Throwaway Style: Breaking in a Pair of Jeans at Treefort Music Fest 2024

Throwaway Style, Features, Festivals, Local Music
Martin Douglas
Ty Segall (and his band) at Treefort Music Festival // Photo by Jessica Ferguson

Throwaway Style is a monthly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it’s a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that’s been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in the Northwest region, every month on 

For this month’s column, Martin Douglas flew to Boise and attended this year’s Treefort Music Fest—catching as much local music as possible and breaking in a new pair of jeans in the process. For the purposes of the column’s format and keeping it at an appropriate length, not all of the sets Martin attended are represented here, only the ones featuring Northwest artists. Please enjoy Martin’s appraisal of local music at this year’s Treefort, as well as his thoughts and feelings about how Boise—one of the Northwest’s most notorious cities for a few specific reasons—has changed in the five years since he’s been attending the festival.

Mary Robins of Biblioteka // Photo by Eric Tra


I’ve learned that the best way to break in a pair of jeans is to wear them to a music festival.

There’s a lot of standing, dancing, walking, sweating; comparatively, there’s very little sitting. Usually for lunch and dinner; sometimes only the latter and sometimes not at all if you’re wolfing down supper from a food truck while watching a band. I have a staple brand and cut of jeans which I usually buy multiples of, especially since I’m getting older, with rent and a car payment and all sorts of fiscal responsibilities that come with being a full-time “media professional” — in addition to precious little time to scour the earth for another perfect pair of jeans.

The pros are that my pants (aside from the aforementioned cut) are of immense comfort and fairly cheap. Sometimes they go on sale and I can load up for $20 a pair. The con is that if I wear them in too well, the zipper stops catching and I have to dispose of them, making me feel guilty for participating in the culture of (somewhat) fast fashion. (Additionally, it doesn’t take a private eye to sleuth my Instagram and occasionally catch a photo where my fly is down because of these zipper problems.)

For most of you, you’ve probably learned more than you ever needed to know about my denim. But I have an unworn pair I bought during a holiday sale, and a few weeks ago decided to wait to break them in for Treefort Music Fest, an event I recently attended for the fourth time in the past five years. 

Music festivals are a test of endurance above all else. Greatly affecting that endurance relies on how well your fashion braves the elements. And let’s face it, dressing for comfort doesn’t always work either. (Unless you’re willing to head back to your temporary residence for a wardrobe change.) Boise is located in the high desert in Southwestern Idaho, and from personal experience, being in the city in late March can either be in the upper 70s every day and the next year you might be trucking on foot through snow flurries on your way to the Main Stage.

There are established rules for this experience, of which there are only two: 1) I will wear them every day of the festival but 2) I will not wear them on the plane. I would consider the latter to be cheating the hypothesis, as pants can get plenty broken in shifting in a narrow airplane seat (even for a 58-minute flight). But aside from the departing trip to Boise International, these will be the only pair of jeans I wear to the festival, barring an act of g-d or otherwise gruesome (or gross) accident.


Photo by Martin Douglas, bag art by Laurie Kearney


At 5:45 in the morning, a different type of quiet rests on North Seattle. Sometimes you’ll hear the light wash of traffic from early morning commuters; on others, the silence is softly interrupted by the footsteps of unhoused neighbors. This morning, I hear nothing but my dog Lily’s four paws trotting across the street to pee. She rode along with me and my partner as I — on about four hours of sleep — drove bleary-eyed to drop her off at the airport, as her flight to Boise was two hours ahead of mine. Her first Treefort and my first with a companion. Who could turn down a free festival pass and a fancy hotel room?

About two hours later, my departing gate changed as I was making my way to it and had to take an airport train to get to where I’d be leaving from. I was greeted by my friend and KEXP DJ Manager Franny (for professional purposes, the colleague who volunteered to come to Treefort and gather interviews with me) and her friend Dana. 

Now that I’ve established the ensemble cast of this story, it’s a good opportunity to try to take a nap on the plane. Just kidding. I have a hard time sleeping on planes. I need two milligrams of Lorazepam and at least 25mg of CBD just to turn my brain off long enough to get a good night’s sleep. Call it anxiety, call it the burden of genius. People think that I’m bragging on myself when I’m just being cheeky. The flight, as usual, was barely an hour anyway. 

