Ten Strongly Recommended Acts to Catch at Treefort Music Fest

KEXP Suggests
Martin Douglas
Built to Spill at Treefort Music Fest 2016 // photo by Alex Crick

Spring has almost sprung, making it a particularly opportune time to fill five days to the brim with music. Music lovers from all over will converge in Boise, ID from March 20th to March 24th to partake in the festivities of the annual Treefort Music Festival, five days chock full of comedy, film, food, yoga, and over four hundred musical acts. The curse of variety can be a little much for anybody, so we are here to provide a few tentpoles from which to build your experience. Here are our picks, listed in alphabetical order:

Black Moth Super Rainbow (Sunday, 11:40pm; El Korah Shrine)

It's generally considered bad narrative etiquette to bring the end of the story up first, but here we are. It's actually fitting for a band as unpredictable as Black Moth Super Rainbow, whose woozy and exploratory psych music transitions so easily between beauty and fright.The delight in not knowing what to expect from their Sunday night set makes it pretty much the perfect way to end the weekend.

Built to Spill (Thursday, 7:10pm; Main Stage)

It was just announced the other day the Boise rock heroes will be hitting the road for the lion's portion of the summer to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of their landmark fourth album Keep it Like a Secret, abounds with astounding guitar work and at least one of the band's greatest songs ("Carry the Zero," of course). So it's pretty safe to say when Doug Martsch takes the stage with his band in tow, their set may skew pretty heavily toward the pyrotechnics of songs like "Time Trap" and "The Plan," but it wouldn't be too far out of the realm of imagination to catch a quick rendition of "Twin Falls."

If you were like me and missed Treepeople's spate of 2018 reunion shows, catch a double dose of Doug Martsch on Friday at 11:30 pm at The Shredder.

Chong the Nomad, Live Set (Friday, 5:30pm; El Korah Shrine)

Alda Agustiano, Cornish College of the Arts student turned beatmaking wunderkind, is a master of weaving sound and texture, possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of deep-rooted affection for music – which is probably why she is playing both a live and DJ set for Treefort. Though the latter I'm sure will be a dance party in its own right, a Chong the Nomad live set cannot be missed as the multi-instrumentalist will reach deep into Agustiano's well of ability in order to create and recreate the unforgettable compositions for which she is quickly becoming a star in Northwest music.

Cumulus (Thursday, 9:00pm; Boise All-Ages Movement Project)

Have you ever been to a show where you sung, laughed, shouted, and cried simultaneously and repeatedly throughout the course of its songs? Alexandra Niedzialkowski is a songwriter with that sort of power. Her two albums written under the Cumulus name – especially last fall's Comfort World – are full-throated singalongs and quiet-ish ruminations about love, loss, and that lump in your throat when you're in the valley between those two mountains. There's no shortage of sad people music happening at Treefort this year, but Cumulus' set will most certainly be among the most memorable.

JPEGMAFIA (Wednesday, 8:00pm; Knitting Factory Main Room)

Still supporting his revolutionary and caustic 2018 full-length Veteran and the acidic bounce of late-year single "Puff Daddy," please believe this set is going to be a raucous affair. The man known affectionately by his fans as Peggy, JPEGMAFIA carries a confrontational, punk-rock edge in both his experimental (dare I say genre shifting) brand of hip-hop music and its performance; often screaming his lyrics sweaty and shirtless like he's in the middle of a pit at a makeshift venue with no security. Any pro-fascist attendees might get stomped out. For the rest of us, it will be a crazy fun time.

Low (Friday/Saturday, 12:00am; Linen Building)

There's absolutely nothing I could say about Low that hasn't been said already; one of the most quietly daring bands of the past quarter-century, magnanimously immersive live performers playing a midnight set, playing behind arguably their best album in over a decade. Pretty much the definition of a must-see.

Naked Giants (Thursday, 9:40pm; El Korah Shrine)

The excitement of Naked Giants shows have been somewhat of a secret language among Seattle rock showgoers; the band exists in a caterwauling, spastic, almost life-affirming guitars-and-bass workouts. There are few bands who can successfully rival the high wire, no net intensity of Thee Oh Sees, and the young trio comes closer than a great many bands working today. Just make sure you're standing next to something nailed down.

Liz Phair (Friday, 8:30pm; Main Stage)

Even if you've seen her recently touring the 25th anniversary of her epochal album Exile in Guyville or you've seen her a million times, tell me you wouldn't want to see "Fuck and Run," "Stratford-On-Guy," or "Whip-Smart" being played live again.

Toro y Moi (Sunday, 7:40pm; Main Stage)

Chillwave graduate Chaz Bundick's songs through all his flights of fancy – straight-up indie-rock or psychedelic dance music – were built for the dance floor. His songs carry a preternatural groove hardly matched by any of his peers, containing the sort of texture that moves the gears in your brain as instantly as they'd move your feet. From his under-the-radar classic Underneath the Pine to the day-glo of this year's Outer Peace, don't be surprised if you dance a sweat during this set.

Y La Bamba (Saturday, 1:50pm; Main Stage)

Haunting, enveloping, truly masterful live performers, the Portland band surprised me tremendously when I saw them live for the first time at Upstream Music Fest last year. Here's what I wrote:

"There's a lot you can learn about music with lyrics sung in a language you do not speak, such as how well the vocals augment the music, the study of the vocals on their own merits. The whole of what was being sung was threatened to be drowned out by their clanging, melodic, soaring brand of bilingual, poppy garage-rock, a much different flavor than the Portland group Y La Bamba's recordings. Not to mention a sense of rhythm completely uncommon in the normally four-to-the-floor genre."

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