The 8th year of Treefort Music Fest is upon us! Multiple stages are overflowing with bands, storytellers, foodies, ale aficionados, and yogis alike. For music lovers, this is one of the best times of the year to tune in to something exploratory and let a new band… or six… get under your skin. Whether you go all out and purchase a wristband, hone in on a particular set of artists with a venue-specific ticket, or leave it up to a roll of the bones with a walk-up ticket, Treefort is the place to be March 20 – 24. Play your cards strategically: while discovering new national or regional acts, make it a point to become attached to a new local band so you’ll have the chance to follow along year round.
According to a recent article in the Idaho Statesman, more than 7,000 fans piled into Boise for Treefort last year. The festival is an economic boon and a one-of-a-kind infusion of culture to our valley, but it can also be the beginning of long-lasting musical love affairs among locals.
If you are in search of new, local music and you have a penchant for the dark and creepy, look no further than Boise’s own Ghostbox. They will play their first gig at Treefort Music Fest this Friday evening (event/ticket info). The brain child of Jason Whitley, Ghostbox was formed in 2013 and has two CDs and many live performances under its belt. The band’s eponymous 2013 debut CD screams and whispers simultaneously with carefully punctuated and purposeful musical shifts. This changeability is addictive and it is Ghostbox’s sonic signature: you never know what’s coming next, but you learn quickly to trust that it will be tasty to the ear. The band’s latest EP, Visions in the Sky (2017), is a moody, slightly psychedelic, hard rock rumination on things that populate the fringes of respectable society, like witches, Skunk Apes, and things “Not of the Light.” Both CDs were recorded with Andy Agenbroad, who now heads The Chop Shop, one of Boise’s premier recording studios. Agenbroad was in Ghostbox for about a year early on, but he has since settled into his role as the band’s preferred sound engineer.
Ghostbox’s present line up has been fixed for a year and a half. Whitley is the frontman, rhythm guitarist, visionary, and lyricist of the band. As a wordsmith, Whitley is poetic and fearless. The band’s “love song,” “Me and You,” and the searching “Past Life 2” particularly showcase his lyrical creativity. The rhythm section includes bassist Steve Bade, who has been in the band since its inception, and drummer Ryan Anderson, a Boise native whom the band hunted for quite some time before gluing him to the sticks in 2015. Anderson has a great deal of experience playing different styles of music and this is an asset considering Ghostbox’s musical range. In this project, however, he has returned to his roots as a hard rock drummer who, with Bade, is the backbone and gatekeeper of Ghostbox’s rhythmic timing. Bade is a sunny, free spirit who moonlights as an entrepreneur with his business Sock Fetish (his socks are as colorful as his personality!), but he takes his pulsing bass lines seriously. After five lessons as a teen, he was cut loose by his instructor as a natural and he has been thumping ever since. Curtis Dela Cruz, guitarist and riff master, is the most recent addition to the band’s sound system. He was a natural fit from his earliest gigs with the group and his guitar solos are blues-inspired liquid energy. Cue up the song “Astara” to get a feel for Dela Cruz’s guitar solos and the band’s jamming riffs.
Ghostbox has an uncompromising, unique sound that relies on a tight rhythm section that executes tempo changes with precision, a rich, layered guitar sound, and mercurial vocals that soar and rumble. Johnny Benjamin, a long-time local fan, reminisces that he was “blown away by their song quality and…arrangement,” adding that the band members were “super friendly” and they have an “animal for a bass player.” From the dramatic pauses and twists in the song “Unburied Corpses,” to the crescendo that opens “Skunk Ape” and its aggressive riff, multiple time and tone shifts are a hallmark of Ghostbox’s style. This band is a keeper on the local scene.
Ghostbox defies standard genre labels. Some would call its sound stoner rock, others would argue it is doom metal or a combination thereof, but Whitley refers to Ghostbox simply as “dark rock.” It may seem a vague description, but the band’s originality and versatility are its greatest strengths so avoiding the proverbial pigeon hole is wise in this instance. Ghostbox has opened for bands from many diverse genres including the ruff and gruff Red Fang, industrial rockers Lords of Acid, 80s good-time metalteers Y&T, Mac Sabbath and their evil clown-frontman, and, most recently, SoCal rowdy rockers, Them Evils. They have also shared the stage with Unsane, High on Fire, Dead Sara, Floater, Wayland, Hookers and Blow, and Ded. The spectrum of shows the band has played is a testament to their quality and range. They have a vivid sound that is built on musical variations and combines influences as diverse as Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Donovan, Kiss, Iron Maiden, and AC/DC. Whitley effortlessly transitions from a growl to a power scream to a clean melody, sometimes within the same song. Check out the songs “Sun and the Snow,” “Another Day,” and “Visions in the Sky” to get a feel for his vocal gymnastics. The strings are equally expressive combining catchy, strumming intros with roaring riffs. In the end, it may be difficult to check a genre box with Ghostbox, but the fans and our local music scene are wealthier for it.
Ghostbox debuts at Treefort this Friday, March 22, at the newly remodeled Knitting Factory. The evening’s bill is a phenomenal set of artists featuring headliners Acid King, who are among the royalty of stoner metal. Also playing are experimental hard rockers Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, Weeed out of Portland, Boise’s “desert-fuzz doomers,” Ealdor Bealu, and local scene vets, Cerberus Rex. Doors open at 5 pm and if you’re short a wristband, an advance ticket for $15 will net you six bands for the evening (Skybox is available for $35 and day-of- show entry is $20). There will be a fixed number of walk-up tickets available at the Knitting Factory that evening, but arrive well before the doors open and prepare for possible disappointment if you go that route. The price is right on this show and the talent is undeniable. Treefort organizer, Eric Gilbert, has patched together a show you won’t want to miss if your taste strays toward the heavy end of the spectrum. Fire up your favorite streaming service or YouTube and snoop around for a teaser of what this show has to offer. Download the Treefort planning app so you know what you’re doing. Next stop, downtown Boise and stoner rock and psychedelic metal paradise.