As I arrived in Boise and walked into my third Treefort in as many years, the buzz in the air was thick and tangible as bicycles, strollers and jogging fans passed me by in a blur. What followed was three straight days of pure enjoyment.
My first order of business was to scope out the scene at Lost Grove Brewing where this year’s Wyoming Showcase was held. It’s put on by the state’s arts council and their creative arts specialist, Kim Mittlestadt.
“Our goal is to bring Wyoming artists to a regional audience,” Mittlestadt said. “We recognize the limitations that being a Wyoming artist has. There’s lots of travel involved, there are lots of difficulties with making your tours work effectively.”
Mittlestadt said Treefort is a great opportunity to help Wyoming musicians network and increase their exposure.
“Our long-term goal is that these artists are getting picked up, are getting record labels, and are looking at the wider scope of more than just what Wyoming has to offer,” she said.
One of the six Wyoming artists featured in this year’s showcase was multi-instrumentalist Reckless Rooster from Pinedale. He said it can be challenging to find bandmates.
“Wyoming with the way it is, you know, it’s 100 miles to the next town,” Rooster said. “So I know in my own music, it’s heavily influenced what I do to be a one-man band because Pinedale is so small and so isolated. There are not really other musicians to be in a band with.”
Rooster said he can tour up to 40,000 miles in a year, and it can be tough to find other musicians willing to commit to that kind of grueling schedule. The winter weather in the Mountain West also doesn’t help.
“It makes it really difficult to get around the state to see other bands and artists and how they do things, and vice versa,” he said. “So isolation is kind of crippling to the music scene in Wyoming in a way. But, you know, it also breeds creativity. And I think it’s great that they’re bringing Wyoming artists out here to have that kind of exposure that we otherwise really wouldn’t receive within the state.”
At the showcase, I ran into musician Bo Elledge, who’s formerly of Jackson and one-half of Canyon Kids, which is now making a name for themselves in Boise.
“Coming from Wyoming to play here is unique because you’re used to all these small Wyoming towns,” Elledge said. “Well, here it’s got a city vibe but it’s also got a small-town vibe. So, it’s really welcoming to small-town bands and really anyone that comes through. It’s a welcoming city from person to person, but the music scene is really friendly and welcoming too. I’d say if you’re trying to come over and play, come on, water’s fine.”
Jackson-based bands Box Elder and Aaron Davis & The Mystery Machine were also featured in the Wyoming Showcase and played at different venues around the city during the festival.
Box Elder frontman and founder Chris Archuleta was backstage at the Boise punk venue, The Shredder.
“Being from Wyoming, it’s absolutely a small market,” Achuleta sais. “It is not necessarily the biggest punk rock or indie rock hub in the world. But from what I’ve seen at our own shows is that it’s needed. People want it. I love where I’m from. It’s molded every single one of us into being the musicians that we are. It’s so inspirational to be able to look out my front door and see the things that I see.”
Archuleta said the Wyoming wilderness has even helped him cure writer’s block.
“If I’m just struggling with a lyric or something, I can get my dog and go for a hike and by the end of the hike I’m probably not just struggling with the lyric any longer, but I’ll walk back out, get in my car … with two verses and a chorus,” Archuleta said.
Multi-instrumentalist Aaron Davis also joined KHOL backstage at Pengilly’s Saloon. He said the fest brings a lot of people together from small towns.
“I think for us coming from where we live and a lot of people coming from small towns, it’s a pretty incredible thing to have this many artists in one spot doing so many different things, not just musicians, but comedy and drag and film,” Davis said. “And so I look forward to it because it’s one of the only times I get outside of our area. And so for me, it’s special because it’s like the meeting of the artist. And I think you always kind of need that gathering of the vibes a bit to continue doing what you’re doing and keep the force of just being creative.”
After several days of festing at Treefort, I began the long 6-hour drive back to Jackson, reflecting on my experience in Boise. There really was a communal atmosphere permeating throughout the weekend. Everyone seemed to feel connected as they performed their various different creative endeavors.
And seeing thousands of people coming together within the city’s open arms left me, and I’m sure countless others, inspired and hopeful for what’s next.
More coverage from Treefort, including individual band interviews, will be available on KHOL’s website in the coming weeks.