Fortress Festival 2018 Sets The Bar High
Fortress Festival 2018 was a music lover’s dream. Placed in the heart of Fort Worth’s Cultural District, just a stone’s throw from the Modern Art Museum, the festival’s location could not have been more perfect. Under the shade of the vaguely Greek-looking Will Rogers Memorial Center and a smattering of trees, the festival grounds made a perfect crescent shape, bowed out by the spacious VIP and media lounges. The time spent walking between the two stages was minimal; a complete lap of the festival grounds would have taken ten minutes, tops.
For once, the usually mercurial late-April weather relented during that weekend, and the temperature was perfect once the sun set. In the plentiful shade of the trees, music fans from all over traipsed around with beers and toddlers in hand. A surprising amount of the attendees brought their children, if not their entire family. For what must have been a fun family outing, it was definitely amusing to witness a group of toddlers jump around as RZA from the Wu Tang Clan invited the crowd to shout if they “liked to fuck.” But, for the most part, the festival grounds were family-friendly, even with a fair share of bars and a Fireball Whiskey vendor.
The lineup was expertly planned, with exactly an hour between sets — the perfect amount of time to grab a beer or a bite to eat, or to line up for a front row spot at the upcoming act’s stage. From anywhere on the grounds, concert-goers could hear the music pouring from one of the stages, though the fairgrounds never felt cramped. In the lineup of 23 acts, there was something for every taste: bedroom pop artist and young female icon Jay Som, hip-hop trio De La Soul, or soul artist Lee Fields, to name a few — and that's only scratching the surface of the diverse lineup. The lineup also featured Denton act Pearl Earl, who killed it at 2 p.m. on Sunday with their brand of psych rock. All the way from L.A., Chicano Batman wowed in their iconic matching burgundy suits, led by frontman Bardo Martinez’s electrifying stage presence and voice. With their unique brand of Mexico-influenced soul, tinged with 70’s organ and a little bit of soul, fans who were familiar with their work were amazed, and those who were unfamiliar definitely witnessed an act they would never forget. Later that night, Courtney Barnett delivered a powerful performance, promoting her upcoming album Tell Me How You Really Feel. Barnett headlined the act with Father John Misty, who in turn the following night played a few songs from his leaked upcoming album God’s Favorite Customer. Misty/Tillman played a hodgepodge of fan favorites from all four of his releases (including the forthcoming release) and kept the crowd in feverish reverence as he bared his soul.
Overall, the festival was a no-frills, family-friendly, and (most importantly) comfortable experience. It seemed short-lived, spanning just two days, but the amenities and general smoothness of the whole festival operation made it well worth the price of the ticket. The VIP experience, with access to clean private bathrooms, sitting areas, and free powder-room accoutrements, would also have been a worthy investment. With free parking and all the aforementioned benefits in tow, the VIP bracelet would have ensured that your comfortable festival weekend was like staying at the Hilton.
So, for once (it seems) in Texas, Fortress Festival made the unfathomable possible. In Fort Worth, no less, they created a festival with the perfect lineup, happened upon perfect spring weather, and filled the whole damn grounds with wonderful vendors, food trucks, and some of the most urban families and couples that Texas has ever seen. It was a clusterfuck of beards, Pinterest-worthy macramé-inspired outfits, and IPAs. It was urban Texas without any of the pretension: a perfect utopia of Southern comfort and indie rock #chillvibes. With Fortress Festival in only its second year, the event has garnered some noteworthy attention: Harper’s Bazaar called it a “can’t miss festival of 2018.” Dallas publications lauded the festival for proving itself a shining example for everything Texas festivals should strive to be, and we at The Dentonite agree. Fortress Festival, you struck gold. We can't wait for what 2019 will bring.
Photos courtesy of Savannah Robertson
Header image design by Mallory Frenza