Music

Seth Brown's New Row

The struggle to maintain Farmer Brown's, the hippie hangout of choice

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In 1914, the Brown family purchased a 17-acre plot of land at the corner of Star Road and Chinden Boulevard. Four generations later, Seth Brown finds himself in a race against the clock to save the farm as heirs to the land—which include siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles—other than Brown have opted to put it up for sale.

"The ownership of land isn't as appealing as cash," Brown said.

Fortunately for Brown, a flailing real estate market has bought him some time to continue being an event organizer. In fact, other than his love for his family's land, Brown says passion is his primary motivation for logging the hours and fronting the out-of-pocket expenses it takes to pull off the daunting task of organizing the slew of concerts, festivals and after-parties at the farm that have become an expected mainstay in what Brown calls "the heady [music] scene."

Brown, a sincere and genuine fellow, has a seemingly altruistic interest in the good times of others and a degree in marketing. It makes him the perfect man for the job. The events that Farmer Brown's has had a hand in include the annual Eagle Island After Experience, the Out-of-Town-Get-Down, Hyde Park Hyde Out, and the full-moon drum circles that have been happening for more than 10 years with help from Drum Central. The monthly to bi-monthly concerts have featured both local and touring bands including Built to Spill and, most recently, famous funksters Albino.

A typical show at Farmer Brown's can be an exhilarating experience. A palpable sense of community and freedom are engendered through the anything-goes events. Dreadlocked dancers often twirl fire in intricate patterns as a circle of partygoers provides the beat with djembes and hand drums. And, unlike an impromptu late-night gathering, at Farmer Brown's the amenities are provided. A guest making the initial walk from the parking lot to the barn will pass portable toilets, food and coffee vendors and a bonfire. The barn itself is the epicenter. It's where the bands play and where the beer is sold. The music in the barn generally lasts from sundown to sunup with the bands playing their scheduled slots until the wee hours of the morning when anyone and everyone is invited to take the stage and jam. Most open-jams tend to stay on one chord for extended periods of time and often involve some very intoxicated participants. The jams are always entertaining to watch and even more fun to engage in. And there's always at least one reveler willing to stay up all night and twirl to the music.

Of course, all-night parties come with a big set of issues. In the earlier days of Farmer Brown's, there was experimentation with different genres of music and, therefore, different crowds at the farm. Realizing the potential to capitalize on Boise's large punk and metal scene, Brown offered up his venue, hoping for a positive outcome.

"A group of high-school kids wanted to hold raves," Brown said. "They promised no drugs or drinking."

Not surprisingly, that was not the case. Brown's neighbors complained. There was a general disrespect for the property, not to mention a proliferation of drunk teenagers. The police now make regular visits, apparently concerned about the presence of drugs, underage drinking and drunk driving. Brown makes sure to have the necessary permits, and people checking IDs at the bar, which is a sectioned-off area within the barn.

Even in light of some of the problems he's had, Brown is open to having events other than jam-band concerts, including weddings and office parties. He just wants the people involved to manage their trash and not break any laws. Brown encourages partyers who have been drinking to either stay the night or call what would probably be a very expensive cab. In an attempt to further curb drunk driving, Brown is currently looking for a biodiesel bus to cart party people from downtown Boise to the farm and back.

When Brown talks about the farm, it's clear there is a great deal of sacrifice and that the entire enterprise is a delicate balance to maintain. Brown said his favorite show was the Widespread Panic after-party with Equaleyes and Frame of Mind in one breath and says guests who bring their own beer are his greatest challenge in keeping Farmer Brown's open in the next. He waxed philosophical about "creating community through music, the universal language," and then said, realizing that it's all about the numbers, and that most ventures are a stretch to break even.

But, Brown isn't in it all by himself. There is an ever-growing number of volunteers and a demographic that counts Farmer Brown's as an important aspect of their social lives. They know they will always be among friends even if they go alone, and they're not likely to leave Farmer Brown's without some new ones.

Amid all the uncertainty, Brown still keeps an eye on the future. He's always open to new ideas to utilize the space. The next step might be a farmers market and co-op, a good fit for the place known for holding hippie, heady jam music festivals.

Farmer Brown's, 8025 W. Chinden Blvd. (corner of Star and Chinden), 208-286-9319.

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