First thing I do when I get downtown is swing by the Flying M for an iced coffee. I miss the chance to see In the Shadow of the Mountain doing this, but, as I'll tell people later, I need coffee more than I need prog-rock right now. I down the coffee in about five minutes and motorvate over to the Main Stage.
3:30 pm, Main Stage: Tartufi
First up for me today is Tartufi, a moody, dreamy three-person art-rock band from San Francisco. If you put a gun to my head, I couldn't tell you what the hell lead singer/guitarist Lynne Angel is wailing about in most of these songs. That doesn't matter much: as with Sigur Ros or pre-Document R.E.M., the mood is the message. Thankfully, Tartufi's music is plenty articulate. Angel's androgynous, filtered singing voice adds just one more sound effect to this band's arsenal of melodic bass, kinetic drumming, jack-of-all-sounds guitar, clever loops and New Age-y samples, polyrhythms and textures. While all three band members clearly have chops, they emphasize melody and groove over self-aggrandizing virtuosity. Go with their flow and you may be surprised by how much you enjoy it.
After Tartufi's set, I wander over to the food trucks to the left of the stage and find local musician Jac Sound performing beneath a big tent. It's nice to see this guy getting a piece of the Treefort action--he's got witty lyrics, a pleasant, breathy high tenor, a sure sense of rhythm and impressive multitasking skills (plays guitar with his hands, kick drum with one foot, hi-hat with the other). He gigs pretty regularly around Boise. Anybody around here who hasn't checked him out should do so. He often doesn't charge anything, but he welcomes and deserves donations.
4:40 pm, Main Stage: Snake Rattle Rattle Snake
While listening to Jac Sound, I half-consider taking off and checking out some of the sets coming up at the other venues. Blessed be inertia: since I stay, I see what may well prove to be my favorite (non-local) band of the festival.
With their eerie atmosphere, minor-key melodies and New Wave disco beats, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake would raise the heartbeat of any fan of Joy Division/New Order or Bauhaus (think "In the Flat Field," "Kick In the Eye" or "She's In Parties"). James Yardley's rumbling bass and Andrew Warner's angular, funky drumming provide the perfect vehicle for Doug Spencer and Wilson Helmericks' chiming, shimmering guitar/synth lines and for Hayley Helmericks' cryptic, menacing lyrics and sexy low moan. More than almost any other group that's played Treefort so far, they pull me in and don't let go for their entire 40-minute set. They may draw from the same post-punk sources as quite a few other bands do, but I don't know if any that I've heard do it as well.
(Sidenote: I learned later that this band played a gig at the Visual Arts Collective last October. Hopefully, we'll get to see them around these parts again sometime soon.)
6:00 pm, Linen Building: Red Hands Black Feet
After Snake Rattle Rattle Snake finish and I buy their CD, I head over to the Linen Building to make sure that I'll get to see Red Hands Black Feet tonight. I've seen this four-person instrumental rock band more often than any other local group. That's partly because I'm friendly with all of its members and happy to support them. Much more importantly than that, though, this is simply one of the greatest bands in town.
I've tried for a while to figure out how to describe RHBF's music. The best little blurb I've come up with is "Television (the CBGB band) meets Hans Zimmer," and that's really not good enough. Eric Larson and Jake Myers' guitars blend and play off each other as if they're telepathically linked, Joseph Myers' elegantly simple basslines add warmth and body to the band's sound and Jessica Nicole Johnson's elemental drumming grounds and powers the whole enterprise. Together, they create music with startling dramatic power. Riffs and grooves form out of the ether, build, gather steam, shoot into the stratosphere, explode and come cascading back down to Earth. The band handles shifts in tempo, dynamic range and tone with such skill and rapport that their compositions seem to live and breathe.
Never in all the times that I've seen RHBF has their music felt as alive as it does tonight. They tear into their songs like seasoned pros--they know all the sweet spots, and they hit them just right. The band's confidence seems to radiate out into the crowd. The audience members closest to the stage grow more and more ecstatic as the set progresses: they scream, head-bang, crowd-surf. By the climax of the band's last song, "Sink the Bismarck," it's as if the Hindenburg has crashed into the building. The audience applauds wildly. Drenched in sweat, each member of RHBF looks slightly dazed, almost as if they can't believe what just happened. This isn't just the best RHBF performance I've seen or one of the best Treefort performances I've seen: it's one of the best concert-going experiences I've had ever.
