A Treefort Weekend - Five Favorites
Each year I look forward to Boise's Treefort Music Fest. It always feels like the start of winter's thaw, and the energy in the city's streets is palpable. Just so much joy everywhere. But like much else, the 2020 event was cancelled completely, and the 2021 gathering was pushed back to late September. When Treefort is held in March (over my spring break), I am usually able to be there from start to finish, but since school is currently in session, and I can't imagine peeling myself away from my classroom so early in the year, I drove the seven hours from Portland to Boise on Friday night in order to catch some music on Saturday and Sunday. So my Treefort 2021 was abbreviated for sure, but amazing nonetheless.
Instead of a chronological recap, I've instead decided to highlight my five favorite acts of the weekend and then give you the information you really need: how to prepare for the next Treefort, which is coming up in a short six months!
Arooj Aftab - Saturday at El Korah
The first half of my Treefort Saturday was packed with quiet sets of beautiful music, but no performance matched Arooj Aftab's. Vulture Prince was one of DC's favorite spring releases, so my expectations were pretty high heading into the show. Even so, I was absolutely floored by the Pakistani artist's live vocal performance. Joined by only a guitarist and harpist, she ran through Baghon Main, Mohabbat, and other album highlights. It was one of those rare shows where you could hear a pin drop even though the house was packed. The entire audience stood completely mesmerized by Arooj Aftab and each delicate, minimalist piece she offered.
Torres - Saturday at Linen
Honestly, I wasn't planning to catch Torres at all, as her performance time clashed with Yasmin Williams' slot, but when I saw that the acoustic fingerpicker was set to play again on Sunday, I decided to swing by the Linen Building. And boy am I glad that I did. Her live show was absolutely electric from start to finish. I mean, Torres and her band simply rocked. I spend so much of my time sitting with subdued music that I often forget the power of distorted guitar-driven anthems. Early set highlights included Thirstier tracks Don't Go Puttin Wishes in My Head and Hug From a Dinosaur but she shredded so many other great ones, too. The entire experience was a good reminder to deviate from festival plans now and then.
Yasmin Williams - Sunday at Kin
This lawn show was a perfect Sunday afternoon set, really - some acoustic guitar in the shade of mature trees. I spent the first half of Williams' performance up close and in awe of her technique. Sometimes strumming, sometimes picking, and sometimes hammering, she seemed to relish in pushing the sonic boundaries of her instrument. I hadn't really ever heard or seen anything like it. Her opening song, Juvenescence, was my personal favorite but my interest never waned (even during a Post Malone cover!). Eventually, though, I found some friends further up on the grassy hill and opted to spend the second half of Williams' set reclined with my eyes closed, simply listening to her beautiful guitarwork.
Dawn Richard - Sunday at Main Stage
From the moment that I heard Dawn Richard would be performing at Treefort 2021, I knew she would be a must-see act. What can I even say about her set? It was my favorite of the weekend - a high watermark which perfectly combined stage presence and musicality. I stood right up front from the first bass throb to the closing notes, unable to leave even though my next show was starting. How could I miss a moment of Richard's magnificence? Boomerang and Bussifame were my favorite moments of her hour spent on stage, but Richard's career-spanning set felt like one big joyous dance party.
Mannequin Pussy - Sunday at El Korah
When Richard's set ended, I hustled over to El Korah to FINALLY catch Mannequin Pussy - a band I've wanted to see for years, yet manage to miss every time they come through Portland. Missy and co. capped off my Treefort weekend perfectly with a high-energy set of crowd favorites. There are no mp fans, only MP FANS, and it was so fun to be in a throng of kids just belting out every lyric. I would post my video of Drunk II's "I still love you, you stupid fuck!" moment, but my singing is way way way too cringe. Here's a link to an interview I did with Missy last spring instead. Who You Are and In Love Again were other Patience-era highlights, and it was great to hear new songs like Control as well.
I meant to stay up for Built To Spill's closing ceremony of a set, but my 35-year old body was too tired and had to hit the hay before 1:00 AM. In fact, I was so partied out after only two days at Treefort that I missed my assignment to cover Japanese Breakfast at the Crystal on Tuesday. Whoops! Kinda feel bad about that one. Still, it was a great weekend overall. I'll just need to figure in more recovery time next March.
And speaking of next March, we don't even have to wait a full year to congregate again in Boise! Stay up to date about everything Treefort here, but also make sure to follow the fest on socials. Tickets for Treefort 2022 go on sale soon, and lineup announcements are also just around the corner. If you've been before, you already know how magical the scene is, and if you haven't yet, you just have to come experience it for yourself. Last week I overheard a couple Oregonians call this Boise get-together "Portland's best music festival" and really, the statement is pretty believable.
Thanks to the organizers and those who helped me cover Treefort 2021. See y'all again soon!