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Treefort Music Fest 2021 Preview: 15 Artists To See - TORRES, Mdou Moctar, Dawn Richard

Treefort Music Fest is coming up this week from Wednesday, September 22 to Sunday, September 26 in Boise and we break down 15 artists to check out.
Treefort Music Festival 2019 Main Stage

Treefort Music Festival 2019 Main Stage

Treefort Music Fest will kick off this Wednesday in Boise, Idaho, in a style of event that takes over the downtown for five days. It is spread out across dozens of venues and “forts,” which each have their own themes from beer (Alefort), comedy (Comedyfort), film (filmfort), Yoga, tech, and more. There are skating and kid-friendly activities as well. There will also be various music industry talks on September 24 and 25, often in the morning and early afternoon with topics about mental health, planning a release and more. However, for this piece, I am going to focus on the music at Treefort since there are nearly 400 different bands from rock, rap, country, electronic, soul, funk and everything in between.

However, before I get to that, it is impossible to ignore the reality in Idaho when it relates to COVID. Hospitals in the state are now allowed to ration healthcare under crisis standards of care. Parts of Montana and Alaska are taking similar measures. One must show proof of vaccination or a negative test within 48 hours beforehand to attend Treefort. Masks are mandatory for all indoor events, though a lot will be outdoors. There have been a few dropouts and the festival cut off ticket sales at the end of last week to limit, in a small way, the total attendance. However, they are forging on as safely as they can, but there are always risks with putting on events these days, especially when local political leadership can poison the well.

Now back to the music. Part of the experience will be to just wander into a venue and find a band you have never heard and fall in love. I know that is something I have enjoyed with festivals like this. You can’t prepare for everything by getting to know every single act ahead of time. But enjoy the discovery and don’t stress out too much creating a schedule. Know the main artists you want to see and then wander around and discover some artists you don’t know. But if you want a small guide, we picked out 15 artists to check out this year. Some are bigger names and some may fly under the radar. It will be a challenge to see everyone you want, but have fun.

While you are in Boise, check out our City Guide to the city with places to eat, drink, take in culture, hike and more.

1. Monophonics: Wednesday, 9/22 6:50 – 7:50 @ Main Stage

Psychedelic soul band Monophonics help kick off the festival on Wednesday at the main stage in the evening. From San Francisco, the six-piece group evolved from three different bands into this one band that brings it with a very full, organic sound. They are funky, smooth and fun. Their latest album It's Only Us, is a good primer of what to expect.

2. Open Mike Eagle: Wednesday, 9/22 10-10:50 @ Neurolux

LA-based, raised in Chicago, rapper Open Mike Eagle is an artist who finds a niche on the edge of rap, blending the worlds of trauma and realism with the abstract worlds of anime and surrealism. His latest album Anime, Trauma and Divorce touches on those same topics. The stories are well told, interesting and heartfelt. When he is funny, it is funny and when it is tough and personal, you feel for him. The other reason to see him is the next person on his list.

3. Armand Hammer: Wednesday, 9/22 11:20-12:20 @ Neurolux

Armand Hammer and Open Mike Eagles are back to back on this list because they are on the same bill at Neurolox back to back and they just released a new song together “Burner Account.” 

If they don’t do it together at this festival, then you should get your money back. Armand Hammer, the New York rapper dropped his album Haram with The Alchemist this year, a personal and potent rap record and this should be an excellent night.

4. The Shivas: Thursday, 9/23 5:30 – 6:30 Main Stage

This will be the second show for Portland psych-surf quartet The Shivas on their upcoming tour for the release of their new album Feels So Good // Feels So Bad, which arrives this Friday, September 24. You will get to see them on main stage the day before, so pull up and expect some of the new crunchy, psychedelic goodness from The Shivas before the album drops only a few hours later.

5. Japanese Breakfast: Thursday, 9/23 8:40 – 10:10 @ Main Stage

This isn’t a festival of superstars or even many stars, but Japanese Breakfast is as close as it comes to a star on this bill. Michelle Zauner aka Japanese Breakfast has been a staple along the festival circuit for a few years now and will headline the main stage Thursday night. She released her excellent new album Jubilee earlier this year that features some bright and summery tracks, plus some deeply personal one as well. This may be your first chance to hear it live.

