The guys in Homebody pulled into Boise, Idaho, for the Treefort Music Fest on Wednesday, March 25. On paper, the drive from Denver to Boise is roughly eleven hours, but it really takes more like thirteen-plus if you choose to take I-70 instead of I-25 out of Colorado. Why make such a trek for Treefort, a relatively small, independent music festival?
When festival co-founder Eric Gilbert was traversing the country with his band, Finn Riggins, he made connections, established friendships, and pieced together the possibilities of reinvigorating an underground music world. Rather than wait for someone else to do it, he and his bandmates put in the legwork to make those connections and help establish the friendly city of Boise as a hub in the intermountain West, for independent music of all kinds. He founded Treefort in 2012, and each of its lineups has reflected the American underground that Riggins got to experience during his travels.
With the exception of some of the headliners, none of the bands playing this year are big shakes in the mainstream music world. Even the most recognizable names — TV on the Radio, Foxygen and Built to Spill — have somewhat limited audiences. It takes some daring to bring in relative or complete unknowns and put them up in hotels and feed them and give them a decent venue to play in. But the result is a place filled with like-minded people with an avid interest in underground music, a place that bands are willing to drive 26 hours to get to.
Were all the shows incredibly well attended? Of course not. But many were, and the potential audience was there. Any Treefort attendee could take a chance and discover something completely on his or her own. Homebody sure doesn’t have a press agent. A regular booking agent? Perish the thought. Any real advocates for its music? Not many, even in Denver. So you know the music more or less speaks for itself.
Homebody played the second night of the festival, at a kind of dive bar at the west end of Main Street called Crazy Horse, in a 9 p.m. slot opposite many other worthy acts, including Portland garage-psych outfit the Shivas at the El Korah Shrine.
The room wasn’t packed, but it was more than just some Denver people who happened to be there; the audience also included locals who seemed to somehow be familiar with the group. Carson Pelo kept time with tasteful flourishes while Michael Stein and Morris Kolontyrsky wove together beautifully intricate guitar riffs and melodies alongside emotive vocals quavering with channeled passion. These guys have a real gift for using understatement without compromising the raw power of their music. A lot of bands slather you with their exuberance, and for some that can be inspiring. The members of Homebody inspire by hitting with just the right amount of force and inviting you to join them in a flight of the imagination. It was like seeing the early stages of a strikingly original and riveting cult band.
Kolontyrsky, Pelo and Stein weren’t thinking that some record label would discover them, though they’ve had offers for releases abroad. During their time at Treefort, before two of the three had to return to Denver, there was no “industry” talk or glib back-patting or delusions of grandeur. There’s plenty of that to go around in the music world, and some of it greases the wheels; it isn’t always an insufferable thing. But even if someone does “discover” Homebody, the band’s natural state is an exceptionally low level of bullshit. That’s something it shares with Treefort, and the musical world is better for having both.
Below are some images from the rest of Treefort.
If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is @simianthinker.