Eric Gilbert didn't realize the vibrancy of the Boise scene immediately. When he and his Finn Riggins bandmates Lisa Simpson and Cameron Bouiss moved here in 2009, he didn't know if they'd made the right decision.
"I'd sort of written the scene off as mostly cover bands and stuff like that," he said in an interview with BW in July 2013. He'd been exposed to a wide variety of music while attending the University of Idaho, both from DJ-ing at the college radio station KUOI and from checking out the house show scene in Moscow.
"It ebbs and flows with the different students and stuff, but I remember it was very empowering," he said.
A premium was set on "really engaging, fresh, wild music," Gilbert said. "There were a lot of cool bands at the time creating all kinds of cool stuff. It was just a cool scene to be a part of and a good petri dish for us."
By contrast, the only Boise bands that he'd encountered in Moscow were cover bands, which were "laughed out of town." Prospects seemed even dimmer when he looked around the Boise scene and observed "a lot of infighting and weird jadedness." But when Finn Riggins participated in Visual Art Collective's Rotating Tongues II anthology, which required groups to write and perform two original songs (recorded live by Steve Fulton and Audio Lab), Gilbert saw the light.
"Everyone was really nervous, but it was cool how everyone was supportive of each other," he said. "I saw in everybody a moment of, like, 'Oh yeah, we're all on the same team. Where have you been? I forgot how awesome you are.'"
The combination of invention and camaraderie that Gilbert observed convinced him and the rest of the band to set down roots in Boise. Wes Malvini believes that a similar spirit has helped Treefort succeed and grow.
"The best thing that Eric did as the director of Treefort was bringing in outside promoters--bringing in third-party promoters, giving them a showcase," he said. "If he hadn't done that and if he didn't continue to do that, I don't know if Treefort would be as valued as it is. Because he allows everybody in the community who's involved in music--everybody in the community who's involved in art--he allows them a sense of ownership."
TO Entertain U promoter Seth Brown--who set up a showcase at Tom Grainey's on Friday, March 21--agrees.
"I've been really stoked on the open-mindedness and activism [of Treefort]," Brown said. "Instead of just supporting the core genres that Duck Club [Gilbert and Shandro's promotion company] personally works with, they're helping all the other promoters and bands in other genres that they don't necessarily work with on a day-to-day basis. They're helping them get a foothold ... so that people can decide if they want to be a part of it or not."
Gilbert and the rest of the Treefort team handled this year's new "Forts" in the same manner. Sage Yoga owner and Yogafort curator Marisa Weppner, who also sits on Treefort's artist selection committee, had gently suggested the idea of holding some yoga classes during the festival last year. She and dance instructor Celeste Bolin each set up a morning class at El Korah Shrine during Treefort 2013.
"We had about 25 people each day, which we thought was pretty successful," Weppner said. "So they told me last summer, 'You can curate Yogafort and make it what you'd like it to be.'"
Weppner credited Treefort with "seeing potential within the community, not just within music but all across the board, and helping that to be fostered and grown and just realized within people."
Storyfort curator Christian Winn has also observed a strong synergy between all the different pieces of Treefort. "Everybody around [the festival] has been woven together like fabric. It works really, really well," he said.