6. Mdou Moctar: Thursday Night, 9/23 Into 9/24 12am – 1:30am @ El Korah Shrine

Mahamadou Souleymane, known as Mdou Moctar, released his album Afrique Victime earlier this year, bring his interpretations of Taureg guitar to a much larger audience in the West. Based in Agadez, Niger, the band can shred and creates mind-melding music within the Taureg tradition with a modern feel. This is something you will need to see live before this group really gets big. Check out their NPR Tiny Desk concert for an intimate view of this. 

7. AURAGRAPH: Friday, 9/24 6:30 – 7:20 @ Knitting Factory Boise

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Texas-raised / LA-based producer and musician AURAGRAPH collaborated with S U R V I V E to help mix and compose the score for Stranger Things, to give you an idea of his music. The synthwave producer has been putting out a ton of new music including Opacity Field and Lucid in 2021 that's smooth, occasionally funky and upbeat. Check him out for an early evening jam on Friday.

8. Succubass: Friday Night, 9/24 Into 9/25 12:20 am – 1:50 am @ Adelmann South Capital City Event Center

Let’s add another DJ in here, and Succubass is one who can put together a great set. Seattle-based DJ Jessica Duran, a member of the local TUF and H&T collectives, will be someone if you want to get down on Friday night for some deep house and ambient grooves.

9. Arooj Aftab: Saturday, 9/25 6:50 – 7:50 @ El Korah Shrine

Born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan, Arooj Aftab came to prominence in Pakistan in the early 2000s when she developed a style that combines Sufi-mystical poetry with the spirit of indie rock. Now she lives in New York City and has released a new album Vulture Prince this summer that bridges new age, classical and Sufi devotional poetry.

10. TORRES: Saturday, 9/25 7:40 – 8:30 @ Linen Building

TORRES is another artist who just released an album, her fifth titled Thirstier. This will be you opportunity to see it live for one of the first times. The indie darling brings a lot to the table with this project, from crunchy rock and roll, to soaring synth pop that goes even bigger and bolder than what she has done before. With the sun setting on your Saturday night, spend it with TORRES.

11. Gilligan Moss: Saturday, 9/25 9:00 – 10:10 @ Knitting Factory

Another act that released an album this year, Gilligan Moss will be someone to have some fun with on Saturday night. The calendar may say fall, but they will keep the summer spirit alive with their lively indie dance. They broke down their self-titled album for us in April for a How It Was Made feature.

12. Boulevards: Saturday, 9/25 11:10 – 12:10 @ Western Proper

Jamil Rashad, who performs under the name Boulevards, will bring the funk and fun to a Saturday night set. A mix of 60’s and 70’s gospel, soul and funk, his music is joyous and uplifting, with a heavy groove underneath for a proper dance. It is smooth but raw, explains Boulevards. At peak hours on Saturday, this will be what you want.

13. East Forest: Saturday, 9/25 11:00 pm – 12:30pm @ Sanctuary

Now I know I just said you will need some upbeat funk on Saturday night, but for those who maybe aren’t that speed or went a little too hard during the day, then East Forest will help wind you down. The ambient & sound meditation artist will perform on Saturday night and has an album coming later this fall, so you will have some new music to possibly cap off the night. It is also only a 10-minute walk from Boulevards.

14. The Seshen: Friday, 9:00 – 10:00pm @ The Hideout & Sunday, 9/26 3:10 – 4:10 Main Stage

The Seshen are playing twice – on Friday night and on Sunday afternoon. The Bay Area six-piece (a common theme in this list) released their latest album CYAN in 2020, which combines danceable rhythms, which find a milieu between upbeat and downtempo, with soul, R&B and funk. They are playing two shows so if you miss one, then catch them then other gig. They fit either for a Friday night bash or hanging out on Sunday when your legs have a little left in the tank.

15. Dawn Richard: Sunday, 9/26 7:40 – 9:10 Main Stage

Closing out the main stage at the whole festival, Dawn Richard will cap off the evening on Sunday night. There will be more artists across the city at Treefort, but she will close out the outdoor main stage. Dawn Richard released her latest album Second Line: An Electro Revival back at the end of April, bending genres with R&G, footwork, house and more into one cohesive record. See it in action on this rare stage at Treefort.

And last, but not least, have fun and do what you feel comfortable doing. If you only want to do outdoor shows, download their app and search “outdoors.”

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