Treefort Kicks Off Fifth "Birthday" In Boise With Biggest Festival Yet

Mar 23, 2016

Today is the first day of Boise's Treefort Music Fest. The five-year-old festival has become the heart of the indie arts and culture scene in Boise, showcasing talent from different genres – including writing and the culinary arts. Reporter Frankie Barnhill talked with Morning Edition host Dan Greenwood about this year's festival, which runs through Sunday.

Dan Greenwood: So you’ve been covering the festival for a few years. What's different this year?

FB: Well, festival organizers have once again upped the ante I would say. They’re bringing in a record 450 bands, and a record number of international bands too. It's five days of running from venue to venue, since bands are booked across the downtown. They’ve also added a new mini-fort as they’re called. I think you know a bit more about that…

DG: I do yes; Foodfort. We talked about that here on Morning Edition yesterday.

FB: Right, and there’s also Storyfort, Yogafort, Hackfort, Comedyfort...and like six more. So, yeah, Treefort is continuing to grow its branches – so to speak.

DG: It seems like every week we hear about a new lineup for a festival somewhere in the country. How is Treefort distinguishing itself from the rest?

FB: It’s definitely a good question and one I’ve asked many times. I recently had a conversation with the festival’s marketing director, Megan Stoll. She says that it’s actually pretty simple, because organizers ask and accept one-of-a-kind artists from around the world, so that breeds unique branding on the web.

“Our pride in taking care of artists and making sure they have everything they need and want that we can provide for [is what makes Treefort special],” says Stoll. “We’re able to talk about them more, and we have more connection to them and they have more connection to the festival as well.”

FB: Stoll says the kind of personal connection with both the artists and the music fans is mirrored in the festival’s playful and admittedly weird branding.

DG: So a lot of people would look at this year's band list and only recognize a few names -- if any at all. What’s the festival's strategy for booking acts?

FB: Well as Stoll was alluding, Treefort cares more about the experience of the artists and the attendees than about bringing in big name indie headliners. That’s partly because those headliners can be expensive, and there’s no guarantee their performance will be worth all that extra cash. Festival director Eric Gilbert says when they select bands to play, they watch YouTube videos to get a sense of the energy and just how much fun the bands will bring to the stage. He says the hungrier a band is for the chance to play, the more likely they are to give fans a memorable experience.

DG: Is that strategy working?

FB: So far it looks to be. Last year was the first time the festival made money, and organizers are hoping to set a new record for ticket sales. They estimate about 14,000 people attended Treefort last year.

DG: So what are you most excited for this year? What are must-see bands?

FB: I’ll admit I’m still crafting my schedule, but some I’m hoping to catch include Spanish girl rockers Hinds – they’re playing a few shows so that should be possible – French-based freak [folk] duo CocoRosie, hip hop artist Oddissee, there’s an Aussie band Big White. And then some standout locals including Transistor Send and Godly Hemlines.

DG: And so I understand that you've helped organize something involving Boise State Public Radio later this morning.

FB: Yes, a "pre-fort" show with up-and-coming artist Lucy Dacus. She has gotten some love from NPR Music, SPIN and Rolling Stone. She’s playing a session at the Linen Building, at 11 for us, so just a few hours from now. The show is free and open to the public, Dan I hope to see you there!

DG: I’ll be there. Frankie Barnhill - thanks for the Treefort update.

FB: You’re so welcome.
Be sure to bookmark "Your Guide To Treefort" for exclusive and unique festival coverage.

Find Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

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