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Roots, Branches, Sprouts & Seeds 

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

Page 4 of 4

Growing Pains

It there is a movement going on, not everyone in the Boise scene has felt like part of it.

"Feedback from some artists has been, 'Why can't I be involved? Why can't I be part of it, too?'" observed promoter Seth Brown. "People actively want to be part of [Treefort], and if there's anything negative, it's because people are sad that they weren't selected."

Or if they were selected, they weren't scheduled at venues or at times that would attract much attention. Ryan Sampson had that complaint, which led him to hold the all-local Treehouse of Horrors at Sammy's on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights during Treefort 2013.

"And the cool part of it was it caught [Eric Gilbert's] attention," said Sampson. "It took nothing flat for him to realize what I was doing. ... He actually looked at it as extending [the spirit of Treefort]. He appreciated what I was doing." (It may be worth noting that three bands that played the Treehouse of Horrors--Piranhas BC, Upinatem and Marshall Poole--are part of this year's Treefort lineup).

Complaints have also arisen over the radius clause in the Treefort contract, which prevents bands from playing in town before or after the festival for a certain length of time. John Pisano, who ran Old Boise Guitar Company for 26 years and performs as Johnny Shoes, looks at this clause philosophically.

"I couldn't afford not to play anywhere else in town for a month," he said. But he noted that "it does make a lot of sense for musicians who are coming in from somewhere else. Obviously, if a musician's coming in from somewhere else, they're not here all the time, so it's a special event."

But Treefort is a work in progress, Pisano said. "There's always going to be growing pains," he added.

Planting Seeds

As popular as Treefort has become, associating with it may not guarantee a financial profit.

The Bricofort vendors and food trucks that provided information on sales during Treefort 2013 varied widely in their experiences. The City of Trees sold out the special Treefort edition of its Boise skyline T-shirt. Archie's Place grossed between $4,000-$5,000, which amounted to a solid profit even after band meals, truck fees and other costs.

On the other hand, Chris Titus of Rolling Hawg sent an email stating that he only managed to break even after labor costs, noting that "the No. 1 thing that set the volume of sales for each food truck was location. The food trucks who were inside the main venue close to the beer tent did very well. The food trucks that were staged around the Linen Building and Modern Hotel did not fair [sic] as well due to less traffic."

No one had any complaints about the music, though. Radio Boise DJ Psycache Ziran wrote that he sold little of his Gypsy Lovers Designs leather jewelry at Bricofort.

"That said," he added, "I have noticed a palpable difference in the music scene in Boise over the last couple years, and I believe Treefort is an important catalyst in this phenomenon."

In "Bug" Burke's view, the changes to the Boise scene over the past three years haven't all been positive.

"I guess I came from a scene where there was a lot of people working on one thing and maybe a lot of people working on one other thing and that's about it," he said. "Now there's a lot of little different things, a lot of different promoters and a lot of different bands, and they're all trying to grab the cheese. Which, to me, makes it not as fun." Attendance and earnings for a given show could be less "because there's so many shows and so many people. I think it's weakening the scene."

But Doc Woolf argues otherwise: "In my opinion, I think it's a great thing for Boise when there's too much going on and you can't decide which show to go to," he said. "That just goes to show how much good music is in the Valley."

As for Treefort itself, the festival organizers lost money in 2012 and 2013, but Megan Stoll said they consider the loss "more of an investment," noting that it can take three to four years before a festival starts to break even (not including past expenditures).

Gilbert added that he regards it as "normal for any business, any festival. Especially because we want to do production right." This can include bringing extra sound equipment to different venues, which he and his associates consider worth the cost.

Regardless of what happens to the Tree past this point, the seeds may already be planted.

"Treefort has definitely done its job in making Boise music-aware," Andreas said. "So I guess that is its main importance. It has brought many people together, many like minds and musicians and artists together. I think that it already has done its job."

For a full schedule of acts, Forts and venues, plus times and prices, visit treefortmusicfest.com.

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