Even the mightiest of bands can be traced back to humble origins, teenagers strumming guitars on a street corner or cranking amps in a garage. One such Boise band, My Paper Camera, began as an acoustic duo in 2006 started by Trevor Powers and Erik Eastman who were juniors in high school at the time. Since then, the indie-pop outfit has toured the Northwest, released an EP and even appeared in Alternative Press magazine.
"We continually try to make short-term goals, ask what we need to do to get one step closer towards making this a full-time job," said Eastman. As the Boise music scene grows, success for young bands is often found through a process of finding a place to play, establishing a name in the community and eventually taking the show on the road.
Pop-punk may have seen its zenith in the late '90s, but for 3rd to Last, a foursome of Centennial high-schoolers, power-chord riffs are far from over. Among bands of other genres, 3rd to Last has found another element important for success: support.
"We were playing a show when our guitarist Dave Kim broke a guitar string. The guy from Ripchain, a metal/hard rock band, ran up there with his Les Paul and let Dave use it. It's cool that genres can cross and be friends like that," said Aaron Kochman, the band's other guitarist.
Both fellow musicians and a fan following can make Boise an accommodating scene for aspiring musicians. Logan Hyde, founder of We Won The Science Fair, has seen his band flourish despite member turnover and a Mormon mission taking his original bandmate.
"I feel like you get a lot more accepted here, not only because you're locals, but because there's more people willing to listen to different types of bands," said Hyde. Like many local bands, We Won the Science Fair and 3rd to Last got their start playing shows at the Venue, Boise's only all-ages club.
"You kind of have to build your own name before you can even try to play places like the Knitting Factory. The Venue helps out bands so much, letting them play their first show," said Hyde.
"We're there for a reason: We're there for the kids," said Jaclyn Brandt, marketing and media manager for the Venue. "We're an alcohol-free, safe place for kids to spend a night. We could make more money, but it's not about that," said Brandt.
While the larger Knitting Factory features many well-known touring acts, general manager Ryan Collis tries to keep the stage open to locals, too.
"We're actively pursuing local bands that are ready to start playing the bigger stage. When we do shows with a younger demographic obviously we sell less alcohol but we don't really do it looking to make a huge profit. If I can make enough money to turn the lights on and pay my staff, then it's more just about the exposure for the bands," said Collis. If a band can draw a crowd, eventually Collis can set them up as an opening act for a touring group.
One of the newest bands to enter the scene is a group of Timberline and Boise High sophomores called Workin' On Fire. The brainchild of guitarist/singer Austin Williamson, his band has performed an impressive 18 gigs in three-and-a-half months--the math works out to a show a week, a tall order for a band also busy with sports and school. Increasingly popular, they attribute some success to their appeal beyond the high-school crowd.
The demographics of a venue often dictate who will go to a show. A drawback for bands that exclusively play the youth-oriented Venue is the limited age demographics--the average show is filled with teenagers, a smattering of 20-somethings and the occasional parent. As concert-goers age, it can get increasingly awkward being the oldest person in the audience.
Variety in music also can also draw new crowds. The BoDo Brothers are two Timberline seniors kindling a blues scene in Boise. With Patrick O'Hara on guitar and Nick Berlin behind the drums, the duo competed in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn., this fall, championing a genre little heard locally.
"The scene has to be slightly eclectic. If there's not variety people don't want to go out and spend their money regularly," said Collis.
But even with a unique sound and a varied crowd, Boise still has its limitations.
"You can be the best band in the world, but you're in Boise. You only have so many people to play to and no way to get any sort of deal unless you're outside. You have to tour," said Brandt.
But before they get on the road, bands need to understand one key term: professionalism. Collis receives two to three e-mails each day from aspiring bands.
"The easiest way to get your foot in the door with me is to be professional. If you send me an e-mail, make it grammatically correct. Have a Myspace page. Have all your ducks in a row," said Collis. Myspace takes on an importance beyond social networking.
"When we book shows, we check your Myspace. If it sounds like you recorded in your bathtub, how much effort are you putting into this project?" said Brandt. "I would say that three of the best bands in town these days are My Paper Camera, We Won the Science Fair and Apple Horse. They're three of the hardest-working bands, completely talented and all really young."
With an abundance of new bands, what will come next remains to be seen.
"We're not as big as Salt Lake City or Portland or Austin, but it's only going to grow from here. I would say 10 years from now, the music scene in Boise will look nothing like it is now," said Collis.