And thus I found myself pondering the big questions under the absurd promise of breaking in a new pair of jeans. How has Boise changed in the half-decade since I started attending Treefort? How has the festival influenced the city? (Spoiler: A metric fuckton.) What does it mean to bop around a music festival for five days in a city that's not historically known for its alternative culture? What does it mean to be a 40-year-old Black man in the capital city of a state known to have more white supremacist hate groups per capita than any other in the country?

Speaking of the latter, when we touched down in Boise, dozens of phones shrieked with emergency alert notifications—regarding a “threat to law enforcement.” I joked about it being militia. Later in the week, it was confirmed (or at least heavily rumored) that an Aryan Brotherhood member had shot a cop.

It should be a very interesting week for me and my Jewish girlfriend.

Plaid Panties // Photo by Rachel Kaufman


Young bands utilizing grunge, post-hardcore, peak alternative rock, and other “sounds of the ‘90s” remind me of when fledgling bands of the previous generation (read: mine, I guess) used bands like Sonic Youth and Fugazi as musical lodestars. (Very different sounds of the ‘90s and a grave reminder of how just two or three years can turn generational gaps into canyons.)

Sometimes picking a band to check out at a music festival is all in a name. And being as though I’m only human, a riot grrrl-influenced, all-woman trio called Plaid Panties is enough to pique my curiosity and spend a slice of my Wednesday evening to check out (even if I did mistake them for a trio from Australia, as the rest of my group made sure to roast me about). 

So, after check-in at the hotel, attempting a nap, a Vodka Red Bull at the festival-opening press event — with a great solo performance from throwback crooner Pokey LaForge and a press kit in a bag with a tarot-themed drawing on front, pictured above, and an uncharacteristically late coffee (told you I was tired), we headed over to Boise’s premier punk dive, The Shredder. Adorned with fully functional arcade cabinets, Xeroxed show posters, and a pool table close to its no-spirits bar, the pedal-warped guitar of the Boise trio rings out through the venue. (Turns out the guitar was a hollow-body Gibson, which I had never seen run through an array of effects pedals before, which was very interesting.)

Plaid Panties have only been a band for a little over a year, with their first show taking place about six months before this pretty big spot; prime time on the first night of their hometown’s biggest event. I’m certain I’ve written and said this many times before. Still, one of my favorite things about running a regional music column is seeing artists in various stages of development. There’s surely a sense of promise in this band’s sound, and there’s a clearly defined charisma — which, as the saying goes, can’t be taught.

It’s tough to predict how far their sound will go once they’re more seasoned as a group, but for now, the band played an enjoyable and somewhat loose set, carried by their casual charm. 


Not-local artist Ty Segall // Photo by Eric Tra


I have to admit, Boise is quite a weird choice for the bulk of Seattle’s rock scene to spend their spring break. But it’s a testament to what Treefort has built in this city. And so far, the weather has held up nicely. Last year, Boise barely cracked fifty degrees most days during Treefort Week, with a couple of nights dipping below freezing. After a certain point, I fucked off altogether and instead glued myself to the hotel TV for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. 

Iowa’s Caitlyn Clark pulled off a performance of the ages … and then got trounced by LSU in their championship game. As a lifelong wrestling fan, you couldn’t script a story better than that. Franny and I chatted about our office brackets over lunch (her and Dana were thrilled the college they went to, Dayton, made the tournament and will be taking some of the afternoon to catch their second-round game at the Buffalo Wild Wings less than a block away from our hotel). 

Blood Lemon // Photo by Jan Ng


Unaccompanied, I made my way to the Main Stage (where we spent part of the evening the night before). A new addition to Treefort this year is a covered area about 25 yards from the stage called the “Lookout Lounge,” a tent with its own bartender and very comfy Crate and Barrel-by-way-of-IKEA-style couches and chairs. Just like the Zipline pass, which (of course, if you pay a little extra) allows you to skip the GA line, the Lookout Lounge is a welcome respite from further punishing my sore ankles.

