Interview with Eric Gilbert, Co-founder Treefort Music Fest


Eric Gilbert is a co-founder of Treefort Music Fest, Idaho’s largest independent music festival. Located in downtown Boise, this year’s Treefort drew over 9,000 attendees to see some 400 bands, including Built To Spill, of Montreal, and TV On The Radio. The next Treefort takes place in March 2016. I recently interviewed Eric about the high points of Treefort 2015, life as a touring musician, and how he draws artistic inspiration.

Eric Gilbert in the studio.
Eric Gilbert in the studio.

Sasha: What was the highlight of Treefort 2015?

Eric: I’d have to go with either the 30 minutes I got to sit cross-­legged on the floor at The Watercooler (resting my tired feet and legs) deeply immersed in the Little Wings set (had been years since I’d seen him) or Rubblebucket’s epic closing night set at El Korah Shrine or maybe De Lux’s packed Neurolux set on Friday night or Delicate Steve (always) or Omar Souleyman or Viet Cong (drummer playing with one broken arm) or Tom Brosseau’s set at Cathedral of the Rockies or Built To Spill’s main stage set on an absolutely gorgeous March night or Breakfastfort with the Shriners or, and actually, this is truly my highlight: Megan, Sara, and I swooped over to help manage the line at the Shrine on Saturday night for an of Montreal / Yacht show that had gotten completely out of control. ­­It had turned into two rivaling lines meeting at the door and pressing forward battling for position. We were able to press the line monster back and slowly start relieving pressure and get space between the two lines. At which point, there became a debate as to which line was there first and Megan brilliantly started ro sham beaux battles between the first person in each line to determine who would go in next. It was a beautiful thing and made missing so many great bands at that point in time more than worth it. Couldn’t have imagined a more “Treeforty” thing.

Sasha: Your band, Finn Riggins, spends a lot of time on tour, which requires a significant degree of organization. Does being in a band prep you in any way for the managerial skills needed to create a large-scale event like Treefort?

Eric: Seems to have, yes. Mostly in how to let go, keep a positive can­-do attitude and roll with the punches. Also, in my bands, it’s always worked well to empower everyone’s strengths within the band as opposed to work against the current at all. I feel like Treefort does a good job of allowing everyone to flourish in their roles, sort of a decentralized management approach.  I see the parallels with my experience playing in bands for sure.

Sasha: What’s the best town to play between Missoula, Montana,  and Boise?

Eric: Moscow, Idaho.

Sasha: Do you trust everyone in your band to drive the van?

Eric: Yep.

Sasha: What’s the most inspirational musical experience you’ve had in recent years?

Eric: Holy moly, I am inspired in so many small ways on a regular basis with bands rolling through town, shows at Treefort, etc. Maybe the most overwhelmingly emotional/inspirational one in the last few years was in Zurich, Switzerland, the day I found out that my dad would be dying in the next day or two. I was on tour with Built To Spill as their tour manager. None of the guys knew what I had just found out, but they had arranged to play a DIY warehouse show that night on what was supposed to be a night off. I felt like they really cut loose that night with­ fresh jams and pulled out some rare treats in this very unique setting. There was such a pure spirit with that show, no business about it, just the want to play music and share it with others. I spent the whole show immersed in their music and meditating on my dad and the distance between us geographically and my whole life as a son to him. It was intense and I can’t think of a better soundtrack for that moment and for the days / weeks that followed. Definitely the deepest sense of mourning I’ve ever experienced, and I was embraced by this music I love so much the whole time. Disco Doom as well. I love that band and their music is forever embedded in that intense life moment for me. In a very positive and moving way. I will be forever grateful to have been in such good hands at that time in my life.

Sasha: What two technological advances in the past 5 years have improved your life?

Eric: This seems like a trick question. However, my inclination is to say easily shared video content. I’ve been traveling more recently and it has allowed for me to get these beautiful glimpses of my little girl as she learns to be a human even when I’m away. Definitely improves what life would be like on the road if it weren’t for that.


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Sasha Bell

Sasha Bell is part of Submittable’s Client Success team. She has a BA in Anthropology from Yale University. When not playing with her bands, Essex Green and The Sasha Bell Band, you can find her driving around Montana gawking at her majestic home state.