Roots, Branches, Sprouts & Seeds 

A look at Treefort's impact on Boise's music scene

Page 3 of 4

Rich Soil

Treefort includes not just promoters and bands, but volunteers as well. Even after three years, volunteer coordinator Elizabeth Corsentino is still amazed at the number of people willing to contribute their time and energy to the festival. Especially since, aside from the ability to buy a pass at a reduced price, they don't get much tangible in return.

"They want to do anything they can," she said. "They want to spread the word. They want to hang up posters. They want to pour beer. They want to sweep the street. Of course, there's a few people who want a cheaper ticket, and that's totally understandable. ... But for the most part, people actually just want to help make it happen."

The number of volunteers has grown with the festival. According to Corsentino, almost 200 people volunteered for Treefort 2012. In 2013, more than 300 volunteered. This year, Corsentino needs to manage nearly 400 volunteers. "I'm not exactly sure yet; hopefully, not that many," she added.

Corsentino takes particular pleasure in the number of teenage volunteers who are "just doing everything they can to get involved in the music and stuff that they're interested in even though it's not really afforded to them easily," she said. "They can't go to bars and they can't help out [inside], but they're willing to do whatever it takes to get involved."

Todd Dunnigan believes that the widespread support for Treefort "just seems to be more of an overarching support for the arts that's grown over the years. I think a lot of people who were fans of art and who were doing art in Boise automatically assumed because they lived here ... it must kind of suck compared to what's bigger and better. And then they got out there in the world and discovered, 'Oh, you know what? Boise's got a pretty good scene.'"

Local government and businesses have certainly been more amenable to Treefort than they were to Dunnigan in the '80s. In a recent interview, Gilbert noted the support that the festival has received from Mayor Dave Bieter's administration, as well as the Boise City Department of Arts and History. He added that many businesses not located near the Treefort venues have donated food. These include the food co-op Idaho's Bounty, which has agreed to give its excess produce to restaurants contributing to Treefort.

"They don't have increased business, but they see the festival as something that's contributing to a macro rise in the community," he said.

Unofficial support systems for Treefort have also arisen. In February 2013, Treefort marketing director Megan Stoll created the Facebook group "Shacking at Treefort: Fans, Bands and Press" as a way for out-of-town artists to cut down on touring expenses and experience the festival beyond their sets. The group, which now has more than 350 members, allows people to work out traveling arrangements, find places to stay and, occasionally, set up house shows.

Stoll created the group on her own to prevent Treefort from being liable for any incidents that may occur. She monitors it, though, and participates in it sometimes.

"I even have a guy this year who's camping in my front yard," she said, laughing.


If Treefort is a megaphone, as Wes Malvini described it, it's being heard in quite a few places. Pre-Treefort concerts have sprung up this year in Portland, Ore.; Seattle; Missoula, Mont.; Salt Lake City and Moscow. While the shows have Treefort's approval and feature bands which have played or will play the festival, nearly all of them were organized with little or no input from Gilbert (the exception is a March 16 show in Seattle featuring local group Hollow Wood and Seattle group Friends and Family, which Gilbert said he was "a little more directly involved in").

The Salt Lake City pre-party, a two-day event at the Barrel Room, was organized by Psych Lake City, a promotion company run by Kyle Wilcox from the band Dark Seas and Tcoy from the band Max Pain and the Groovies. While Gilbert suggested it and put him in touch with touring groups, Wilcox set up the pre-party mostly on his own.

"It's good to spread the word of Treefort down here," Wilcox said. "It's a close commute; it's not far for people from Salt Lake to travel up there."

Setting up events like this also "helps grow our scene and bring a lot of good bands in. And the better bands you bring in and the more bands you bring in, it builds the music scene here."

Brett Hawkins, who plays drums for Sun Blood Stories and fronts Ancient Psychic Tandem War Elephant, sees Treefort accelerating the growth of the local scene, too. He moved to Boise from Idaho Falls in 2009, immersing himself in the "unfiltered, raw shit going on" in the house show scene.

"Things kind of died for a while, it seemed like," Hawkins said, "but now, there's this huge revival of people who are just pushing and not just trying to be in a band to play this style of music or this style of music."

Instead, he sees more people making music "for the rewarding aspect of creation."

Doc Woolf sees this as well when he handles sound at The Crux's Monday open mic. "A lot of young people and even not-so-young people are getting into the music scene and really mixing it up," he said. "You've got a hip-hop artist sitting down, exchanging information with a country-folk singer."

Others are finding their way in the post-Treefort music scene. Cameron Andreas toyed with the idea of relocating to Boise from Twin Falls, but he didn't know if there'd be a place for the kind of "psychedelic pop" that he wanted to make ("I thought maybe everything was kind of all Built to Spill-ish," he said). Then he attended Treefort 2012.

"The first year of Treefort was huge," Andreas said, "I came up from Twin and saw all these bands that I'd never even heard of that were from Boise like Teens and Wolvserpent. And it was just like, 'Whoa, I thought wrong. I don't know why I felt discouraged at all about this place.'"

Although it took Andreas some time to get established in the Boise scene, he managed to secure his own showcase at Treefort 2013, which featured Wolvserpent, Canadian duo Menace Ruine and Seattle drone doom band Earth. He has another showcase at this year's Treefort with ultra-raunchy San Francisco, Calif., punk band The Dwarves headlining. He has also started his own label, WavePOP.

Frankie Tillo of the young psychedelic blues band Virgil (formerly Ronnie and the Reagans) said that he started hearing about Treefort "as soon as we started gigging [in Idaho Falls]. The second gig, someone was like, 'You guys should look into playing Boise.'"

The band stuck around Idaho Falls for a short time, playing 30 gigs during the summer of 2013. When the DIY venue The Wax House closed and the town's scene started to crumble, Boise was the logical place to go.

"There seems to be a scene [here] and people care about it," Tillo said. "And you attract people who are driven, which is very important."

Kristy Scott, who performs as the haunting sadcore act Starlings Murmurations, is one of those people. She moved from Seattle to Boise almost three years ago, hoping to take advantage of the lower cost of living and focus more on her art. While she doesn't think there's much of an audience here for her kind of music right now, she feels that Treefort has opened a space for broader musical appreciation.

"It feels like being part of a movement that's gaining momentum," she said.

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