Two gamers playing pinball stand behind Duck Club’s core team of booking agents, marketers, and social media experts, seated at a cozy booth in the back of the Neurolux. They kill time before Treefort Music Fest veterans, Floral, arrive to play another set in Boise. This isn’t an unusual scene for a summery Thursday night at the Neurolux. Several times a month, music lovers get to enjoy Duck Club’s selection of diverse and talented artists at many of their favorite venues in town.
Duck Club began in the fall of 2011 as Eric Gilbert, Lori Shandro, and Drew Lorona converged paths. Shandro and Lorona wanted to open a venue that would focus on artists they enjoyed, but soon the idea expanded to a larger music festival.
Treefort Music Fest, a five-day music festival located in the heart of downtown Boise, arrived in the spring of 2012, and Megan Stoll joined the team as a partner and marketing expert. Shortly after Treefort 2012 wrapped, its founding members formed Duck Club with a mission to maintain the festival’s goals of bringing in unique, talented, and interesting musicians to Boise year-round. Duck Club aims to promote Boise’s music scene and leverage a multi-faceted production company to offer support to emerging artists. The team continues to grow, and in 2016 Brett Perry joined Duck Club as a social media support.
“After Treefort, we knew we wanted to keep booking shows year-round, but we didn’t want to use that specific name,” says Gilbert. “[We all] came up with the name, ‘Duck Club’ based off of Lori’s late husband who had a fishing line called ‘The Duck Club.’”
Duck Club’s mission is to provide a positive experience for touring musicians that motivates touring artists to return to Boise. They also foster Boise’s music scene to keep great local artists in town. “We really like booking bands that normally wouldn’t come to Boise and encouraging them to come back,” says Stoll.
Before Duck Club formed, the team was scattered across many industries. Gilbert worked at local pizzeria Pie Hole, played and toured with Finn Riggins, planned small music festivals, and booked touring bands in his spare time. This grassroots experience helped train him on how to book music professionally. “I’m really grateful for all the experience I gained through wanting to bring more music to Boise,” says Gilbert. “I would have never been able to work on a project like Treefort without it.”
Stoll worked as a marketing director for a local newspaper, which contrasts her current position at Duck Club considerably. “It was an interesting transition. After leaving a corporate job, I don’t think I’d ever go back. It doesn’t compare. This job allows me more creativity and a lot more freedom,” says Stoll. After Stoll departed from her job at the paper, she became involved with promoting and marketing Treefort. Working with Duck Club was the next logical step after the first Treefort concluded.
Perry came from an entirely different background. “I was a professional dancer,” he says. “I met Megan and Eric as a fan coming to the shows. I switched into freelance work, and about a year ago my schedule opened up. They asked me to join the Duck Club marketing team, and of course I accepted,” he says.
These artists from different backgrounds — dance, music, food, corporate marketing — converged after spending years focused on varying career paths. Duck Club serves as an important organization for many young musicians, providing an example of creative people succeeding at successfully building and running a small production company. For a younger generation wondering how the Duck Club team was able to forge their path, the group has some advice.
“Trust yourself. Figure out what you really love to do. We only have this one life, and you’re capable of getting multiple chances at things,” says Stoll. “You’ll find your path along the way. If your life allows you to, keep refining what you’re best at and work hard toward it. Try it all and experiment.”
“You can always go back,” says Gilbert. “I was in engineering school, and I talked to this guy who was in his 30s, fell into debt, and was going back to get out of it. I realized I can go do something else for 10 years and the worst thing that will happen is I’ll have to go back. There’s time. I’m young. Why not do something I want to do? It sounds idealistic, but when you’re young you have time to at least try.”
Many young artists struggle to know where to start when marketing and promoting their bands, and Duck Club is here to help. “We like to mentor young bands and advise DIY artists on booking tours,” says Perry. “We have a huge focus on local stuff, and we’re taking on some band management in town. We’re pretty selective with that, but we’re exploring it.” Duck Club aims to support young musicians, providing them the resources to pursue their interests in meaningful ways.
“Giving young artists an entry point into the industry at a local level is huge,” says Gilbert. “Duck Club is a more of a one-stop-shop, so we can offer help with tours, put new artists on a bill, or offer advice on your next album release. We make our contact information readily available on our website so anyone can send in a question. We believe in genuinely supporting our community.”
