Boise Music Scene
Lauren Wells | April 4, 2014
Boise, Idaho has strong folk and rock and roll roots, and natives to the city spread their sound throughout the U.S. Folk singer-songwriters like Rosalie Stringfellow kicked off the 1950s before acts like Paul Revere and the Raiders penned their rock and roll hits like “Kicks” and “Hungry.” The late sixties and seventies churned out indie rock musicians like Doug Martsch, who later went on to form the band Built to Spill in the 90s. Curtis Stiger’s adult contemporary hit “I Wonder Why” was well-received during the 90s, as Boise continued to embrace its jazz/ soft rock roots. Toward the mid to late 90s, electric blues musician John Nemeth made a name for himself alongside folk alternative country acts like Josh Ritter. With humble beginnings, Boise natives have gone on to influence the American music scene with subtle, yet memorable force, making it a laid back city to enjoy a live show.
One of the few chain locations, the Knitting Factory Concert House in Boise hosts bands like ZZ Ward, Blue October, Architects, Delta Rae, and Asking Alexandria, among others. Accommodating for large groups, the venue is very loud but there’s always a good viewpoint of the stage. Besides, you’re going to a rock show. It’s supposed to be loud. The standing room only space books a lot of up-and-coming artists on the cusp of major success, so check out a show here so you can say you knew the band before they shot to fame!
Taco Bell Arena, owned and operated by Boise State University, is home to the Boise State Broncos, hosting basketball games, wrestling matches, and gymnastics events in addition to major concerts. Opened in 1982, the arena also hosts 13,390-capacity concerts by acts like Beyonce, Katy Perry, Michael Buble, Kelly Clarkson, and Phish.
Booking acts like Larry and His Flask, Joe Ely Duo, Tokyo Police Club, and St. Paul and the Broken Bones, the Neurolux Lounge is a casual hipster venue that also hosts poetry slams and karaoke nights. A combination bar and music venue, Neurolux is a great place to catch alternative indie acts and grab a few cheap beers.
The Morrison Center for the Performing Arts, located on Boise State University’s campus, brings in entertainers like Bill Cosby, Kenny Rogers, and Greg Allman. The venue also hosts Broadway shows like Wicked as well as theatrical, symphonic, and ballet performances. A 2,037-capacity venue, the Morrison Center has offered panoramic views of the Boise skyline since it opened in 1984.
More than just a great place to enjoy Boise’s beautiful blooms, the Idaho Botanical Garden also serves as an entertainment space for outdoor concerts and movie screenings. Located on 33 acres of land, the Idaho Botanical Garden offers community outreach programs, educational events, and the promotion of horticulture, botany, conservation, and gardening studies. Musicians like Slightly Stoopid, The Fray, Stephen Marley, Barcelona, and Oh Honey perform during the Garden’s Outlaw Field Summer Concert Series. Bring your family, picnic (sans alcohol—but don’t worry, you can buy it there), and lawn chairs for a great night of music and good company alongside the Boise foothills.
The Red Room, a primarily punk venue, is located in downtown Boise. The loud, divey space offers great happy hour specials and is charmingly dirty in a punk rock kind of way. A very small place to catch a gig, the Red Room is a good place to keep an eye out for some local DJs and musicians rolling through.
A humble venue, The District Coffee House hosts acts like Patrick Densereau, Maxwell Hughes, EverGreen Machine, Cloud Mover, Spencer Rule, Jonathan Warren, Shane Horner, Adam Wright, and Michael Gill. Join other musicians for open mic nights and a cup of locally-sourced coffee, as this non-profit donates its earnings to good causes (the proceeds help feed and educate orphans in India, provide medical care for leper colonies, and assist local families with securing food and household essentials!).
While primarily a place for theatrical performances, the Boise Contemporary Theater also hosts readings, educational programs, and music events featuring artists like Bill Coffey and Eilen Jewell. The contemporary theater offers summer theater camps, and hosts plays like “The Uncanny Valley” and “Slowgirl.”
The Visual Arts Collective in the Garden City/Boise area is an art gallery and performing arts venue. With a full bar and plenty of late night events, the VAC features theatrical performances such as “The Little Dog Laughed” and musical performances by Shook Twins G. Love & Special Sauce. Great for groups, the VAC encourages dancing and serves reasonably priced cocktails. Be sure to immerse yourself in the interactive art displays before catching a show!
Playing host to various musical acts, comedy shows, and boxing matches, the 2,200-capacity Revolution Concert House features state-of-the-art lighting and sound equipment. With a VIP balcony that has great views of the stage, the spacious venue hosts approximately four concerts and four dance nights per month.
The Boise Music Festival features over 50 local and nationally touring bands across seven stages, making for a memorable day of entertainment. With a lineup that includes Kelleigh Bannen, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Lee Dewyze, LMFAO’s Sky Blu, Fitz and the Tantrums, and Train. Held in June at Expo Idaho, the festival has been going strong for over five years, bringing in crowds of about 70,000 fans to see acts like Vanilla Ice, Carly Rae Jepsen, Jason Derulo, LL Cool J, Smash Mouth, Karmin, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, MC Hammer, Sugar Ray, Bret Michaels, Backstreet Boys, Macy Gray, and Green River Ordinance. The Idaho-Down Music Festival is a two-day event held every July. Featuring on-site camping and a regional lineup that includes Jeff Crosby and the Refugees, Free Peoples, Scott Pemberton Trio, New Transit, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, and True Spokes, Idaho-Down is held at Brundage Mountain Resort in McCall, Idaho. For your jazz needs, the Gene Harris Jazz Festival has over 17 years of experience entertaining the Boise community. Artists like Michael Brockman, Wycliffe Gordon, Aaron Miller, Jenny Kellogg, Steve Owen, Todd Strait, and Joey Tartell soothe the audience with their smooth jazz sounds. For more jazz, the University of Idaho hosts the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival, with performances by Shawn Conley, Bruce Forman, Benny Golson, Sheila Jordan, Kevin Kanner, Geoffrey Keezer, Grace Kelly, and Rene Marie. The three-day Summer Music Festival at Roseberry Idaho is produced by the McCall Folklore Society and has been going strong for almost 40 years. Past performers have included bluegrass and acoustic acts like Chicken Dinner Road, Jeff Scroggins & Colorado, Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, and Toubab Krewe. The music and arts showcase MASSV Music Festival in Sun Valley, Idaho is held every July, offering camping options for concert goers. Past performers have included EDM acts like Krewella, Mimosa, Gramatik, House of Vibe, People Under the Stairs, Kill Paris, Grieves, and Minnesota, among many others. Acts like the Shook Twins, Indigo Girls, Cake, Rosanne Cash, The Greencards, John Butler Trio, Steve Miller Band, Matt Andersen, and the Avett Brothers have played at Festival at Sandpoint. Having produced impressive, eclectic lineups over the past 30 years, the festival is a casual, friendly place to enjoy live music that feels like it’s in your own backyard. Held in downtown Boise, the Treefort Music Fest hosts acts like The Joy Formidable, RJD2, Dan Deacon, Built to Spill, Rubblebucket, Odesza, Caustic Resin, The Cave Singers, Cody ChesnuTT, Sister Crayon, Paper Bird, and Pontiak. Also held in Arizona, Elevate Music Festival is a three-day Christian music festival featuring acts like Jars of Clay, Newsboys, Matthew West, Mercy Me, Sanctus Real, Building 429, and Phil Wickham. Not quite a festival, the Alive After Five summer concert series runs from June through August, and is held every Wednesday. Located in downtown Boise’s Grove Plaza, the series hosts vendor booths, generous food options, and a variety of live music.