Opinion » Note

Rock 'n' Rally

Where Bernie Sanders and Treefort Music Fest collide


There are precious few perks to being in the news business, but a big one is getting access to events like the recent rally for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Treefort Music Fest, which kicks off its fifth year this week.

Unofficial estimates put the Sanders crowd, which gathered March 21 to hear the fuzzy haired firebrand at Taco Bell Arena, at about 7,000 people. Meanwhile, Treefort 2015 brought in 14,000 to downtown Boise for music, technology, beer, stories and more.

It might seem odd to conflate the two events, but walking the floor at the Sanders rally brought to mind nothing less than a rock concert. In my unscientific, unsubstantiated and entirely unprovable estimate, the median age in the arena was around 25 years old. Sanders was easily one of the oldest people in the room.

I've been to more than a few large-scale political rallies, caucuses and primaries, including President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign stop in Boise, where he filled the same room as Sanders. I do not recall the same youthful energy at Obama's visit—certainly not the same punk rock vibe.

At the Sanders really, I saw grungy kids sporting pink, blue and green-dyed hair. I saw zitty guys in long black coats, earnest hippie types and bright-eyed 18-year-olds waving novelty signs reading things like "Talk Bernie to Me" and "Dump Trump"—the latter complete with a picture of a toilet and turd.

Nevermind that Sanders talked for an hour and a half about every issue he could possibly touch on: from free college to police accountability to taxing Wall Street. He had the kids in the palm of his hand from the moment he shambled onto the stage. No matter how the caucuses go on March 22, it's clear there's passion out there for a different vision.

Treefort is, in some ways, a relative of that kind of energy. More than a music festival, it's a cultural happening rooted in a shared sense of community. If nothing else, the national Bern and the local enthusiasm for Treefort show what can be accomplished when our better instincts are harnessed for a common good—whether it's politics or a good, old-fashioned rock bacchanal.