Lucky Number Seven: Kicking Off Treefort 2018 

click to enlarge Kulululu performed at the Treefort 2018 Launch Party.

Harrison Berry

Kulululu performed at the Treefort 2018 Launch Party.

If someone had asked Lori Shandro Outen in 2012 if Treefort Music Fest would grow to its present stature, the co-founder and producer of the festival might have shrugged.

“I don’t think any of us seven years ago would have thought we’d be here now,” she said at the kickoff event at the Boise Basque Center on Feb. 9.

It would be appropriate to call what has happened to Treefort an “eruption.” In its first year, the festival brought almost 140 bands to stages across downtown over four days. It will bring about 450 bands, including headliners George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, Andrew W.K., Princess Nokia and Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot, to a greatly expanded roster of venues Wednesday-Sunday, March 21-25, 2018.

National and international touring musicians have always made appearances: Lizzo (2017), Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires (2016), and TV On The Radio (2015); but the bulk of the genre-spanning lineup has always comprised bands from Boise and nearby cities like Built to Spill, AAN, Magic Sword, Tartufi, Titus Andronicus, Sun Blood Stories, Hokum Hi-Flyers and many, many more.

The mix of reaches, styles and genres, has been a big part of how critics see the festival. The Northwest Music Scene blog called it “the festival we need, but don’t deserve;” and Uproxx called it “the solution” to “something vital missing from our festival culture.”

The music blogs often tell only part of the story about how Treefort has steadily grown its capacity. Stages have come (El Korah) and gone (The Crux), but ancillary “forts” have done at least as much as a mere headcount of participating musicians to promote it as a broad-spectrum cultural event.

The explosion of forts started in 2014 with the introduction of the “digital humanities conference” Hackfort, where a panel of technologists asked that question perennially on Boiseans’ minds: “Why Boise?” Hackfort received a shoutout from then-President Barack Obama during his visit to Boise State University in 2015—the same year Treefort Music Fest was awarded a two-year stint as a Boise Cultural Ambassador. This year, there will be nine ancillary forts: Alefort, Comedyfort, Filmfort, Foodfort, Hackfort, Kidfort, Skatefort, Storyfort and Yogafort, in addition to workshops and performing and visual arts modules.

At the Basque Center event Feb. 9, participating acts included local rapper Madisun Proof; Leafraker; Portland, Oregon-based Kulululu; and headliner Oakland, California-based La Misa Negra. There was also a poetry reading courtesy of Storyfort. It was a lineup that reflected the mission of Treefort to be fun, inclusive and diverse. As Shandro Outen put it, “We’re officially kicked off.”

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