7:00 pm, Neurolux: Le Fleur
I'm a little dazed myself from this epic performance, but I press on after RHBF's set and head over to Neurolux to catch the local rock band Le Fleur.
This six-person band's drones, dirges and mournful melodies may not be for everybody--one man's hypnotic could be another man's excruciating. Me, I find them hypnotic, and they seem to get better each time I see them. Lead singer Ivy Meissner wails through a storm of synth noises and weeping, howling guitar while the bass and drums march solemnly, urgently onward. Occasionally, all of these disparate elements coalesce into demented post-punk rockers (which, as an added bonus, can be pretty damn funny if you catch the lyrics).
8:00 pm, Red Room: Vagerfly
After Le Fleur's set, I'm faced with a bit of a dilemma: do I brave what I imagine will be a massive crowd to see Built to Spill or do I go check out goofy two-woman punk band Vagerfly at the Red Room? After pondering my two options for a bit, I finally say, "Fuck it--Doug Martsch may be a great musician, but he didn't doodle in my notebook."
Sara Mclean, the drummer for Vagerfly, drew this while we were chatting at the Red Room Thursday night (sorry I spelled your name wrong, Sara).
The line I'll give people after the show is, "If Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson decided to form a riot grrl band, you'd get something like Vagerfly." It sounds too pat, but that's honestly what this group sounds like. They write uproariously irreverent anthems to shaking your genitals in somebody's face and love songs with titles like "Burnt Panties." Musically, though, this band is no joke: while Michelle Fast shoves the lyrics and irresistable tunes down your earholes with her big voice and pounds out solid, elementary riffs on her keyboard, Sara Mclean's bouncy drumming calls to mind Janet Weiss more than Meg White. I find this a fair trade for Built to Spill. Apparently, Josh Gross of the Boise Weekly and Eric Gilbert feel the same way (the latter pops in through the back door midway through the set, and the girls give him a big shout-out).
I plan to stay around the Red Room after Vagerfly finish their set to catch Lemolo, but my stomach is telling me that Clif bars will not suffice right now. One massive burrito with guacamole from Costa Vida later, I return.
10:00 pm, Red Room: Dude York
"Live from Dude York, it's Saturday night!" the lead singer announces at the start. The Seattle-based, surf-tinged, punk rock power trio's set follows the same cheeky tone. Strong tunes and riffs; charmingly ragged playing and singing; excellent lead guitar; lyrics about collecting comics, Carl Sagan, "Fuck City" and Neil Gaiman's Sandman. Pure fun.
11:00 pm, Red Room: And And And
I never thought I'd live to say/write that the best thing about a rock band is its trumpet player. And And And, a five-piece outfit from Portland, OR, mix some folk/country flavor into their up-tempo punk tunes. Their playing's a little tighter than Dude York's (darn good drummer), but Nathan Baumgartner's whiny vocals are more pitch-challenged. That's where the trumpet comes in: it brings out the charm of this band's melodies more than the singing does. All in all, still good fun. Hey, you've gotta like a band that comes up with a song title like "I Want More Alcohol (It Makes Me Sadder)."
Local garage band Teens are up after And And And. I think that I've seen these guys once before and thought that they were pretty good, but I feel like branching out. When I step outside and see this...
...I figure that I won't be getting back in here tonight. Oh well.
12:20, The Crux: A Seasonal Disguise
I make it down to the Crux in time to catch the second half of the set by A Seasonal Disguise, a seven-person, arty, ersatz folk-rock band based in Boise. Some of their more cutesy affectations--especially the quavery, intentionally (I think) off-key singing--make me want to gag at first. In the end, though, I'm won over by the pretty lullaby melodies, the pretty harmonies, the steadfast drumming and leader Z.V. House's lie-giving, scorching electric guitar. Major plus: they close out their set (and the third day of Treefort) with an ambling cover of the Talking Heads' "Road to Nowhere," which they preface by inviting members of the audience to come on stage and help sing the intro. Now that's nice.
You can find info about all these bands on Facebook.