From Boise

A guide to Treefort 9

Published over 2 years ago • 9 min read

Treefort Music Fest is next week, y’all.

The windows of downtown Boise have been painted. People are making their schedules. Pretty soon we’ll start to see parking lots clear out and colorful bunting strung across ceilings and doorways all over town.

It actually feels kind of surreal that Treefort is happening again. That’s partly because Treefort doesn’t usually happen in September; it’s usually in March.

The other part of the surrealness is because it’s been more than two years since the last festival happened & it feels like sh*t is still hitting the fan. But here we are. The fest is doing its best to hold a safe event & idk about you but I am more than ready to greet each other with a “Happy Treefort” once again & show hop for five days straight.

Liz Cooper on the Main Stage, 2019. Photo by Matthew Wordell.

Also full disclosure: I work at Treefort Music Fest.

What is Treefort Music Fest?

Treefort Music Fest is a five-day music and arts festival that pretty much takes over downtown Boise. It was started somewhat serendipitously in 2012 by a group of locals, who are still running it today. The crew had a dream of creating a festival that would introduce Boise to touring artists that maybe wouldn’t have stopped in Boise for a show, and likewise, expose Boise artists and music fans to touring acts that they haven’t yet discovered.

This year’s festival is Treefort 9, and it’s been rescheduled twice because of covid. Which is why it’s in Sept. Next March is Treefort 10. Ten whole years of Treefort.

The main part of Treefort is music. The lineup is 400+ artists long and usually filled with a bunch of bands from all over the world that you’ve probably never heard of. That’s really one of the main points of the fest: for you to discover something new. Your new favorite band. Artists before they “blow up” and become too famous for Boise. Don’t believe me? Just look at the past lineups. Run the Jewels, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Of Montreal, Lizzo, Thee Oh Sees, Charles Bradley (RIP), Thundercat, Angel Olsen, Black Mountain, Liz Phair, Sudan Archives. The list goes on.

In a nutshell, it doesn’t matter that you don’t know who is on the lineup. Stop thinking you have to know in order to go. The fun is in the finding out.

Lizzo on the Main Stage, 2017. Photo by Aaron Rodriguez.

The other part of Treefort is the forts. There’s 11 forts and they all function like little mini festivals within the larger fest. The forts came to be because Boise's community was changing and growing and becoming something solid, like the beer scene for example.

The forts of Treefort are:

  • Alefort - a celebration of beer, wine, cider, and seltzer from Boise and beyond.
  • Artfort - a combination of installations, live performances and visual arts.
  • Comedyfort - standup comedians from across the country
  • Dragfort - Drag queens and kings grace the stages, plus talks on inclusivity and more
  • Filmfort - celebrating independent and local film
  • Foodfort - all things local and seasonal food, both eating it and talking about it
  • Hackfort - cool and creative people doing interesting things in tech in workshops, demos, dicussions and more
  • Kidfort - the place for tiny Treeforters
  • Skatefort - open skateboarding and roller skating, plus bands play at Rhodes
  • Storyfort - discussions, readings, workshops and more
  • Yogafort - a wide variety of yoga classes taught to live music
  • Music Talks - dicussions about the music industry
Yogafort 2019. Photo by Matthew Wordell.

Why Treefort is cool

You get to experience a ton of different music, events & people. There is quite literally 100 different things happening all at once. You can basically wander around and you will find something or someone that catches your interest.

Treefort 2017. Photo by Glenn Landberg.

It’s environmentally conscious. You will notice that the fest is pretty hardcore about its environmental impact. All attendees use resuable steel cups, they recycle, resuse or compost everything, and they even have a solar powered Main Stage. It might not seem like a big deal but most music festival’s don’t give a damn about the ridiculous amount of trash they produce. It’s gross and irresponsible in my opinion. Treefort is trying to do the opposite & it makes for a very clean & enjoyable festival.

Green team at Treefort. Photo by Maggie Mattinson.

It’s for people of all ages. Not only are all ages allowed at the fest, but there are events and spaces of the fest that are created with different age groups in mind. Like little kids have their place at Kidfort and can also enjoy music at many of the venues. Young people that aren’t yet 21 but aren’t a lil kid anymore can run around and see shows at more than half of the venues and have a lowered priced ticket. There’s even specific mentorship and volunteer opportunities for teens who are interested in getting involved in the music industry. The next generation y’all. The other end of this is that you simply cannot be “too old” for Treefort. There is no such thing.