“It’s so cool to see young musicians honing their craft,” says Stoll. “It’s encouraging for them and for Boise’s music scene as a whole.”
“I love seeing local bands take themselves more seriously,” says Gilbert. “Treefort has offered a national stage to local bands in Boise. Instead of having to leave the state, they’re treated as equals and taken more seriously.”
Duck Club also brings in touring bands from around the world and adds a personal touch to their Boise experiences. “Something that was kind of missing from the scene before was a ‘welcoming mat’ rather than just a transaction,” says Gilbert. “We wanted to help [touring bands] find a place to stay, greet them at the door, and be real ambassadors to Boise.”
“We help take them to where they need to go,” says Stoll. “Even the little things like recommending a good spot to eat is really important as well.” The members of Duck Club hope that as they help embolden the Boise music scene, more bands will want to stay in Boise. “You don’t necessarily have to live in LA or New York City to do this, whereas it was practically a necessity before,” says Gilbert. “We put on a lot of shows and make many of the bills available to bands. We have contacts all over the country who can help book shows for local artists.”
Duck Club books shows primarily in Boise’s downtown venues but varies the locations of their shows as much as possible to promote local businesses. Their drive to partner with local establishments comes from their core values. “You combine two passionate people in the city you want to grow, and it creates a great energy,” says Stoll. “Boise is the perfect-sized city for a festival like Treefort and for a place like Duck Club. Partnering with local businesses makes everything more exciting.”
“We’re all on the same team. We all want to rise up to work toward building something bigger than us,” says Gilbert. “It’s not just Treefort or Duck Club. It’s something special.”
When Gilbert first pitched the idea of a music festival, it was a small idea. “We really wanted to show off Boise for touring bands,” he says. “Our goal was to stimulate the Boise music scene here and build it up. We originally wanted three days and 60 bands, and it quickly snowballed into four days and 120 bands. We truly didn’t realize it was going to be a ‘thing’ until 6pm on the Thursday the first Treefort started. It was so positive in so many ways that we knew there was really something here.”
Local and touring artists who play Treefort seem to feel a unique sense of kinship with the festival. “People from other festivals come here and ask, ‘How did you do this?’ and we always answer, ‘It’s the community,’” says Gilbert. Perry adds, “We’re connecting all of these cultures to Boise. We’re sharing culture through music and sending culture out into the world as well, which is an important part of what we do in the scene.”
“In general, the Treefort team itself is pretty diverse, and that’s something we’re collectively passionate about,” says Gilbert. “We want it to be welcoming, and it takes active effort.”
Stoll adds, “It’s a cultural thing. With different diverse types of people, you get different music, food, fashion — everything. It’s a city! It’s not this homogenous entity anymore. People get scared of what they don’t know or understand. We’re trying to present a safe space for people to learn about each other.”
This is one of the many things that makes Duck Club and Treefort stand out among other Boise-based production companies. Duck Club aims to react with purpose, intention, and thought to the climate of Boise. “Music can bring you together,” says Gilbert. “Programming with the current political atmosphere made us really motivated to represent many types of people this year at Treefort.”
Every year, Treefort attendees have new features to look forward to, crafted locally and independently. “It’s really the community. We call up people we know and they have these great ideas, and suddenly we’re running with it,” says Stoll.
“One of the things with how Treefort operates is everyone is given a pretty long leash and autonomy to really pursue on what they’re passionate about,” says Gilbert. “That makes it more fun for them, and also leads to creative ideas popping up all the time.”
The organic nature of how Treefort came together and how it continues to grow is part of its charm. “It’s a party, but there’s also some seriousness to it, too. The community shows up and really participates,” says Gilbert. “Everyone is able to focus on what they do best and run with it. The forts have their own voice and it makes them more authentic.”
When asked about the nature of the music Duck Club brings to Boise, Perry says, “There are so many people coming to see bands they have never heard of. They’re fully subscribed to the ‘discovery’ aspect of Treefort because they trust that we aren’t just trying to sell tickets. The community enables us to do that. You might not know the band, but you’re probably going to walk away with their record.”
“Part of our ‘brand’ is that we’re at the shows we put on, which is really important to us,” says Gilbert. “We try our best to be present for shows because human-to-human interactions with bands goes such a long way. That’s what sets Duck Club apart from things I’ve seen in the past. We’re all in this world together trying to make some cool shit happen.”
Photos by Jenny Bowler