By: Meghan Kearney

It has been a week since I returned home, exhausted, from this magical land called Treefort Music Festival. I returned home with a flu unlike any other – perhaps my body’s spiteful punishment for a premature return to reality. As I begin to sift through all of my memories, moments, artists new and old, new venues, new friends, and the world’s best bloody mary – I’ve accepted in defeat that this write-up will not even begin to capture the full spirit of the musical community that Boise has so artfully championed.

It went something like this…

We started out strong and headed straight to the music upon arrival early Thursday evening. I first hit the all-ages venue, Mardis Gras, catching the tail end of Oregon band Holiday Friends for the first time (and will be looking for more shows from these guys), into Boise’s Hollow Wood. A much younger persona than I had anticipated from their sound, these very young, talented, and locally-worshiped gents wasted no time showing us what the Boise community had to offer. Bouncing around town, I ended the night at a tiny arcade/venue/skatepark to a small but amped up crowd for the equally amped up (to put it lightly) Divers. “It’s been a long time since we’ve played Boise” lead singer, Harrison Rapp, announced. “We actually played this very stage in 1995. There’s a poster on the wall” he pointed, before you got it… shredding the Shredder.

Friday started off a party, with a trip to the Party Boyz showcase and the best bloody mary I have ever had at the divey, Neurolux. Hometown faces Moon By You and WEEED from Bainbridge Island, WA went better with the bloody than a plate of biscuits and gravy (And yo, I LOVE biscuits and gravy). A short stop at Spacebar, Boise’s super-hip barcade (art/deco to rival PDX’s famous Ground Kontrol) for some spinning vinyl before catching not-going-to-call-them-emo rockers Weatherbox. Talk about super fans. This band had to have the most passionate audience of the whole fest – every mouth in the room singing along to every. single. word.


Kyle Craft at the Gritty Birds Podcast showcase

Saturday started with another wonderful showcase from Portland’s Gritty Birds Podcast. I caught German group The Roaring 420s, Sarah Bethe Nelson, and Kyle Craft (this guy had some seriously thought provoking, poetic lyrics, and a pretty poetic hair-do to boot. Made me think Portland had raised its own little Ryan Adams, but blonde) before rushing over for a Main Stage Rad City set. The evening took me on a sprint leading to my first time seeing YACHT live, the return of beloved drummer Papi Fimbres – tellin’ dirty jokes and tearin’ up the stage at The Olympic Theatre with Máscaras, straight into back to back wild dance parties from Mystery Skulls & French Horn Rebellion.

On the final day, near losing steam – we re-forted at Brunch Fort, poutine covered in sausage, bacon, syrup and a sunny-side-up egg charged my battery faster than the lithiums that Super Groovy Cosmic Bus & Gritty Birds Podcast were toting around combined [;)].


French Horn Rebellion

The brunch, plus a little roll through Ale Fort to sample some of Boise’s best, kicked off a packed day at the Main Stage. Back-to-back sets from Y La Bamba, Chanti Darling, Play Date, Deep Sea Diver, Chairlift, a quick sprint over to The Lower 48, and right back for my favorite set of the fest [see more below]. With literally nothing left in me, I returned to my home base, Neurolux, for some late night bloody marys and a seat at the old people table to sit-dance down the very last seconds of one incredible weekend and a wild YACHT DJ set.

Between all the forts, the poutine, the Pie Hole, and the damn finest cup of coffee (Neckar Coffee) I’ve ever had, a handful of unmentioned-above moments stood out. Superlative time!


Best Unofficial Set

Matt Sheehy, Sarah Fennell (Lost Lander) + Sean Flinn | Browsing Instagram like ya do on day two I scrolled past a post from Portland’s Lost Lander “pop-up set at Treefort tomorrow” BOOM. Schedule instantly rearranged. Lost Lander was one of the first local bands I was introduced to after moving to Portland, and played a major roll in helping me fall in love with this city and the idea of a scene, in general. Their Treefort pop-up set took place and Camp Modern, an intimate makeshift campfire-turned-stage outside the Modern Hotel. A circle full of enthused familiar faces joined Lost Lander’s Matt & Sarah + Sean Flinn for a mixed playlist of each other’s songs. This was needles to say, quite a treat. I propped myself right up in front like a fan girl and drifted away to sweet tunes under a cold, grey sky. IMG_20160327_143720


Best Anticipated

Christopher Willits | If you read my preview, I’m happy to say Christopher Willits was even better than I had expected. Expecting a regular, mellow set, I got way more than I bargained for. Moreso a fully immersive experience, his set took place in an old theater with a movie screen behind and a small equipment table in the direct center. Most humbly and child-like levels of joyful to be with us, Willits explained his performance – looping ambient sounds he’d manipulate through his guitar. Half the set were songs from the documentary film “The Art of Listening,” which Willits soundtracked, the other half from his record OPENING “which is my favorite thing I’ve ever created” he shared with a grin and a namaste bow. Visuals, also developed by Willits played along behind him – scenes of flowers, mountains, clouds, and bees. It was 90 minutes of pure dreaming.