Blood Lemon // Photo by Preston Valles


As “Bruise” rang out and Blood Lemon ripped through the opener of their great 2021 full-length, the crowd bopped along and banged their heads; some of them hometown fans having seen them from their first show. Blood Lemon have been a mainstay on the big stage here at Treefort for the past few years, which is wholly appropriate given the heft of their sound and the band’s natural sense of melody. This was indicative in their new songs (from their hopefully soon forthcoming second full-length) as well as vintage favorites such as “Leave the Gaslight On.” The Boise-bred trio is not long for these mid-afternoon slots, though; soon enough they’ll be incinerating the Main Stage during golden hour or even the coveted late-evening billing.

Plum Vision // Photo by Jan Ng


The first time I saw Boise’s Plum Vision play (at last year’s festival), they were barely a year (if that) into playing together, were more or less teenagers, and played a loosey-goosey version of peak-period alt-rock in front of a bar on the bottom floor of an office building while snow fell lightly. A year later, they are one of the hotly-tipped bands from the city and playing to a well-attended Hideout Stage crowd. 

In the crowd just left of the stage was Boise rock legend Doug Martsch (accompanied by Built to Spill bassist and Blood Lemon bassist/singer Melanie Radford) – a clear indicator that Plum Vision are headed in the right direction. Although the trio is not quite fully seasoned (they’ve played precious few shows outside of their hometown), they have more than enough youthful energy and enthusiasm to make up for it. And the songs are getting there; there was one ballad in 6/8 time with an off-meter breakdown that was very cool. Their most recent single “Have It All” has would-be commercial radio hit written all over it.

The "girl pit" during Plum Vision's set // Photo by Jan Ng


The two mosh pits that summoned like storm clouds inside the growing crowd were notable in a region where — still! — people barely dance, let alone jump around. The first was a polite do-si-do, where one person was wearing the band’s t-shirt; the other was a “girl pit” the band called for while playing their incredibly fun song “Give Girls Money,” where there were girls of all-ages having the time of their lives and helping one another up if they saw someone fall down.

I think if you have people softly jumping into each other to your songs as a fledgling band, you’ve definitely got something there; enough to keep going at the very least. 

Built to Spill // Photo by Eric Tra


On the first full day of breaking in my jeans, they’re still quite snug in the waist and thighs, two areas (three if you include the butt) where Black men are far more ample than most of the other types of dudes who wear skinny-fit jeans (no offense). But I lived through the first era of JNCO’s popularity and I’m not going back, especially when some pairs are reportedly going for over $200 on the vintage market. Moreover, it’s not so bad; walking all over Downtown Boise (coupled with the sweat from a 72-degree day) has given them a little more stretch.

A delicious sampling of Street Eats // Photo by Benjamin Huynh


Along with my group, I took a little detour from the music to indulge in Boise Street Eats; samples from a selection of vendors which created a great dinner from a closed front area of Boise Zoo while Built to Spill’s songs carried from the Main Stage. The strains of “Liar” filled my ears while the Blue Brisket Sandwich from St Lawrence Gridiron filled my heart (and that and about a dozen other tasty foods filled my stomach).

A still from RAD DAD // Photo courtesy of Zach Weintraub


RAD DAD is a short film about fatherhood. I mean, fucking obviously; it’s in the title. But it’s a very specific slice of fatherhood. The beautifully shot piece (filmed in Tacoma, Washington, might I add) features co-stars Zach Weintraub (also the short’s director) and his real-life daughter Frances (their family and ours are family friends) in a low-stakes meditation on the tug of war between art and familial responsibility. 

My lady and I were at Filmfort watching RAD DAD and a handful of other weird, wonderful shorts for Thursday evening’s festivities. The theater was at capacity when we got there, but we made it inside for the short we wanted to see. It was a tough decision (being as though Black Ends were about to go on minutes before we were let into Filmfort), but one that I’m ultimately glad I made, as RAD DAD (and a couple of the other featured shorts) were marvelous.

