Denton Does Fortress Fest

Fortress Festival came and went over a week ago. Normally, a review would drop on the Monday or Tuesday that follows, but I admit I had to chew on this for a bit. I’m not one who frequents music festivals. They’re often crowded, impersonal, and all of the peripheral fare is supremely overpriced. It’s safe to say that barring my press admission, I would not attend events such as this one. It’s simply not an environment that caters to young, working class individuals. That being said, for the 30-somethings that dominate the festival circuit, it’s almost always an undeniable success.

For a festival in its infancy, Fortress went off relatively smoothly, especially compared to the other event that occurred that same weekend. It’s easy to succeed when your competition has trapped its patrons on an island in the Caribbean and is feeding them cheese sandwiches in their new gulag. Modest turnout made navigation simple, and barring the distance between the two stages (one inside Will Rogers Memorial, the other inside the Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art), ease of access was present.  Visibility of the stage was hardly an issue, either. The obvious draw of the festival, however, is the talent. The line-up was impressive for a year one fest, and featured artists from several hemispheres of the current musical landscape. The heavy hitters this year consisted of Flying Lotus, Run The Jewels, Slowdive, Purity Ring, Whitney, and Alvvays. These acts alone carried the value of the two-day pass. The rest of the acts were locals, and one-hit wonders doomed to haunt the festival circuit until the project inevitably disintegrates.

However, the headliners did more than enough to demonstrate the value of events like this one. On the evening of night one, the threat of rain deterred few. Flying Lotus brought dance friendly, lighthearted electronic jams to Will Rogers, handily sneaking in a myriad of samples made his own. The most impressive of these was a song dedicated to the music of the Final Fantasy series, turning the somber, powerful ballads into stadium anthems with ease. The mindlessness of his set juxtaposed well with the political ferocity of Run the Jewels who closed out the evening with force. Their powerful, and anthemic hip-hop shaking the foundation of the earth beneath the crowd. The cut their 2-hour designated set by 30 minutes, despite a sea of momentum washing over the audience, but even legends need their 8 hours.

Day 2 brandished a far more relaxed atmosphere, the clouds from the night before giving way to pockets of sunlight and a petulant wind. The first real attraction of the day was Whitney, a lesser known critical darling hailing from the city of Chicago. Their breezy falsettos and chorus guitars complimented the weather perfectly, bringing nostalgic but lighthearted ballads to the Modern. Shortly after, Slowdive, took the stage as dusk fell. They were performing new music for the first time in 22 years, just ahead of last week's release. It was a performance that deserved to be felt, and heard, not seen. The band has last no edge in the passing decades, still able to masterfully layer textures, lyrics, and riffs without hesitation. Conversely, the night was closed out by Purity Ring, who announced their hiatus to record new music. 

Despite everything, the experience that defined my festival had nothing to do with the music, or the infrastructure, but with an experience at a food truck. I found out the hard way what Yuca Fries were. As with most people, I was operating on a limited budget, and settled on fries, as I assumed that for $7 plus tax, I would be getting a reasonable volume of food. This was not the case, however. I can only imagine the look on my face when I was handed a tray of 3 wedges sprinkled with cheese. I was incredulous, and yet could not speak. I could only laugh as I stumbled back to the media tent. It’s safe to say music festivals aren’t for me. That being said, if you are one with an excess of income, and enjoy the expediency of seeing many talented artists at once, you can buy early-bird tickets for next year at

For our full photoset from Fortress Fest 2017, head here


Photos by Emily Cline
Header image design by Christopher Rodgers