His DJ set the following night was a fun flip of the coin. “At first it was like a high school dance in here!” he shared with me post-set referencing the 10 or so people in their own little dance bubbles at the beginning. It didn’t take long before the room filled and I found myself holding hands with strangers, in a circle, unconventionally dancing all together to a string of Ghostly artists, down-tempo beats, and as I had wished a handful of Tycho snippets including the Com Truise “Awake” remix which made everyone (but mostly me) lose their minds.


Best Unanticipated

Thee Oh Sees | For a band that is so beloved to most of my friends, and has played locally so many times, this was my first time seeing Thee Oh Sees live. I had no idea I would enjoy myself, and come so close to breaking my own neck rocking out, so much. The giant, hall-style room at El Korah Shrine was packed to the brim, humid and sweaty. Mosh pits formed in the center. And one dude even climbed onto the speaker and took a stage dive directly onto the floor. (Don’t worry, same dude later spotted crowd surfing, face and teeth in tact). Loud, rough, and wild – Thee Oh Sees knocked the wind right out of me. 

Best New Find

Magic Sword | Never heard of the name; didn’t have a clue what this band was. All I knew was they were at “The Campfire Stage” – a small, acoustic-inviting stage within the Main Stage area, prior to YACHT. LIES. After seeing nothing at the campfire stage I wandered back over to the Main before I heard a cripplingly frightening voice boom out of thin air about evil and power and magical weapons. Truly thought Lord Voldermort had swooped down to Avada Kadavra us, before noticing a stage betrothed in metal swords and two masked, hooded figures. A number of light sabers were now spread out throughout the crowd. Before I knew it, grimy electronic dance beats implored the crowd to fight evil, and a giant glowing spider and allied dragonflies floated through the stage gates. Wow. This actually happened.


Best Revisit

Geographer | If I had to make a list of the most beautiful live vocals I’ve ever witnessed, Geographer’s Michael Deni would swirl around in the top 3. It must be difficult to sing while trying to hold back the tiny angels trying to escape one’s mouth. I had to climb up onto a chair to witness the beauty that was Geographer’s entrancing set. Playing mostly older tracks, with what I believe was an entire new backing band since I last caught Geographer – strings and beauty once again sent my heart fluttering.

Best Dance Party

Jai Wolf | I went into this set based on liking the one track, “Indian Summer” Jai Wolf has up on Spotify. “Very Odesza-y” I jotted in my daily to-see list. The venue for Jai Wolf’s set was packed wall-to-wall and immediately upon taking the stage, the crowd went nuts. This guy was clearly loved by many. Didn’t take long to figure out why. From the very start Jai Wolf was spinning perfectly blended mixes of artist after artist that 1. I loved, and 2. I don’t typically hear all strung together in such a digestible and rowdy dance party. From Grimes, to k.flay, to Odesza and capping off his set with “Indian Summer” I’m now in love with the Jai Wolf dance party.


Best Moment

Band Dialogue | Treefort vets mentioned this strange thing to me prior to the fest, I really didn’t understand what it was. I thought it was going to be some sort of panel with musicians. WRONG. Or at least slightly… Come to find out “Band Dialogue” was not conversations with musicians, but a conversation between instruments, played by musicians. Guesstimating about 50 or so artists with varied instruments circled around half a city block with energetic conductor, Seth Olinsky, leading the pack. As Seth held up sheets of white paper with different chords printed upon them, pointing from side to side, what ensued was a surprisingly beautiful wave of sound, and a crowd of hundreds watching in total awe.

Best Set

Youth Lagoon | I had a feeling I’d walk away from this fest feeling all of the feels for all of time about being a part of Youth Lagoon’s near-final set ever right in his hometown. I was right. Right from the start, the emotion in the crowd was unspoken, but contagious. A giant aura of connectedness, sadness, and excitement filled the air as Trevor Powers took the stage and you could feel the same radiating from him. Switching from kneeling before his own beautiful keys, to flailing around the stage, there was a clear difference between this set and this last time I saw YL (Sasquatch, 2013). Trevor was giving every last ounce of YL he had in his entire being to this set. “As some of you may know, this is one of the last Youth Lagoon shows” Trevor paused to remind us. Met with boos and noooos, he reassured us, “But it’s a good thing.” Holding his beer in the air he screamed “cheers to evolution…cheers to the future!” and the crowd followed suit with an eruption of supportive screams. So many feels were running through me, so many goosebumps-filled moments, and so many tears pouring out of me through my personal favorite, the heartbreaking yet inspiring “July.” Through old and new faves like “Cannons,” “Kerry,” “Mute,” and a beautiful encore of “17” it was such a wonderful thing to sing along with Boise and Trevor for this epic farewell to Youth Lagoon. Onwards ol’ Trevor.

For all who weren’t there, the cameras were set up capture this iconic moment. If you’ve got an hour, here ya go:


I sit at home in Portland now wondering how to possibly send the proper love letter over to Boise and everyone involved in making Treefort what it is. As one of many who annualy mourns the death of the old Music Fest Northwest, it was such a refreshing dream to share this locally-based wonderland of music, food, art, and so much more with our Eastern neighbors.  With that, I bid Treefort adieu and a whole world of thanks as I begin counting down the days until 2017.