I had a dilemma between two choices: park at Neurolux and check out Black Ends and two East Coast faves, Rosali and Mary Timony … or catch Ty Segall’s 80-minute set closing out the Main Stage Thursday night. So I did the latter, walked my partner back to the hotel with my partner, said good night, and met Franny and Dana at Neurolux to catch the final half of Mary Timony’s barn-burning set. Akin to my Protomartyr segment for Sound & Vision, I marveled at how empty the Boise streets were in a not-too-late weeknight.


Not Your Ex-Lover // Photo by Amanda Morgan


Not Your Ex-Lover // Photo by Amanda Morgan


After the rush of getting engaged (Writer's Note: My word count for this feature is already getting pretty silly, so no proposal recap here), interviewing Ty Segall, and drinking all afternoon to celebrate the former (and maybe a little of the latter, a conversation I’ve been working toward for the better part of a decade), our group went to see Not Your Ex-Lover outside of Boise Brewing — an outdoor, family-friendly stage (one of my favorite outdoor stages of the festival) with plenty of half-drunken adults outside of our immediate circle. 

Not Your Ex-Lover // Photo by Amanda Morgan


Not Your Ex-Lover // Photo by Amanda Morgan


Guitarist Julia Canales pulled out an electric violin for the song "Nightmare," while the Bend, Oregon band (and auxillary guitarist Jade) ripped through a would-be breakup anthem peppered with f-bombs for the kids. Not Your Ex-Lover — for necessary purposes of representation, I should note is an all-Latina band — is only just closing in on two full years together and had a huge sound for how young in the game they are collectively, with the showmanship to boot. Canales took the opportunity to shred through a climactic guitar solo while standing on Kiki Castro’s drum riser for the final tune.

Biblioteka // Photo by Harper King


Biblioteka // Photo by Harper King


As Friday fully settled into evening, I took a solo jaunt to catch one of Seattle’s buzzed-about rock bands, Biblioteka. It’s not like I’ve never seen them before, being as though I’ve attended a Freakout Fest or two and find myself in adjacent circles of most contemporary rock musicians in Seattle. But the Biblioteka I saw on this Friday evening in the rather large Treefort Music Hall (for scale, it’s quite a bit bigger than The Crocodile’s main room) had certainly leveled up. Playing tracks from their good 2022 full-length Pretty Ugly and last year’s Kikimora EP, the band — and especially frontwoman Mary Robins — possessed a confidence that implied they had been playing rooms that big for years. 

After sweating in my brand-new jeans on Wednesday and the 17,705 steps I made all around Downtown Boise on Thursday, the cooling temperatures and step count on Friday helped my jeans settle into a more relaxed fit. Even as I mightily powered through exhaustion to enjoy Ty Segall’s late set on Friday night.


Day Soul Exquisite // Photo by Martin Douglas


At the Basque Center, a bar and community hub for Boise’s sizable population of the largely Spanish ethnic group, Day Soul Exquisite played the type of space-age psychedelic soul ideal to kick off a Saturday evening.

The band’s music contains a lot of moving parts: six members, even more instruments; switching tempos, motifs, and even moods on a dime. There’s a purity of expression in their songs, a notion that we as humans have the ability (and sometimes, life experience) to follow our inspiration wherever it takes us without being bound by trivialities like genre or the cloistered, cliquey scenes in the Seattle music community.

As the writer/curator/crotchety proprietor of the longest-running active regional music column in the Pacific Northwest today, I hear about a lot of bands. As someone who is nearing twenty years of writing about music, I can also be kind of a cynic. In this gorgeous room, erected to celebrate a kind of diversity and community people are fighting to make more common in the still-very-white (and largely neoliberal yuppie, at least in the major cities) Pacific Northwest, my cynicism about this music scene I’m a part of was melted away (at least temporarily) by Day Soul Exquisite. 

I wasn’t surprised they were good, per se; I was floored by just how good they were. How vast their musical talents are. And the band got the mostly indie rock, almost entirely white crowd dancing quite a bit. An impressive feat indeed.

In a city full of industry strivers, trend hoppers, and clout chasers — all of varying degrees of actual talent — it’s refreshing to find a band in town that doesn’t sound like anything else around. A band that seems driven by creativity and, again, expression instead of by social (or monetary) capital; not to be popular or cool, but chasing something that can’t be quantified. And interestingly enough(!), they’ve become one of the coolest bands in Seattle because of it. 