It’s affordable. There’s a few different ticket tiers, but the main 5-day pass is only $250. If you scoffed, do some research & you will quickly find that there are very few festivals where you can see as many shows for $250. Most two- and three-day festivals are more than $250. Besides that, there are ways to get an even cheaper ticket, like volunteering. More on that below. If you are under age 21, your ticket is $150. And if you are under age 12 it’s freeee.

B-AMP at Treefort 2018. Photo by Matthew Wordell.

It put Boise on the music map. A decade ago, Boise's music scene was much more underground and bands didn’t stop to play here as much as they do now, especially if they were already on the up and up. Treefort has def played a role in bringing Boise to it’s cool city status, all the while being community players and looking for ways to be better and grow along with the city.

Funkadelic at Treefort 2018. Photo by Peter Lovera.

How to Treefort

Ok so, yes it can be overwhelming. Yes, there is a lot going on. Don’t let it freak you out.

There is no right or wrong way to Treefort. Unless you are walking around being an asshole, you truly can't do it wrong.

First things first. This year you will have to go through a health screening because ew, covid. Pride Fest just did it and it went well. You can see the deets here, but basically you need to bring vax or negative test proof in order to go, even if you are just doing free stuff. Once you are covid clear, you will get your wristband & can go on to wandering.

Second. Get the app. Treefort has a truly amazing app that will be your guiding light when you are like, where do I go now. The up-to-date schedule is right there on your phone and you can see everything that is going on. You can even make your own schedule & share it with people, so if you are one those people who just like need a plan, you can make yourself a plan on the app.

Third. Go wander. Seriously, just walk around with your ears open and follow what catches your interest. Or if you are a planner person, be sure to make space in there for the weird, random and wonderful things that you will stumble upon while at Treefort.

The Treefort toe dip

One of the best things about Treefort is that you can check it out in a very noncommittal way. Most people call this “freeforting” because indeed, there is a lot of free stuff.

If this is your move this year, here’s what to do. First, health screening. Second, wandering. You can go to the following forts without a festival pass: Alefort (have to buy beer tokens), Artfort, Comedyfort, Dragfort ($10 at the door), Foodfort Talks, Kidfort, Storyfort, Skatefort, and Music Talks. You can truck around to all of those for free.

You can see some shows for free at "second chance shows" which will be at Radioland, Skatefort, Hops & Bottles, at Uncorked! Boise Co-op Wine Bar.

You can also catch more shows by buying a Main Stage pass, which is $50 and allows you to see all the artists on the Main Stage for the whole day. Likewise, you could buy a Single Day Pass for $100 and go to anything and everything for that day. Single Day tix are only being sold in advance tho so buy one right now if that’s your move.

The committed show hopper

So you wanna do more than browse the free stuff. You need a five-day pass. This will get you into all of it (with the exception of the two Foodfort dinners). You can go to allllll the shows you could possibly imagine, swing into a fort activity on your way to the next show, and bounce around as you please. I would say that this is what most people do. $250 for five days, baby.

The line skipper

If you do not want to wait in a line every again, you need to get a ZIPLINE. This pass does just that: allows you to zip to the front of any line, anywhere in the festival and walk right in. This is especially nice if you easily want to bounce between shows or if you just simply don’t wanna wait. $420 for VIP royalty treatment basically (not really but it feels like it lol).

The volunteer

Treefort is actually still looking for volunteers right now – even for the sexy shifts like pouring beer at Alefort. Once you sign up to volunteer, you’ll pay $30 for your ticket, and a $150 down which is refunded after you complete your shifts. Not only do volunteers help the festival out soooo much, but it’s also really fun and you will def meet some new friends while you’re at it. The tees are basically collector’s items at this point, too.

A volunteer helps set up the Main Stage in 2019. Photo by Matthew Wordell.

The U21 Treeforter

Haven’t celebrated your 21st bday yet? No prob. You can still go to more than half of the shows and events at Treefort. Just over half of the venues are all ages, and you can snag a U21 pass, which is $150.

The tiny Treeforter

The youngest festival-goers, age 12 and under, are free. The only catch is you have to be accompanied by an adult. This crew can go to all of the all-ages venues and also have full reign of Kidfort, which is jam-packed with kid-friendly events.

Also if you are wondering what venues or shows to take your kids while at Treefort, Main Stage and The Hideout are good bets.

Tiny fans watching Liz Cooper on the Main Stage. Photo by Matthew Wordell.

