Seattle-based band Naked Giants helped get the second day of Treefort started right at the Prefunk venue, playing a high-energy show spanning old favorites and new material. It was the band’s second trip to Treefort, and followed up a more recent visit after the group opened for Car Seat Headrest last April.
Naked Giants are a trio who blend elements of garage rock, psyche, blues and 80s and 90s indie into a potent, hard-charging sound. But this description does little to capture the fun-loving and frantic energy that goes into their live shows, and the band’s set at Prefunk was no exception.
From the opening chords of the short and sweet blast of “Regular Guy,” the group was in perfect form, both as performers and musicians. Guitarist Grant Mullen and bassist Gianni Aiello both proved to be skilled contortionists, tucking their instruments behind their heads or up beside their cheek, all while flawlessly playing their parts. When not singing, Aiello would alternate between a straight-legged wobble and lunging, 90-degree bends at the waist, occasionally throwing in a leaping scissor kick. Drummer Henry LaVallee — whose perfect mullet must be remarked upon — made frequent trips from behind his kit, venturing to the edge of the stage to engage with the audience.
The music Naked Giants makes is perfect for a festival set, full of high-flying guitar solos and catchy choruses that are easy to sing along with. While every song was well-executed and memorable in its own way, the six-minute jam “TV” packed the biggest punch of the show. Beginning with a simple two-chord groove, the song evolved into a racing, shred-filled freakout before swooping into a noisy, downtempo groove. Such changes in feel are exciting when correctly pulled off, and a bit of a buzzkill when they’re botched, but Naked Giants made them look effortless.
It’s unfortunate that such a fun band playing such great music was received by such a mediocre crowd. While the Prefunk venue had filled up considerably by the time Naked Giants took the stage, most members of the audience never got beyond cautiously bobbing their heads, despite the energy being pumped out by the performers. While their intensity never wavered, it seemed like the band’s enthusiasm dipped slightly after several songs, when it became clear they were giving a lot more than was being returned. Several of drummer LaVallee’s trips to the front of the stage seemed almost like pep talks, as he prompted the crowd to clap along — or show some sign of life.
While the crowd left something to be desired, the Prefunk venue was perfectly adequate. The beer bar is one of the many locations around downtown Boise that got a facelift for the festival season, and it adapted to status as a venue quite well. A small covered stage was erected facing the parking lot, which was dotted with black oil drums to serve as tables and gas-powered heaters, which proved unnecessary for the mild afternoon. The traffic of Front Street, which the bar faces, was whipping by throughout the show, but the noise it created never presented a problem.
Treefort and Prefunk should be credited for creating a venue that’s relatively open to the public, allowing non-festival-goers passing by to stop and take in the music. Such gestures are part of what makes Treefort such a beloved part of the Boise community.
After playing a few other favorites, including “Sluff” and the twitchy “Pyramid,” the band pulled out some new tunes, including a song that had never been played live before. It was a cool treat for a festival show, which typically consists of tried-and-true selections from older albums.
The band wrapped up the show with the pulsing “Dead/Alien,” and quit the stage, inviting the crowd to come see them again later that night, at a 9:10 show being played at the El Korah Shrine. The fact that the group had another, bigger show to perform later in the night, and still brought such energy during their first performance was a testament to their dedication and generosity as performers. Hopefully that spirit gets the reception it deserves at El Korah.