Girls rocked and diversity ruled yesterday at Boise’s Treefort Music Festival. From the smaller venues to the main stage, more than 20 out of the 130 some odd bands playing on Friday featured female musicians and three headlining artists were African-American.
Those numbers may seem small, but not in a state where 89 percent of the population is white (according to a 2010 census). And especially not in a city like Boise which, according to Men’s Health, is a utopia for single men. This year, it seems Treefort has taken strides in breaking down both gender and race barriers, creating a far more interesting festival experience.
Willis Earl Beal
Just as it started to get colder out on Friday, people were trekking to the Boise Contemporary Theater to see the strange songwriter, Willis Earl Beal. But if people were expecting a typical show, they were likely disappointed. Beal sang to backing tracks on his iPod. Sometimes he sat on a stool, sometimes he walked out toward the audience, and sometimes he dropped to the floor, but he always wore dark, thick glasses to maintain his aura of mystery. “I don’t want you to clap,” Beal told his audience. “I know you want to show appreciation, but I like to keep it as awkward as possible.”
All these theatrics weirded out some early exiters who probably thought Beal was a little off. Well, Beal has had a crazy life. Born in Chicago’s South Side, he’s been a homeless wanderer, an enlisted army man and was once even a signed artist based out of New York City. Recently, he’s been hunkered down in upper Washington writing soulful, yet eerie experimental tunes.
This all-female band played a fiery mix of classic instrumental numbers and ethereal pop tunes that got Friday night’s main stage crowd shaking. The former songs seemed to be ripped straight from ’60s surf fad artists like The Ventures or Dick Dale. The latter blended syrupy organ lines, supple harmonies and twangy guitar to create a unique, far-more-modern sound. This pairing is especially befitting seeing the band recently moved from Seattle to Los Angeles, where the waves are fine and the sun always shines.
After a epic introductory song, this 67-year-old soul daddy danced his way onto the stage decked out in a red suit complete with silver sparkles and a rose corsage. Bradley may have started his singing career back in the ‘60s by essentially impersonating James Brown but he’s never lived in the godfather’s shadow. He’s a persona in and of himself. Case in point: Bradley left the stage after a few songs to let his band jam for a while, leaving his cold main stage audience somewhat perplexed. Minutes later, he returned in a black suit covered by a huge rhinestone-studded cape. Despite the pause, people were elated to have Bradley playing. Every knee-shaking, James Brown-hailing scream he belted blew listeners away.
Boise band Thick Business actually has a pretty thick, sometimes sludgy sound. It’s pushed around by psychedelic interludes, as well as frontman Sarah Pincock’s buzzing organ and raw, urgent voice. As the band packed out El Korah Shrine with local friends and new fans, Pincock only got more energetic. Then, during the quartet’s final tune, she sent out a feminist battle cry and fired a warning shot at patriarchy. “I’m sick of your rules,” she screamed. “Are you afraid to ask me out? You better be.”
Bassist extraordinaire Stephen Bruner (aka Thundercat) shredded his fretboard during a funky late-night set at the El Korah Shrine that got everyone grooving. But Bruner isn’t just a string-slapping funk machine, he’s also a talented Los Angeles producer. He helped craft rapper Kendrick Lamar’s recent masterpiece album, To Pimp a Butterfly, and has worked with the likes of Erykah Badu and Flying Lotus. These collaborations really shine through in his jazzy, jammy and altogether funky tracks.
- Looking for the Australian version of Haim? Check out the classic rock stylings of sister act, Stonefield.
- Comprised of two sisters, Seattle’s Tangerine creates some seriously catchy tunes by pairing nimble surf riffs with a genuine pop aesthetic that walks the line of sappy and authentic.
- Denver’s Raven and the Writing Desk create captivatingly dark synth pop lead by frontwoman Julia LiBassi, who sings, rocks a keyboard and even has a knack for tasteful vocoder lines.
- Get spaced out with Seattle’s Maszer. Singer Katie Blackstock’s lulling voice fits perfectly with this quartet’s brand of atmospheric rock.
Treefort is probably the most accommodating festival, ever. The press and artists lounges are amazingly well stocked and a perfect place to stop before playing or covering another show. But, the fans could use some space heaters while standing in line or hanging out around the main stage. After all, spring weather is simultaneously beautiful and annoying. Yesterday saw a nice sunset before temperatures dropped, leaving most festivarians feeling super frigid.