Some daily recommendations

Just some my personal picks…

Wednesday 9/22

  • 4:30pm at Main Stage: aka Belle, first performance of the fest!
  • 5:30pm at Main Stage: Sofia Valdez
  • 6pm at El Korah Shrine: McKenna Esteb
  • 7pm at The Hideout: Lobo Lara
  • 8:30pm at Main Stage: Lake Street Dive
  • 9:50pm at The Olympic: Alanna Royale
  • 11:50pm at El Korah: Larkin Poe
Nappy Roots at Skatefort. Photo by Matthew Wordell.

Thursday 9/23

  • Go to at least one Storyfort event
  • 3pm at Main Stage: Luna Li
  • 6:40pm at The Olympic: Transistor Send
  • 7pm at Mardi Gras: VEMM
  • 7:20pm at El Korah: Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
  • 8:40pm at Main Stage: Japanese Breakfast
  • 10:30pm at El Korah: Garcia Peoples
  • 11:20pm at Neurolux: Spoon Benders
Toro Y Moi on the Main Stage.

Friday 9/24

  • 10:30am at Guru Donuts: Local Climate Actions for Global Impact (Storyfort)
  • 12 at Rhodes: Go check out Skatefort!
  • 12:30 at Boise Centre: Investing in Your Music Ecosystem (Music Talks)
  • 1pm at Boise Centre: Boise's Transportation Future (Hackfort)
  • 2:40pm at Main Stage: Angel Abaya
  • 4pm at Main Stage: Haley Heynderickx
  • 5pm at BCT: LA LA LAND (Filmfort)
  • 5:30pm at Basque Center: Tropico 208
  • 5:30pm at Main Stage: Andy Shauf
  • 6pm at Sanctuary: Floating Room
  • 6:30pm at Cherie Buckner-Webb Park: Dragfort Pink Runway Party
  • 7pm at Linen Building: IAN SWEET
  • 8:30pm at Main Stage: Calexico
  • 10pm at The Olympic: Sunny War
  • 10:10pm at LED: Luma Jasmin
  • 10:40pm at Basque Center: Orchestra Gold
  • 11:20pm at Linen Building: Wild Pink
Treefort 2017. Photo by Glenn Landberg.

Saturday 9/25

  • 10am at JUMP: Opening Yogafort ceremony
  • 10am at Cherie Buckner-Webb Park: Roller Derby Workout
  • 11am at Boise Centre: Indigenous People's and Neurodivergent XR Storytelling
  • 12pm at JUMP: Local and urban food foraging
  • 1pm at The Flicks: Local Gems (Filmfort)
  • 1:40pm at Main Stage: ROOKIE
  • 2:20pm at Radioland: Moldes
  • 2:50 at Main Stage: Afrosonics
  • 4pm at The Hideout: Waltzer
  • 4:20pm at Main Stage: The Felice Brothers
  • 5:50pm at Main Stage: Y La Bamba
  • 6:50pm at El Korah: Arooj Aftab
  • 7:50pm at KIN: Sugar Candy Mountain
  • 8:10pm at Sanctuary: Yasmin Williams
  • 9pm at Knit: Gilligan Moss
  • 11:10pm at Western Proper: Boulevards
  • 12:50am at Neurolux: The Black Tones
Dragfort 2019. Photo by Aaron Rodriguez.

Sunday 9/26

  • 10am at Boise Centre: Board games & brunch
  • 12pm: Drag brunch at Alefort
  • 12:50pm at Radioland: Radio Boise Hip Hop Showcase
  • 2pm at The Hideout: Beverly Crushers
  • 2:10pm at Main Stage: Sun Blood Stories
  • 3:10pm at Main Stage: The Seshen
  • 4pm at The Hideout: Jenny Don't and the Spurs
  • 7pm at The Hideout: Shaina Shepherd
Chai at Treefort 2019. Photo by Matthew Wordell.

Some final tips...

  • Use the Treefort app & don't be afraid to wander
  • Download MyBindle and use that to upload your vax/negative test proof
  • Bring a mask & be cool with wearing it when needed
  • Bring a water bottle & remember to drink water
  • Change your shoes everyday
  • Talk to strangers - you'll make a new friend
  • Ride a bike or walk or carpool
  • Be a nice human <3

Ok that's all I got for ya. If you are searching for more info, check out Treefort's Instagram, blog, or just email me & I'll help ya out as best I can.

Thanks for reading and happy Treefort!!!

With love from Boise,


From Boise

by Marissa Lovell

A weekly newsletter & podcast about what's going on in Boise, Idaho. Every week we share stories about people, places, history, and happenings in Boise.

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