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Boise Music Scene Gets A Treefort Boost

Heath Druzin
Boise State Public Radio
A singer belts out a tune during Rockeoke Night at The Olympic. The Olympic and other live music venues have thrived with the growth of The Treefort Music Festival.

The Treefort Music Festival just kicked off its eighth opening day and more than 400 bands will come through Boise this week. Those in the local music scene say the festival has given a boost to bands and venues alike.

An enthusiastic crowd gathered at The Olympic in Downtown Boise on a recent Friday night for rockeoke – that’s karaoke with a live band. The brick and timber space inside a former turn-of-the-century hotel is a recent addition to Boise’s live music scene. It re-opened as a concert and event space in 2015.

Owner Laci Furniss credits Treefort with giving spaces like hers a boost. This year, The Olympic will host more than 30 bands in five days.

Treefort is our busiest week of the year and every year it’s grown by at least ten percent sales wise and people wise and all that,” she said.

Treefort launched in 2012 and has been growing ever since. Last year, an estimated 24,000 fans came. That was up from 17,000 in 2017. Furniss says she has also seen Boise’s appetite for music increase.

It seems like there’s been more and more venues opening up and more and more venues having live music,” she said.

In terms of live music, Boise was once quite literally fly-over country – or at least drive-through country. Chad Dryden, the marketing coordinator at Boise’s Record Exchange, says Treefort has changed that.

In the past where maybe they would play Denver, play Salt Lake, play Portland, play Seattle and either drive through Boise or have their itinerary take them around Boise, they’re now stopping for shows in Boise and people are going out to see them because, ‘Oh yeah, I saw that band at Treefort, they were great,” he said.

Treefort co-founder Lori Shandro Outen says that’s exactly what she was aiming for when she launched the festival.

“We set out to really increase the traffic and highlighting of emerging artists in Boise as well as to hopefully make a place that musicians could start in and be in a band and stay in Boise,” she said.

John O’Neil is the frontman of the Boise band eLDopamine as well as the manager of The Record Exchange. He says the Boise music scene took a hit along with the local economy in the aftermath of the housing market crash. And then Treefort came along. He says he remembers the very first night of the festival.

“It felt like the town was about to go off and that something special was happening and we needed it about then,” he said.

And O’Neil says Boise’s music scene and the festival have been gaining steam ever since.

Heath Druzin was Boise State Public Radio’s Guns & America fellow from 2018-2020, during which he focused on extremist movements, suicide prevention and gun culture.