Nanobot Rock Reviews had the pleasure of hosting brunch at Boise’s Bittercreek Alehouse the morning of the final day of Treefort Music Festival 2014. The Sunday showcase held acoustic sets from Van Wave (San Francisco, CA), Cassie Lewis & The Foxxtones (Boise, ID), Sheep Bridge Jumpers (Ketchum, ID), Stoneseed (Boise, ID) and Animal Eyes (Portland, OR).
Greg: Waking up early during Treefort was a big challenge, but the promise of new music exploration was definitely a motivating factor for me.
When Van Wave struck up their set and my first cup of coffee arrived, I knew it was going to be a great morning. The trio of vocalists seemed to almost hypnotize with their siren-like style. Not in a crash your ship here kind of way, but a way that eliminated the three days of festival exhaustion and reinvigorated everyone. I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off the Acoustic Showcase.
Clay: Yes, waking up can be a challenge. More beer, sir? Why yes, this won’t end with a headache… Big thanks to Alefort to opening me up to the Boise beer scene.
Right, the music. Those harmonies are what I am going to remember most. When Van Wave said they would sing and hopefully not disturb the people eating, I started to worry. Were people going to be bothered? How was this going to go. But once those three voices joined as one in sweet unison, concern went out the door. I even relaxed enough to order a giant bowl of breakfast poutine for the table.
Greg: I don’t see how anyone could have even been remotely bothered by the set. They turned a seemingly simple idea of a stripped down performance into a vibrant display of vocal passion and melodic beauty. What’s more is Van Wave’s ability to mask some dark lyrics within the aforementioned gorgeous harmonies.
The trio’s ability to ease open the brunch session left us all pleased with the performance but the way they shaped their songs and voices for the environment is a testament to their musical skills.
Clay: Which bridged us well into the next act, Cassie Lewis & the Foxxtones. They were minus one Foxx Tone pedal, but that did not stop Lewis from belting out bourbon-soaked country blues and enchanting the Sunday crowd. Her sense of humor was on display as well as she addressed the patrons in a friendly and jocular nature; this was her city after all, and she made us all feel welcome in it.
Greg: The laid back style of Cassie Lewis was a perfect fit for a Sunday brunch set. Her wit and poetic delivery not only made for a fun listen, but it encapsulated the true nature of Boise. Hell, I live here and I felt like I was just now discovering Treasure Valley music. But I’m not going to lie, she had me at “A band of drunken a-holes on a Sunday morning.”
What struck me, and by struck me I mean nearly knocked me off my seat, is Lewis’ delivery. “Bourbon-soaked country blues” is a great way of putting it, but I’d raise it one more and venture to say there were hints of a sassy Dolly Parton in Ms. Lewis. Her rendition of “Jolene” was absolutely stunning and looking around Bittercreek, all eyes were on the stage and a hush feel over the alehouse.
Clay: As well as captivating everyone there with Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” Back to “Jolene,” not only was all the focus on Lewis’ cover, she also got a little backing vocals from Van Waves who were sitting just off “stage” right. The camaraderie of musicians is always wonderful to behold; artists working with artists to create new sounds, it’s a lot of fun. That fun counteracted Lewis’ haunting vocals and somber material that made me want to disappear into several flights of whiskey. In a good way.
Clay:So how about a seven piece mashup of bluegrass, folk, country, sprinkled with a little jug band? Sheep Bridge Jumpers got us off to a rollicking good time with “Hill City Doesn’t Exist” and even got a couple people from the brunch to set down their coffee and put on a swing dance clinic.
Greg: Well let’s not forget the three-to-four person stage. When a group of six, including an upright bass, started mingling around the area I, well, I basically sat back and watched things take shape without offering any spacial reasoning input.
When Sheep Bridge Jumpers began their set and wove their web of “Sittin Somewhere on the Camas Prairie/There’s a little town/and its so run down…” I was immediately reminded of a quote from the great Tim Woodward, ““If you’re tired of Idaho, you’re tired of life.” SBJ is a pure Idaho sound from a small town with a big personality. Their Worn instruments are a story of traveled souls and their songs tales from the proverbial road.
And then, for one quick moment, I thought to myself Sheep Bridge Jumpers then Stoneseed, is this a bad 1-2 pairing? I mean explosive Idaho folk to explosive, energy packed, foot-stompin’ Idaho folk seems like it would possibly dilute the value of these two bands if one followed the other.
Yeah, I was wrong.
Clay: Wrong indeed. Hindsight being 20/20, the lineup went about as well as it could. The transition between Sheep Bridge Jumpers and Stoneseed just took that folky good-time feel and bumped it up a notch. Had anyone been between it could have killed the momentum; and there was a ton of that to go around as the local quartet took the stage. The place was packed, everyone was revitalized after music, coffee, and who knows how many mimosas. They were ripe for Stoneseed to carry us home.
Greg: And I was left looking a fool. But that, like most hangovers present, quickly faded with the set. The ferocity Stoneseed brings, even in an acoustic set, is something to experience. This is the second time I’ve experienced Stoneseed live and unlike most bands, after the initial elation is gone, these guys are as good, if not better the next time. I don’t think Treefort 2014 would have been complete without this brunch and especially another rousing performance by Boise’s own folk experience.
But then things got even more interesting…
When Animal Eyes walked in there was confusion abound. The band hadn’t set off on their tour with anything acoustic. So what did they do?
They proved their musical brilliance and the ensuing entertainment was absolutely unforgettable.
Clay: No instruments for an acoustic set? No problem! Through resourcefulness, kindness of other musicians, having an accordion in their arsenal and a catalog of acoustic songs to fall back on, Animal Eyes closed with an absolutely stunning performance. Really? Your rhythm guitarist is going to sit on an accordion case and hit it with a pair of car keys, and it is going to sound amazing? Really??? I want to go up to them and say: “Here’s a beer growler, a pack of thumbtacks and some peanut brittle. Make an album – go!”
Greg: They had spent five weeks on the road before this and their ability to make A LOT from nothing was only trumped in impressiveness by their actual performance. To say I was captivated is an understatement. I was drawn to their laid back style with unbreakable fascination. To say I am a fan is undeniable. I These guys have serious musical talent. I couldn’t think of a better way to end the Sunday brunch at Bittercreek Alehouse.
Clay and Greg co-founded Nanobot. From all of us here at Nanobot we would like to thank the wonderful people at Bittercreek Alehouse, when you’re in Boise check them out, and the amazing Treefort Music Festival, we’re still recovering from the awesomeness.