A group portrait at Pengilly's Saloon // Photo by Amanda Wolf


Earlier in the weekend, I joked about how Boise is catching up to Seattle and Tacoma in terms of cost of living by virtue of there being about three times as many bars with $12-$15 cocktails as there were since my first Treefort in 2019 — and that joke came back around on me in a booth at Pengilly’s Saloon where I paid only $9 for an Old Fashioned. Boasting “classic saloon pours,” Pengilly’s lived up to its name. I ordered Bulleit bourbon as my whiskey and it was still less than $10. 

Sometimes during my maiden Treefort voyage, I was on the elevator of the Hilton Garden Inn with a woman lugging around an upright bass in a gig case. I asked what band she was in and she told me her group was called Hurdy Gurdy Girls. And five years ago, just like on this night, I made the trek to the eastern end of Downtown Boise — Old Boise, as it’s lovingly referred to — and had a great time.

The belles of Hailey, ID — according to Google Maps, two hours and twenty minutes east of the state’s capital city — are a throwback to a classic time in country music; right down to the combination of acoustic guitars, upright bass, fiddle, and the inflection with which they sing. But they don’t strike me as a gimmick, and even if they are, they’re working it to the maximum of its potential. 

From my vantage point from a wooden booth in Pengilly’s — which, I should add, is a handsome bar that has probably been around since it could be called a saloon without it sounding corny — Hurdy Gurdy Girls played music wholly appropriate for the setting, commanding the bar with pitch-perfect harmonies and a delightful, rough-around-the-edges sense of humor.

Downtown Boise on a Saturday night is a division of ideologies, and that division happens at the intersection of Capitol and Main, the former separating the latter between Old Boise and its increasingly cosmopolitan western end. There was barely anyone roaming east of the intersection that seemed to be part of the Treefort crowd.

The Macks // Photo by Preston Valles


In the years I’ve been attending Treefort, 2024 is the first year I’ve attended where the downstairs space of the Shrine Social Club (known to Treefort goers as Shrine Basement). It’s a large lounge with a small stage and dance floor in the middle, much like if your dirtbag uncle played shows with his band in the basement of your grandma’s house in the 70s. Speaking of which, the Macks were the ideal band for that vibe. 

The quintet played hard rock-flavored garage seemingly lifted from the aforementioned era; they all had not-wispy-but-not-bushy 20-something-year-old-dude mustaches; their bassist looked exactly like Joey Ramone (which Franny and I had been joking about for most of the weekend while seeing him around the festival). 

The Macks singer Sam Fulwiler testing the structural integrity of the basement ceiling // Photo by Amanda Wolf


Playing their second of three Treefort sets (my fiancée caught their first set on Thursday and loved them), the Portland band whipped the tightly packed crowd into a frenzy with a song that sounded like latter-day Osees covering ? and the Mysterians. The atmosphere was wild. The music was as loud as a semi-truck engine being started in, well, a basement. Fans were moshing and slamming into each other and sailing on a wave of hands. I carried a grown man like a child (or a newlywed on top of a wedding cake) to make sure he didn’t fall on his head while crowd surfing.

Their recorded music is fine, good enough, but the Macks’ live show kicked enough ass for me to designate it as my favorite regional find of Treefort 2024.


After four straight days of non-stop music and associated revelry, you essentially have two best courses of action for the final day of the festival: Amble around for the day and catch what you can, or rest and save up your energy for the closing night festivities at the Shrine Social Club.

This is the first year since I’ve been coming to Treefort that Built to Spill didn’t close things out on Sunday night (last year’s double bill with BtS with Protomartyr warming up the crowd might have been my all-time Treefort highlight in the lead-up to this year’s fest), so I wasn’t particularly interested in staying up late this year. 

My fiancée was flying out Sunday afternoon, so we had lunch at a great Southern chain called Tupelo Honey, where I had some delicious biscuits and the best shrimp and grits I’ve eaten since moving to the Pacific Northwest over a quarter-century ago. 

