by Tara Morgan
There was a little something magic in the air on the first night of the Treefort Music Fest. Grinning throngs of music lovers shuffled from venue to venue, beaming about the bands they had just seen and how great it was to see downtown Boise so vibrant on a Thursday night.
At 6 p.m., the fest shot off like a gun. And in this metaphor, the trigger was Boise band Finn Riggins, which played an explosive set at Neurolux. According to Boise Weekly’s Andrew Crisp, the Neurolux door guy pulled out his iPhone, and with a decibel meter app recorded that the place was rocking at 93 decibels, on par with the volume of a lawnmower.
Though the majority of the audience filtered out after Finn Riggins, those who stayed behind were greeted by Baltimore musician Dustin Wong, a sweater-wearing one-man band who creates a sound thick with complexity, using nothing more than an electric guitar, his voice and almost a dozen loop, delay and distortion pedals.
At The Crux, Boise act Grandma Kelsey, aka Kelsey Swope, took the stage before the altar she brings to each performance. It was especially large, featuring antlers, skulls, candles, pictures and an elephant sculpture. Swope channeled a '50s soul singer: "It's awful to be so youthful," she sang.
Over at the Linen Building, Boise’s Grand Falconer played a house packed to the gills, spilling out oozanaahs with all the gumption it could muster.
Next up was Pullman, Wash. Americana/gothic rockers Buffalo Death Beam, which paired rootsy instrumentation with gloomy guitar riffs creating sprawling arrangements of vocal harmonies and drum builds that dodged the traditional back-and-forth, verse-chorus-verse-chorus song structure of folk music altogether.
Seattle’s Pickwick steered the Americana ship right into blues-tinged neo-soul territory. Lead crooner Galen Disston, with his white boy fro puff, wailed into the mic backed up by a band of indie kids that churned out Motown-worthy pop.
Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside wrapped up the evening by cranking up the vintage rock ’n’ roll. After a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Oh, Boy,” Ford segued into a new track that included the line, “I can drink and I can yell and I can raise some hell.” Damn straight she can.
Down the block at Red Room, Loch Lomond performed a set of fragile, atmospheric indie rock. The six-piece band from Portland, Ore., moved gracefully from dreamy and sweet moods to tense and brooding.
Next, Dinosaur Feathers took the energy up a notch with a set of high-powered rock 'n' roll. The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based four-piece worked together as a single locked-in unit, harnessing the power of its four instruments to create full and dense indie rock.
By the middle of its set, the Red Room reached full capacity, and it remained completely full for the evening’s headliner: Mr. Gnome.
The duo crushed the crowd with a high-powered drum-and-guitar assault. Lead singer Nicole Barille moved back and forth between a distorted, muffled microphone, and a mild reverb enhanced mic—giving her voice added versatility. Drummer Sam Meister produced incredibly ferocious rhythms, riding the cymbals constantly and just about destroying the snare drum with his hard smacks.
Reno, Nev.’s Buster Blue capped off the evening with an acoustic set on the Pie Hole patio, wrapped in a warm crowd of pizza- and beer-consuming fans. You can check out a video of that performance below.
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Check back tomorrow for a wrap-up of Treefort day two festivities.