he was “in the war”, with no previous context, prompt, or further explanation. So I’m trying to contact this ol vet through the app, but no luck.
I was comforted by our show partner Madeline Hawthorne (Kasey Musgraves fans check her out) who reassured me in her buttery Montana drawl that it would “all work out honey” and offered her guitar if mine didn’t show up in time. Then we joked that Boise was so small it would probably be easier to just keep calling Ubers until we got the same car again. And that’s what we did! Paid a few cancellation fees in the process but was very much worth having my guitar in time for our set. Garrett. It was Garrett.
The show was free and it had a cool atmosphere and awesome drinks which got us another great turnout. It also sounded incredible, which is always a concern when playing outside. It was an actual hotel so while they didn’t have a keyboard stand, they did have a room service tray which Katie used instead.
Madeline killed it and we felt really good about our set too. Then came Sundog, a three-piece from Alaska with a singer/guitar player whose killer pipes and guitar shredding made us reconsider all the joy we had just felt. Very glad we didn’t have to follow them. We had such a great time playing that The Modern asked us to come back the following day. And giving each band member 1 meal and 1 drink ticket is (sadly) more than the hospitality we’re used to, so we were pumped for that.
BIG SMALL-TOWN ENERGY
The energy of the town and festival was incredible – like anywhere else right now, the combination of Spring starting + COVID ending (maybe??) led to a palpable end of a collective cabin fever. The reason why Treefort’s so special is because it is lovingly run by real people in Boise. It’s not a huge festival where everything’s sponsored by Kirkland or whatever, so it really feels like one big community participating together. There’s so much pride in Boise and excitement around Treefort – countless people told us it was legitimately their favorite week of the year. No Pepsi stage, no Pandora swag bags, etc, and it was all focused on music discovery. Beyond the handful of headliners, there were 400 other bands! With that many bands in a small city all at once, many of the festival’s stages were in places that are not usually venues – bars, VFW halls, parking lots, temples with crazy light shows, you name it. We even played an acoustic set on the shuttle bus fans could take to each venue. The shows were all well curated too, which cannot be easy when there are literally hundreds of bands with different touring schedules to accommodate. We were lucky to be paired up with Waltzer, Husbands, French Cassettes, Sundog, Cal in Red, and the Macks across the four sets we played over the weekend.
And while music discovery is fantastic, let’s give it up for the headliners real quick. Katie said it best in her most recent E-Diary video on our trip: “Seeing Deerhoof was one of my favorite experiences of all time. The last few days of the festival I felt so overwhelmed with appreciation for having live music back after going so long without it. It was powerful to be around so many people who felt the same, in a way that was just so much more powerful than any of the other performances we saw. I felt myself both grieving the experiences that musicians and music lovers missed out on through the pandemic and motivated to make up for lost time, with heightened gratitude that I have that opportunity.”
OUR NIGHT WITH WALTZER
After our 2nd show at the Modern Hotel (equally great!), we were followed by Chicago’s Waltzer and our collective jaw dropped. They put on such a good set with such great songs, musicianship, and harmonies. Meanwhile, I had just booked a set for us that night at 11:30pm. The venue was going to allow us to play after the last band they had scheduled – but unfortunately that meant there was no equipment backline (drums, amps, etc). We flew, so we only had our guitars. Waltzer was on tour, so they had all their gear with them, so after hanging out with them for a bit, I asked if we’d be able to use it for this show, and offered them a slot after us. The result was one of the most special times in the ol Atlas Engine history book.
Remember how I said all the rooms were packed? Well this was the one that wasn’t. We played at midnight and 1am respectively, and since we booked it an hour beforehand, there was no time to promote it or tell anybody we were playing. In the time it took us to load in / set up all the gear, most of the crowd had fizzled out. Remember how I said all the places sounded great? This was the one that wasn’t, since there was no sound person. So Atlas Engine and Waltzer played personal concerts to each other + the bar staff, culminating in a 2-band singalong to Waltzer’s most singalongable song, Destroyer.
Despite the empty room, the owner of The Handle Bar, Ezra, was the sweetest human on this or any other planet, showering us with beer, beers to go, and underbergs in the parking lot, promising to take care of us next year, as if that all wasn’t enough. Don’t get me wrong – we came to Boise to play for more than 10 people, and we’re glad we got to play 3 shows where that was the case, but there’s something special about those “bad shows” on tour. You’re just doing the thing because you love it unconditionally. You do it for the people that ARE there with you, both on and off the stage. As our friend Tom Hanks once said, “you do it for the hang”.
We made some great friends and discovered some great bands – check them all out here!
So to wrap it up, Treefort is hardcore about music and Boise is hardcore about Treefort. Plenty of people said things along the lines of “this is what sxsw used to be” – that said, we love South By but let’s hope it stays that way. So much love and gratitude to all the people involved at Treefort and we can’t wait to see y’all back next year. Also, I don’t think we had one potato?
All photos provided by Atlas Engine.
Feature image (provided by the band): Tyler Bertram