Later that day, as Franny and I headed for the Shrine for one last show in the late afternoon, I looked at all the high-rises as I mistakenly took us the long way around downtown. None of these buildings on the area’s west end had been here five years ago; the main stage area from back then is now an office building. The Record Exchange now sits in the shadow of several stacks of condos.

A press photo of Little Venom // Photo courtesy of the band's Bandcamp


I finally had the chance to catch the talented Alaia D’Alessandro’s new band Little Venom, which contains a less madcap (but no less unpredictable) style than her previous group, the great Tres Leches. The songs wildly vacillate between superbly written alt-rock (have you picked up on a theme in this feature yet?) and toe-dipped shoegaze — only D’Alessandro isn’t meekly keeping her eyes on the pedalboard; she’s (metaphorically) maintaining eye contact with the crowd while singing her wry lyrics and screaming through the song’s high points, taking command of the band’s great sense of dynamics, and even playing a little kazoo.

I debated catching the Macks one last time at Boise Brewing but decided not to brave the chill and rain in order to add to what was already a perfect experience the night before. So before heading back to the hotel for a quiet Sunday evening with ESPN, Franny and I had a nice dinner at Fork (where I once again ordered their incredible deep-fried asparagus just as my fiancée and I had yesterday morning at brunch). 

In this very nice restaurant that I’m pretty sure is only a couple years old, I once again thought of the changes Boise has undergone since my first Treefort. How the capital city of this deeply conservative state, for five days at the beginning of spring, happily hosts “outsiders” and freaks from many different states and several different countries. 


Franny making friends with a dog on Friday // Photo by Martin Douglas


In the hot tub at the fancy hotel on Saturday morning, my fiancée and I met an older couple; both with white hair, both easily in their sixties. The gentleman was at the hotel as a business perk and his wife was going to take the opportunity to go shopping later. We were asked if we were in Boise for Treefort and he told us that last year, the city raked in $18.1 million in the festival's five days. Treefort’s influence on Boise is not just cultural.

I once again thought about Boise’s changes as I walked through the ghost town of Downtown Boise on a Monday morning, on the way to The District, the coffee shop where I proposed to my lady, for a final iced latte before heading back home. I thought about them again when eating my customary Smash Burger at the airport. Boise has changed, but so has everything else. Which makes me think about how I’ve changed immeasurably in the past five years. And how Treefort has changed. And grown. And will continue to grow further into the future.

A Small Handful of Recent Pacific Northwest Albums Worth Your Time

Shabazz Palaces - Exotic Birds of Prey

At this point in his Hall of Fame-caliber career, Ishmael Butler has nothing left to prove. In the third act of his career as the impresario for Shabazz Palaces, he’s exemplified being one of the coldest MCs to ever touch a mic, and in his fourth decade of making music, he’s managed to straddle the line between experimental and pop — the head and the body, the far-reaching soundscapes and the shit that bangs — better than most contemporary musicians who should feel lucky to call him their peer. Just like on October’s Robed in Rareness, Ish once again proves himself peerless, collaborating with his own aliases with as much verve as musical partners both old (Stas THEE Boss, OCNotes) and new (Cobra Coil, Japreme Magnetic). As per usual, Shabazz can't be confined to rap music, with Ish digging his heels deeper into funk ("Angela"), ambient "quiet storm" slow jam interludes ("Synth Dirt"), and an infusion of ghettotech and rock ("Well Known Nobody").

Acid Tongue - Acid on the Dancefloor

Acid Tongue might be well-known in the region as the franchise band for the Seattle cottage industry known as Freakout, but don’t sleep on the actual music when considering their cultural cachet in the scene. They’re a modern hybrid of your favorite ‘70s rock greats; dad rock for dads that are legitimately cool. Their fourth full-length (and first in three years) is full of big hooks and strong songwriting all-around (particularly on closing couplet “Stray Dogs” and “Hollywood Ending”), paired with frontman Guy Keltner’s penchant for countercultural commentary (for example: lead single “Consumerism”). And for the Freakout Festival devotees, there’s always a banger or two on each Acid Tongue full-length to tide you over until November; for those of us looking for a true-to-life ripper, “L.S.D.” on repeat might do just the trick.

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