After Alec Jhangiani and Ramtin Nikzad parted ways with the Lone Star Film Festival a couple years ago, it didn’t take them too long to set their sights on creating another ambitious festival in Fort Worth.
Technology has made both film and music more accessible, more immediate and streamable. But there’s no substitute for a movie theater. And, as Jhangiani and Nikzad are well aware, there’s definitely no substitute for live music.
“We started to notice that the focus is on live experiences…” Nikzad says. “People discover all this great music, and what they really want to do is hear it live and experience it live, and there’s been this whole new wave for music festivals.”
With help from the seasoned booking and marketing outfit Margin Walker Presents, the duo will hop on that wave this weekend with the debut of Fortress Festival, which is splitting its two stages between the Modern Art Museum and the Will Rogers Center in Fort Worth’s beautiful Cultural District.
More than many first-time festivals, Fortress seems poised for success. The setting is partly to thank — the Cultural District, with what Nikzad calls its almost “pastoral” atmosphere and walkable layout, was their first choice of venue. Festival-goers can easily make a day of it, visiting one of the nearby museums or taking a stroll through the neighborhood. The Modern, in particular, will be open to anyone with a festival pass, and a stage will extend over the museum’s outdoor reflecting pool. The Kimbell and Amon Carter have been accommodating, Jhangiani says, and the door is open to further collaborative programming down the road.
The involvement of Margin Walker (once known as Transmission Events), which has a track record of producing successful festivals including the now-defunct Fun Fun Fun in Austin and last year’s Sound on Sound Festival, bodes well. The proof there may be in the music lineup, a diverse roster of performers including Run the Jewels, Flying Lotus, Purity Ring, and Wolf Parade. The locals playing the afternoon slots, Sudie and Cure For Paranoia among them, are also smartly picked.
Perhaps most of all, this new festival seems likely to stick its premiere because it knows what it is. North Texas lacks a massive “destination” festival to rival Austin’s biggest offerings, but does it need one? It certainly doesn’t need to replicate the model of, say, Austin City Limits. Fortress Festival was conceived to work with the scale and advantages of being in Fort Worth. If it continues to incorporate the resources of the Cultural District — maybe some site-specific art installations, a la Houston’s Day For Night, in future iterations? — then there’s no reason it should be a one-and-done festival.
Organizers are also thinking year-round. The newly formed Fortress Presents could be involved in events and programming in a “different creative lane” than the festival. Jhangiani says there has even been some discussion of taking up a permanent venue, although that would be far in the future.
First thing’s first: Fortress Festival is Saturday and Sunday in the Cultural District.