Treefort Music Fest 2017

By H. Ahn Stewart

Ever considered spending your Spring Break in Boise, Idaho?  Since 2012, Treefort Music Fest has been working hard to prove the viability of [this] notion. Treefort touts itself as a “festival of discovery.” The 5-day event [features] over 400 musical performances across more than 20 venues, yet the entire affair feels intimate. Inspired and prompted by SXSW, Treefort happens every March in the wake of its precursor, [and] is a means of luring performers to the Pacific Northwest’s third largest and most remote city.  

Chanti Darling at 2016 Treefort Music Fest; Photo by Kristen McPeek

Treefort is a proving ground for both Boise and the artists it brings into town. Wisely curated and featuring a diverse range of musical acts and genres from all over the world, most of the performers at Treefort are just as aspiring as the festival itself.  A majority of the performers are still cultivating their own audiences and have not yet reached the levels of popularity or recognition their talents deserve.

Lizzo at 2017 Treefort Music Fest; Photo by Matthew Wordell

Many female drummers sweated it out on the stages of Treefort Fest, including Katherine Paul (Genders), Gretchen Grimm (Chastity Belt), Sara Lund (Nocturnal Habits, Secret Drum Band), Susan Lucia (Human Ottoman, Secret Drum Band), Lisa Schonberg (Secret Drum Band), Laura Kelsey (Death Valley Girls), Rusty Hanger (The Coat Hangers), and Catherine Harris-White of SassyBlack.

From upper left corner to right: Katherine Paul by Aaron Sharpsteen/Gretchen Grimm by Scott Troyan/Sassyblack via Sassyblack/Sara Lund via mediageek/Lisa Schonberg via Coathanger by Jason Reed/Susan Lucia via Kelsey by David Evanko

Boytoy (Brooklyn, NY) played one of the final sets of Treefort at a small bar called The Olympic.  Keep your eye on this evolving act whose current set surpasses the limits of their recorded catalog.  An upcoming release later this year will likely impress. Tom Tom sat down with Boytoy’s drummer Chase Noelle to dig into her drumming lifestyle.

How did you learn to play?

When my mom was pregnant, she said I would kick to the beat whenever she walked into a loud bar. I’ll just leave that there.


When you meet other female drummers do you feel a unique camaraderie?

I don’t feel extra camaraderie than I do with any another touring musician. Actually, it sort of bums me out when a female drummer initiates a ‘YOU GO GIRL’ high five moment *before* we’ve seen each other play. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a bottomless trough of annoying, spirit-threatening moments that we all share, being female-bodied in a male dominated space —  we could start an extended conversation about that — but the idea of sharing those experiences with a quasi-stranger doesn’t light me up and make me want to like, hug it out. I’d rather vibe about her cool outfit or if she likes Drake than the fact that she plays drums and has a vagina. I just don’t think it’s a novelty. And I don’t think it’s productive to treat it as one. Wage Gaps? That’s a novelty.

What drum equipment set-up do you use?

[I play a] Shine custom 100% birch kit. I prefer used cymbals. I have some 16″ 70’s Zildjian hats and an 18″ 1960s Zildjian crash [that] I found at a pawn shop for $20. Both have that vintage trashy sound, not very boisterous. I’m wary of sounds that divert attention from the song. Also, if your cymbals die quick, you don’t have that long decay to hide behind. You have to play confidently. To borrow from the best bass player in the world, Carol Kaye, you need a “real fine time feel”.

I have two signature pieces, one is a giant 23″ Zildjian Sweet Ride (the bell cuts like butter!), and the other is my Ludwig Supralite 8×14 snare drum. It’s so deep (and I’m so short). I put an extra wide 24-strand set of snare wires on the bottom (AC/DC style splat!) and I muffle the top like crazy by duct-taping a cloth bag to the top. There’s barely any rebound but it turns my snare sound into a crunchy cannon, like a marching band snare without the distracting overtones. There’s nothing more sensual for an audience than a huge sound that they FEEL more than they hear.

How does Treefort Music Fest compare to any other festivals you have played?
Treefort was incredible! The best festival I’ve ever played in my entire life. I’m not exaggerating.


Is there anything else you would like to share? Non-sequitur, dirty joke, serious political message?
I chew on raw jalapeños when I play and record. They distract the half of the mind tends to wander mid-song. I think it’s an aphrodisiac too. They also have more Vitamin C than an orange. I love jalapeños.


The muppet Animal was inspired by The Who’s Keith Moon (hence his eyebrows & rowdiness), if there was a muppet inspired by your drumming, what would its name be & what would it look like?

Muppets are for babies. I want to be the Meryl Streep of drumming. Smart and regal and timeless. Except I’ll dye my hair before it ever goes silver. I guess I want to be a Meryl Streep/Cher hybrid. Anyway, here’s Meryl as a muppet. (Illustrated by Saara Untracht-Oakner of BOYTOY)

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