by Josh Gross
Hot on the heels of the announcement that experimental pop supahstahs Animal Collective will headline, Treefort Music Fest officially launched its second year of existence Jan. 18 with a special concert in the Riverside Hotel's Saphhire Room, featuring the live debut of DJ Lamont Kohner, Shades and Denver band Flashlights.
The sold-out audience milled around the hotel lobby and bar at the beginning of the show, listening to DJs from the Vinyl Preservation Society.
But once Lamont Kohner got started, the audience moved into the swanky lounge. It's multiple levels and dim blue lighting from crystal-like fixtures gave serious atmosphere. It certainly didn't hurt that the lads from Anti-Magic were doing video projections on a screen behind the stage.
What did hurt was that Kohner had the stage presence of boiled cabbage. His trip-hop beats were great backing music, but he mixed them from a seated position behind a desk on stage.
"Want to know how to be a performer instead of a DJ," a man at the bar said. "Stand up."
After Kohner, came Boise's chillwavers-in-chief, Shades.
Shades frontman Tom Racine was in unusually peppy form, bouncing and lurching around the stage and singing with gusto, a big change for a low-key performer who has in the past worn a mask onstage to conquer anxiety.
Then he threw it all away when he started pelvic thrusting his keyboard. Two girls in the front thought it was hysterical, though.
But what thunder comes from chillwave was brought by the headlining act, two-man synth-pop outfit Flashlights.
"The lights are off. No one's watching you. So get the fuck down," said singer Ethan Converse.
The crowd didn't mind if they did, gently shaking bookies and heinies alike to the bottom-rumbling bottom end and peppy dance beats.
Converse layered smooth melodies on top, turning what could easily have been genaric laptop music into polished pop songs. It lacked the stage presence that comes with a full band, but backed by the visuals of Anti-Magic, it still worked well enough for several girls to jump onstage and start "twerking."
"You can stay," Converse said after the song finished.
They were joined by more dancers as the set went on. When it came time for the final song, Converse invited as many people as would fit onstage to dance with them.
"Are the lights still off?" he said. "Then get up here."
So the audience piled on, and when Flashlights finished, demanded one more. Converse went on the Net to download the tracks for another song.
"Now we're really out of stuff to play," he said.
The crowd piled out through the doors and back to cars and hotel parties.
Treefort season is now officially open.
Perhaps next year, it can start with Artistic Director Eric Gilbert howling from the steps of the Capitol.