by Josh Gross
It's official, Treefort is now something of a holiday: a time to celebrate and value live music. Bands that play to empty rooms the other 51 weeks of the year played to packed and rapt audiences eager for more. People were for the most part fully committed to the entire experience. "Happy Treefort," was even a common phrase to hear passed around over the last four days, as if we all understood without it being said that it was now a citywide celebration.
And though many wristband-holders were coming down with a mean case of Treefort Fever (the cumulative hangovers of the last three days) the final day of the festival showed once again that live music is something worth celebrating.
Boise's Grandma Kelsey played a fantastic set at The Crux, including some of the songs from her "love letters" project, which is based off the letters fans have left as part of her performance shrine. Originally, Kelsey said she had considered burying the letters in a time capsule, but decided instead to make them into songs.
"This one's for the ladies," Kelsey said. "Thanks for being wonderful, strong women, sometimes with whiskey and sometimes without."
Youth Lagoon's festival-stage debut of its new lineup was also a strong performance that served as a test run for the band's next gig: Coachella. (Though I can't be the only person who was wondering what was up with frontman Trevor Powers' dashiki stage garb.)
Another odd getup—part of the joy of live music—came courtesy of Spencer Sanders, frontman for Boise rock band The Gunfighters. With a bright red bandanna on his head and an antique dagger on his belt, Saunders looked like a pirate. But the band was more focused and powerful than I've ever heard it before, especially on the newer material Saunders has written since emerging from a coma several months ago. Those songs are introspective and buoyant with bold harmonies and flowing arrangements. And they'd be all the better if Saunders ditched the dagger instead of waving it around onstage. For someone who dresses as a friend of mine described as "hipster Indiana Jones," perhaps he should become acquainted with the phrase "it belongs in a museum."
From there I jetted across the street to get into Neurolux in time for Emily Wells, a smart move as the show was packed.
The downside of planning ahead was having to suffer through Shy Girls, the whitest Barry White music ever. In these times of scarce resources and renewed focus on recycling, shouldn't we work to melt down all existing Kenny G-style alto saxophones to make into something less painful for audiences? Like a doorknob?
Where is a volcano in need of a sacrifice when you need one?
It was worth it though. Wells' set was one of the most enchanting of the entire festival. A classically trained violinist, Wells uses a series of live loops, sample pads and acoustic drums to make rich and haunting neo-gospel with layers of strings and vocal harmonies.
Though it ran over time, her set was so well-received that Wells was sent back onstage to do an encore, a nearly unheard of act on a festival timeline.
The only downside was "that awkward moment" when hundreds of people fell head over heels in love with her at once.
From there I rolled down to Red Room to catch Teens and see how the Boise garage-rockers would follow up on last year's Treefort set, which barely left the Red Room standing.
"I've been dreading this set all week," owner Mitch Thompson told me as he watched the audience storm the stage to join the band.
But things were a bit different this year. Heads were being counted at the door, meaning that filling the stage emptied the floor, and there was an attempt to hold the audience back from the band a little bit.
Still it didn't take long for cables to break and mics to be kicked over. By the end of the set, the soundman had turned off the PA entirely and a series of pipes had been torn from the ceiling.
The audience then emptied into the street, either on their way to Dan Deacon's DJ set at The Linen Building or home to the warmth and comfort of a hard-earned sleep.
Doing holidays right is a full-body experience.