A woman in a red dress and a little feathered hat meanders around the bar. “Be someone else tonight,” she says, handing out name patches—a la auto-repair garage uniform—and safety pins for easy application. An audience member accepts this prompt and is awarded a green participation ribbon along with a new identity for the night.
A Mighty Band of Microbes, a Boise local band consisting of members Matthew Vorhies—vocals and accordion, and “Reggie” for the night—Miky Williams—vocals and stick bass—and Shane Brown—drums and “Ross” for the night—played a 5:30 p.m. set at Pengilly’s Saloon on Friday, March 24, as part of Treefort Music Fest. The self-described “garage folka” band engaged the audience fully, and the plethora of participation awards flooding the bar’s dance floor suggested the early start time had not dampened the band’s contagious charisma.
Opening the set with the refrain “I’m not alone/I’ve got microbes,” the band immediately created an environment conducive to Friday night dancing and a relinquishing of inhibitions. As Williams riffed on her Home Depot handrail-turned-bass stick—which friend of the band and Boise State student with name-patch “Bruce” said he calls “the stick” though admitting Williams prefers to call it “Bob”—audience members stomped their feet and sipped gin and tonics.
Along with alter-ego-creating patches, the Microbes bequeathed wire cat ears to some of their devoted fans, and invited all audience members to make “super unscientific space sounds” during one of their songs. These unique practices certainly made it easy to engage with the band and the other audience member at the show. Vorhies, going by “Reggie,” explained the patches give people a new identity and help audience members talk to one another.
“Reggie” had a further reason for passing out the patches. “It helps me at festivals like this one, so I can be nice to people who showed up to my show,” he said. At the last festival the Microbes played, they were able to pass out around 200 patches.
After the show, audience member and fan “Nate” reported that the band’s closing song, which gave some life advice in its repetition of the phrase “Don’t be an asshole,” was her favorite of the set. “They have so much showmanship it’s ridiculous. They have super charm. He has an accordion, she has a handrail,” “Nate” said.
A Mighty Band of Microbes does not currently have any upcoming shows, but this is due to efforts to record an album. Updates can be found on their Facebook page.