Long and Winding Road: Boise's Music Scene Finds its Stride 

Boise has always had talent but it took years of struggle to learn what do with it

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But for Shandro, live music is a deep and abiding passion, and one she is tired of having to leave town to indulge.

"I don't want to move," Shandro said. "All my friends are here. But something that isn't here is the kind of show I want to see."

Shandro said that every time she would find a band that really got her going, she would check its tour schedule and find nary a stop in Boise. Her solution was that she and her husband, an amateur pilot, would hop in his Cessna and fly to concerts in other cities. But that all ended with her husband's untimely death.

"I'm a working mom, he was a stay-at-home dad," said Shandro. "That means I had to give up the luxury of going to see shows out of town."

Instead she decided it was time to start bringing them to her, something a friend attributed to her being the kind of woman that "grabs misfortune by the balls."

Shandro had one friend--Drew Lorona­--who knew how to make the contract side of things work, and the two approached Gilbert for his contacts. Their pitch was a series of shows that could lead to a new high-quality venue that houses 400-600, something like the Doug Fir in Portland, Ore. Gilbert pitched them on his idea for a multi-day festival and they bit.

Shandro hopes that the festival will help agents and bands see Boise as a place worth stopping for a show instead of just gas. If that happens, then she hopes to use the festival as a launching pad for the venue.

"Treefort is almost like a giant focus group," said Shandro. "[The venue] will either happen in the next two years or it won't."

Shandro said she thinks Treefort will succeed where others have failed because it is the right time for it to happen; that all the pieces are finally in place.

"Boise has the infrastructure. It's got the desire, and it's got people who don't want to drive to another town every weekend to see something," she said. "My only fear is that we're too early, and we're the only ones to recognize that."

She added that she is also the tiniest bit worried she'll be so busy putting on the festival that she won't get to enjoy any of it.

"But as long as someone else is having fun and really getting what we're doing, that will be enough," Shandro said.

A music festival that rallies the community is a great thing. But some of Idaho's less-bohemian circles might wonder why some angsty teens banging out rock 'n' roll is any of their concern.

The answer is a page straight out of the Bill Clinton playbook: It's the economy, stupid.

The more than 130 bands playing at Treefort and the hundreds upon hundreds attending will be staying in hotels, eating out, feeding parking meters and more. They may stop for gigs or food in Pocatello or Sun Valley.

"A 2005 study found that economic impact of the arts locally was something like $38 million," Schorzman said.

But more than that, a thriving nightlife and culture attracts young people with disposable income and businesses that want to use the city as a lure for quality employees. Study after study has shown that cities live and die not by their suburbs but by the strength of their urban core.

"We need to have more than parking lots; things that are really engaging and interesting to people," said Schorzman. "Things like a vital music scene."

Having recently read articles about Boise's rock scene in her daughter's copy of Nylon Magazine, Schorzman is excited about the potential and is planning to include it in the state's territorial sesquicentennial celebration next year.

Even Gilbert said that he jokes with real estate agent friends that they, not any of the musicians, will be the real beneficiaries of Boise's music scene blowing up.

But scenes are fickle. And while Boise musicians are gunfighter-quick to pat each other on the back, the question remains whether the rest of the world will care if Boise's scene remains trapped beneath a glass ceiling.

And that brings us back to the IFC Vice Bar at SXSW, an event that didn't go off without a hitch. The Brett Netson Band had to stop in the middle of its first song after the bass amp cut out. The batteries in Youth Lagoon's beat machine died onstage and there was a painfully awkward pause as they were changed. Ward's guitar strap broke in what seemed like every single song.

But the thing that stood out most clearly is that the show was packed. More than 200 were through the door at 7 p.m. for Hillfolk Noir's set and hundreds more piled in as the evening progressed until there was barely room to move. Many of the attendees had the same story: They wanted to see Built to Spill and were afraid it would be full, so they came early and were pleasantly blown away.

An audience member approached a member of Le Fleur and offered up a gig in Chapel Hill, N.C. A girl in the front row repeatedly shrieked "I love you" at Powers. But most importantly, a young man approached Gilbert after Finn Riggins stepped off stage and said: "I knew Idaho had a lot of whitewater, but I had no idea it had so many killer bands."

"That's why we're here," Gilbert responded.



A slideshow of the Boise showcase at the 2012 SXSW conference in Austin, TX.

By Josh Gross

Click to View 29 slides

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