The El Korah Shrine, which might be the only place on earth where you can you review portraits of 60 years of El Korah Grand Potentates as you wait for indie band YACHT to start, or watch Built to Spill do a sound check while a 65-year-old Shriner grandpa poses for a picture with a full-sized stuffed animal gorilla with a fez. This year the Shriners figured out hipsters get hungry after a night of indie rock and served breakfast from midnight to 4 AM, in the wood-paneled Shrine Oasis Bar on the first floor. El Korah is also home to the most beloved women’s room in the west, also known as…
Even though it is now four years old, and attracting known top shelf indie acts, Boise’s Treefort Music Festival still works hard to earn your affection. There’s a lot to love, too. Gleaned from a week on site, here are my top ten things about Treefort.
Ladyfort. Oh sure, there are the “official” sub-forts (Yogafort, Hackfort, Skatefort,…), but women who venture into the first floor restroom at the El Korah Shrine, unofficially dubbed “Ladyfort,” are transported into the1980s home of their great aunt. There are only two tiny stalls, but there’s a large rose-covered anteroom with a huge mirror and more upholstered lounge chairs than bathroom stalls. Some of the best conversations at Treefort happen here (sorry, fellas).
Familiar AND new music – Treefort is now big enough to attract big indie names like Sharon Jones or Of Montreal (and of course locals Built To Spill), but team Treefort is courageous enough to give new bands a shot. This year I became newly smitten with Detroit’s Black Milk, a hiphop act with compelling, socially-aware lyrics and killer funk beats.
It’s walkable – there will probably never be a subway in Boise, or even a thriving bus system, but it doesn’t matter for Treefort. Though the venues are distributed throughout downtown, they’re all easy to walk to, and on the way from one venue to the next, if you’re lucky, you might even spot…
Giant puppets (and other costume randomness). Last year giant finger monsters danced on stage with Dan Deacon. This year a two-story, glowing squid paid homage to !!! (the band). Bears, bunnies, and clowns all make the guest list at Treefort shows.
Chill bands. It’s not Austin or Seattle, it’s Boise. No band is worried about getting signed or generating buzz. Bands get plenty of free local food and massive love from the community. At Treefort it’s not just the audiences screaming “I love you!” Bands say it too.
Cheap food and drink. There are no $14 cans of Budweiser being sold at Treefort. All the beer is local, and most are $5 on draft. There’s a fabulous food truck zone outside the main stage, or you can get a fine eggs benedict or spicy lamb burger for $9 at a nearby local restaurant.
It’s all one big happy family. I ran into Seattle band Sisters at another venue the day after their gig and we all gushed about the band Thunderpussy, who was playing there. The next day, as my friends and I sipped our bloody marys and dug into our plates of hash browns, we watched musicians stumble out of local restaurants wearing rumpled plaids and with hair tumbling out of their man-buns.
It’s stubbornly independent. There are no corporate sponsors at Treefort. There are no exclusive tented lounges for Starbucks frequent shoppers, and no glossy iWatch ads in the printed Treefort guide. This makes it much more like a giant party with all of your friends.
It’s safe – No, I’m not talking about guns (but this being Idaho, I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to find someone with a gun), I’m talking about the time someone was walking out of a venue that I was entering, looked at me, said “I know you, you’re the one who hates Shel Silverstein,” and handed me their half-empty beer to finish. I have no idea why he said that (I don’t, in fact, hate Mr. Silverstein, but I am a fan of free beer), but I handed the beer to my up-for-anything friend John, who happily polished it off and suffered no ill consequences (beyond his hangover the next day). A short time later, we noticed an apparently abandoned slice of cheese pizza on a paper plate and John ate that, too.