Treefort 2023: A Primer on This Year’s Profile Series

Every March, Treefort Music Fest brings a boatload of surprises to music aficionados in Boise, Idaho, and beyond. Those surprises help shape the evolving identity of the ambitious festival from year to year. While the newest installment will feature about 500 bands, it’ll have a wider scope than ever before. Ahead of launching a series profiling the majority of international artists playing Treefort, the Bad Penny also recently caught up with Eric Gilbert, Treefort co-founder and festival director, to learn more about its increasing geographical reach.

Artists hailing from more than 20 countries — more than 30 bands in all — will assemble for this year’s Treefort. For a festival that started out with the objective of bringing more exposure to Idaho musicians, this year’s edition will find that trait counterbalanced by exposing Idaho to more international ambitions.

“Curating cultural diversity has always been a goal of ours,” Gilbert said. “Over the last several years, several of us have been invited to a variety of international music conferences and that has certainly expanded our reach into the international community. We receive submissions from all over the world through our open submission platform as well and we discover a handful of international talent through that process each year.”

The goal that Gilbert laid out might sound like a given for most festivals. However, keeping in mind that Boise is more remote from another major city than any other place in America, it’s not always easy to court talent from other areas of the country — not to mention the rest of the world.

Whether it be due to snow, visa issues or other hangups, bands have a lot of hoops to jump through in order to perform at Treefort. Attracting outside talent to Boise doesn’t come easy. Simultaneously, Idaho is a very red state whose politicians are actively fighting state librarians and educators by limiting access to books and alternate versions of U.S. history.

While politics aren’t at play with Treefort or anyone organizing the festival, let’s just say that the timing couldn’t be better for it to feature more international artists this year than ever before.

Gilbert said: “As a father of a 9-year-old daughter, it is important to me that she is exposed to cultural and racial diversity. Boise is historically limited on this front, so for events like Treefort to bring in talent and attendees from around the world, it helps expand our community for those five days. Even if for only five days, that exposure is good for us as a community and especially good for our youth and others in the community that haven’t had the opportunity to travel more broadly. This sort of cultural diplomacy has become a big focus and passion of our team.”

When asked to expand on the festival’s goals, Gilbert noted that Treefort — in addition to hosting more international artists than ever before — will also feature artists from a majority of the States in the U.S. 

“From the very beginning, Treefort’s primary focus has been giving a platform for under-represented voices,” he said. “Initially, that primary focus was on a local music scene that had a hard time being heard outside of our city boundaries or even within our scene where ‘weirder’ original music was under-represented at most venues and events in Boise. That core intention continues to apply as we grow and now embodies all kinds of perspectives.”

Gilbert continued: “In a lot of ways, we see Treefort as an educational event for our local musicians and music fans. So by bringing in more international artists, we are expanding the educational opportunities for us all to learn from different cultural perspectives and different art and music styles.”

Gilbert further noted that Treefort organizers try to “build pathways” for artists to succeed in their careers by attracting national and International talent alike.

“Lastly, one of the goals of Treefort was to build a national stage in Boise for local artists to have the opportunity to perform on,” Gilbert said. “Now that has expanded to an international stage. So Boise has gone from nearly invisible on the music map to now having visibility into our music scene from all around the world. That’s pretty cool.”

For the first set of profiles on international artists participating at Treefort this year, check out:

• Treefort 2023 Profile: British Columbia’s Mother Sun

• Treefort 2023 Profile: Chile’s Sistemas Inestables

• Treefort 2023 Profile: Norway’s Orions Belte

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