Remember that feeling when you woke up at 4am on Christmas morning, filled with excitement and anticipation to see what Santa had left under the tree while you were pretending to sleep all night in your race car bed? Well that’s the way I felt this morning as I woke up to the reality that my favorite five days of the year is upon me here in good old Boise, Idaho. Today marks the official start of Treefort!
For those of you who don’t know what Treefort is, it’s a five day festival known for showcasing local legend musicians as well musicians from around the world. As Treefort grows in size and popularity, so does the number of ‘forts’ that overtake the city. In addition to the main forts such as Alefort and Foodfort, new forts have blossomed up that bring interests to many different people who might not just be into the music, food and beer. Yogafort, Filmfort, Hackfort, Storyfort and Kidfort are just some of the ways that the Treefort organizers have branched out to make sure the festival has something for everyone.
While not personally being a yogi, a hacker or having children (although all three are on my lengthy To-Do List), here is what I am stoked to check out this year at Treefort. Forgive my mediocre photography. I may have had a couple of tasty craft beers prior, during, and after all photos were taken.
Two years ago, while experiencing my first Treefort after moving to Idaho, the late, great Screaming Eagle of Soul, Charles Bradley brought me to tears with his passion and love that bounced off of the concrete walls that surrounded the main stage. Last year, Lizzo had me shaking my hips (it wasn’t pretty, trust me on that) as her lively, fun filled performance left the town in a buzz.
This year, 460 bands have descended upon Idaho’s capital city to play in numerous venues scattered throughout downtown Boise. On the three day weekend, the music starts early in the afternoon and rocks all night till the bars close at 2am. From small coffee houses to the main stage, Treefort prides itself on showcasing Boise’s local talent, and this year, local legends like Built to Spill, Magic Sword, Great Bait, Tree People and Jeff Crosby return to play to their longtime neighbors and newcomers. Headliners this year from outside of Boise include George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Andrew W.K, Princess Nokia, and the Russian feminist protest punk rock group Pussyriot, who have made worldwide headlines for being jailed in Moscow due to their guerrilla protest performances in public places.
Make no mistake about it. While Treefort has something for everyone, the soul of the festival is its lively and diverse music performances. And each year, they just keep getting better and better.
What’s better than enjoying incredible live music? Enjoying incredible live music with tasty and bold craft beer! Throughout Treefort, the ‘Alefort’ tent is always filled with beer lovers who gladly hop from one brewery to the next, tasting exclusive and rare brews that are often made in small batches, specifically for Treefort.
My favorite part of Alefort is the ‘nail pull’ event, where brewers will unleash barrel aged beer by pulling a nail out of the barrel as the happy drinker holds their tasting glass underneath. The beer is not cold, as it has been barrel aged out of a refrigerator, but, warm or cold, the Barbarian Brewery nail pull events have produced some of the finest beers I have ever tasted.
Boise, and Idaho in general, has a pretty impressive collection of breweries. Local beer makers like Barbarian Brewery, Payette Brewing, Edge Brewing, 10 Barrel and Sockeye all make impressive beers that are a hit with the fans at Alefort. Alefort is one of those places where you enter with the intention of staying 15 minutes and leave two hours later with a smile on your face and a belly full of unique and delicious beer.
With all that beer being consumed, you better make sure to have something hearty in your belly if you plan on seeing that band you love at midnight. Luckily, Foodfort has you covered. The best of the best of Boise’s exploding food scene are positioned next to Alefort and local food trucks are parked just outside the main stage, giving hungry party goers plenty of options. Over the multi day festival, you can have anything from BBQ Brisket to street tacos to bacon and sage popcorn, and everything in between.
Between the beer and the food, you would think you would gain 10 pounds over a the five day festival. But luckily, the walking between venues and constant booty shaking to the music will give you your daily fix of calorie burning.
Ah, Boise. I really do love this town. While Boise is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, it still possesses a small town vibe. It is a perfect city for outdoor enthusiasts and weekend warriors, where a casual stroll downtown will have you looking out to the Boise mountains, which are popular with mountain bikers and hikers in the summer, and skiers and snowboarders in the winter.
And Treefort capitalizes on the local’s love for their town. Would it be easier to hold Treefort in some big fairground, centralizing everything, a la Coachella? Sure, but then it wouldn’t be Treefort. What makes Treefort so unique in the music festival world is that it is a true ‘downtown’ music festival, that literally takes over the entire downtown for those five days. And no one here minds. Quite the opposite. We welcome the madness because Treefort is safe, fun, and great for the local economy. While there is never a bad time to visit Boise, I am hard pressed to find a better time to visit than Treefort.
While I have made Treefort out to sound like this mega festival that is so big, it needs an entire downtown and almost 20 venues to hold everyone, nothing is further from the truth. While Treefort has grown considerably since its inception, I am still amazed how SMALL it often feels when in the thick of it. The organizers have done everything right. Having so many venues and so many options prevents any one place from becoming too overcrowded at any time. I only had to wait in line a couple of times last year, and that was mainly to my poor planning by not getting to a popular band’s show BEFORE they went on stage.
But no matter how big the festival gets, there is always a sense of community everywhere you go. Local companies set up their stands and find ways to help the local community while showing off their latest products. Take the local clothing store Wear Boise for example. Stop by their stand, step into a photo booth with a bunch of adorable dogs, and proceeds will go to the much loved Idaho Humane Society (we LOVE our four legged fur friends here.)
This is far from the only example. Boise is a close knit community made up of a diverse group of people. And as you walk through the festival, you will see old friends hugging each other, new friends laughing together, and everyone smiling as one.
This is Boise. This is Treefort. And we aren’t going anywhere.