It’s that time of year again. Treefort Music Fest has sounded the horn and the musical tribes of Boise have answered the call. The festival has never been a single entity, but a massive congregation of distinct scenes contributing their signature sounds to this pantheon of a cultural event. The festival is a prime opportunity to observe the nuanced musical identities of Boise and how they blend together so well. This article focuses on the electronic scene’s representation at Treefort; the scene of which I am a shameless devotee.
Even removed from this glorified past, electronic sub-genres, just like metal or punk or rap, develop unique subcultures. Those subcultures often identify themselves in opposition to each other, and the electronic scene that I am a part of, identifies itself in opposition to EDM-ification. Not all electronic music is created equal and Boise’s “electronic scene” situates itself somewhere between underground elitism and mass-market media.
We’ll start out the playlist with one of the baddest women in the scene, Andrea Graham, aka The Librarian. She is the head curator of the classiest electronic festival in North America, Bass Coast. She is playing with Mat the Alien, a fellow Canadian DJ aficionado. These two together are the ultimate selektas, with their ability to weave within one hour an international arsenal of bass music, from Chicago footwork, to London grime. They played Idaho’s 5th Konnexion Music Festival and are back to drop jaws further.
The west coast representation is continued by the addition of Portland’s Sublimate collective. Label heads, Heisty and Sonis, have been making massive waves in the Northwest with top-tier curation of music releases and events. Their aesthetic veers away from the wook-warped slurpy bass into a black shirt urban classiness. This is a tone set by the UK focused rhythms and the mesmerizing visual experimentations by Sonis, who is on the top of the bass-producers-to-watch-pop-off list.
The Sublimate dons are joined by production/rap duo Cory O and Raquel Divar. You do not want to miss this bad ass chick spit over solid bass anthems. Together they capture the identity of our half of the continent’s exploration of the lyrical electronic jam.
If you want a refined maximalist version of the slurpy bass, Goopsteppa is the digs. Having soundtracked the sunrise at Konnexion Music Festival this last year, few producers can capture as complex of a textural experience within the bass music genre.
An artist that swerves a little more towards the urban beat culture identity is California king, Onhell. With each production he brings grime closer to American consciousness, and simultaneously brings the bay area forward into a new style of bass.
Continuing down the left-coast we hit the LA stronghold. The city’s unique ability to mix international styles with a regional flavor is represented in Kastle and his label, Symbols. Both championing experimental melodic bass and a revival of classic UK garage, Kastle is an impressive booking for this year’s Treefort.
Take note that I have not mentioned dubstep until this moment.
Although, I wish people didn’t always associate bass music with this one subgenre, it is important to remember that there is more out there than the frat-boy rage-face brostep you hear in the club scenes of movies starring Zec Afron. If you want some OG Deep Dark and Dangerous dubstep, look no further than Truth.
If you want to go a little harder but still not quite hit the sleeveless SWAG shirt subculture, Thelem has the sounds. Halftime and dubstep form a heavy hitting combo that definitely flirts with the EDM scene a little more than I like… but once in a while an orgy of neurobass textures can be pretty mind blowing.
Take note that this article hasn’t hit the 4×4 music yet either.
As evidenced above Boise definitely has a booming affinity for bass music, but it’s house and techno, while less prominent, are definitely present. I don’t know exactly why these two genres are always so saliently separated but it is a widely known phenomenon.
To get your steady-beat fix, find Deuce Parks representing the contemporary techno scene. Or catch Lenny Kiser channeling the bouncy house sound of Dirtybird Records. For a local legend that has survived the rave scene’s maturation into bar culture, catch Brooke Would. She is one of the greatest old-school DJ’s that many might mistake as new school.
Now it’s time to shout out the homies.
Maybe it’s not so obvious, but our region has a thriving community of electronic music. Within this context some pretty fantastic artists have found niches to flourish. These young up-and-comers will impress. So keep your ears open:
Kissay is a longtime figure of the electronic scene and curator of Konnexion Music Festival, Idaho’s only real electronic music festival. His production and tastemaking capabilities are big-city caliber. Magic Sword collaborator, Deeveaux will provide his unique blend of synthwave and electro. His talents beyond his artistry have helped keep Boise’s best party, Sensory Illumination, going and growing strong. Portland’s Strand returns with a blend of lush techno and downtempo experimentation. Rhythmic Friction flexes a live performance of keys and slapping bass within a sexy RnB house groove. Young and club ready, ohbrando, brings bass heavy house with a new wave of electronic aesthetic. Finally, EvoluShawn challenges subgenre classification with vocal snippet club stompers and masterful hybridization.
I’m not saying you have to enjoy all of this music, but the least we all can do is legitimize the complexities of a scene that is often marginalized by serious musicians and listeners as empty carbs. Within each of these artists lies a combination of styles, each with their own unique story of cultural emergence. The power of electronic music to move past our social barriers and tired bones will not escape you when the late-night dance floors of Treefort start accumulating sweat.
Give this year’s playlist a listen, see for yourself, and see ya on the dance floor.