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Treefort Brings More International Bands To Boise Than Ever Before

Michael Smith
Treefort Music Fest
Syrian singer Omar Souleyman performed at Treefort 2015. This year, more international bands are playing the festival than ever before.

Of the 450 bands that will perform at Treefort Music Fest this week (March 23-27), 25 are international acts. That is the largest number of bands from across the pond to play at five-year-old festival. 

According to festival director Eric Gilbert, the increase in groups from around the globe is in part because the reputation of Treefort has travelled beyond U.S. borders. 

“Nearly all of the international bands on this year's lineup came to us,” he says. “I've been surprised by the number of musicians worldwide that get in touch with me throughout the year now regarding Treefort and coming to Boise in general.”

He says the fact that Treefort happens right on the heels of SXSW in Austin is a big help. 

“Being able to put together multiple festival stops while they're in the States has a lot of value for them, and Treefort has definitely become one of those targets to fill out their time in the U.S.”

One of those international groups is freak folk band CocoRosie. Bianca Casady and her sister Sierra have toured under this name for almost thirteen years. Though they were both born and raised in the United States, they spend most of their time in Southern France when they aren’t touring. Bianca says they have never been to Boise, and she’s excited to come perform in a new place. 

“It’s kind of mysterious," says the performer, "and it’s fun to think that there are fans there that we’ve never had that engagement with so we’re really looking forward to that.” 

She says they weren’t planning on touring but around the time they said “yes” to Treefort they built a tour that would also take them to SXSW and Sante Fe. The musician says there are logistical hurdles to jump. 

“The thing about dragging our stuff around is always a really big challenge," Bianca says. "We prefer to tour in these huge buses but they’re not that economical really but it’s because we love to put antique instruments and things in the bottom. And then of course, occasions come that we can’t refuse and we have to fly. This is always kind of difficult for us to figure out how to strip down and adapt but we have to do it constantly.”


Bianca says one of the other challenges she’s encountered on tour is needing to replace the children’s toys she uses during her performance. (You know the ones – plastic with speakers and buttons. Bianca says she prefers ones from the 80s or earlier.) 

“You’d think it would be kind of easy, like you just go into a toy shop,” she says. “But it rarely works like that. Most of them are kind of vintage and have something unique – they’re a little worn down sonically and they have something special about them.”

Check out CocoRosie Saturday at 11:30 p.m. at El Korah. 


Hitting The Road To Treefort

Getting those bands to Treefort does come with some challenges – some even involving federal policy and geopolitics. Festival director Gilbert says one band he’s been trying unsuccessfully to book for the last two years is The Muckers, a group from Iran. He says he’s been working to try and get their visas approved without luck. 

“I've been through multiple rounds of them trying to get visas through the Department of Homeland Security and a couple of the band members keep being denied,” he says. “I even met with their visa lawyer in New York City when I was there in the Fall and have become one of their primary advocates here in the States. So in that regard, booking them has been very difficult.”

But he says for the most part, getting bands from other parts of the world to Treefort is just like booking a band in the U.S. 

Some of the other countries represented by bands this year include Japan, Italy, Israel and Australia (check out Aussie band Big White). Hinds is an all-female band from Spain that will arrive in Boise after some buzzy media coverage from SXSW. But turns out: Treefort was ahead of the curve. Last year they almost had the band on the hook (back before they changed their name from “Deers” due to threat of a lawsuit from another bands with a similar name). But the timing didn’t quite work out. Gilbert says Treefort’s marketing director Megan Stoll has been pushing to get them to the festival for a while. 

“We're psyched they were so eager to spend a couple days with us and play multiple shows too,” Gilbert says.

Be sure to bookmark "Your Guide To Treefort" for exclusive and unique festival coverage.

Find Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

Copyright 2016 Boise State Public Radio

Frankie Barnhill was the Senior Producer of Idaho Matters, Boise State Public Radio's daily show and podcast.