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Fortress Festival Makes a Dreamy Debut

The first-time music festival could use a little more direction, but it's hard to deny the joy of Run the Jewels and a floating stage outside the Modern.
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Fortress Festival Makes a Dreamy Debut

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The inaugural Fortress Festival premiered this weekend in the Fort Worth Cultural District, making a good first impression despite a few hitches.

The festival had the inspired idea of bringing stellar local talent and a few big acts together at two cool venues that don’t too often host live music: the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Will Rogers Memorial Center. And for a first-time festival, it generally went very well. There were memorable moments, like when enthusiastic fans dipped into the Modern’s reflecting pool during Wolf Parade’s set, or Run The Jewels’ powerfully energetic headlining performance Saturday. But it was a little all over the place, in a few senses of the phrase.

Some of that was just bad luck, like the stormy weather that caused the festival to start two hours late on Saturday, cutting local acts Ronnie Heart, Cure for Paranoia, and Bobby Sessions. Sam Lao kicked off the delayed festival at the Modern. A seemingly floating stage was set up in the museum’s massive reflecting pool, creating a dreamy, artful effect. Early crowds were pretty slim during the day, probably because of the nasty (but ultimately harmless) weather.

Once the festival got into gear, there was a lengthy, awkwardly planned trek between the stage at the Modern and the Will Rogers stage. With a third of a mile separating the venues, the walk was not too bad, but after taking a giant circle a few times (the most direct path was blocked off), it started to feel tedious.

The festival also had some broader problems with directionlessness. It was hard to tell who Fortress Festival was aimed at. Was it the baby boomers lounging on the lawn listening to Americana, or the little kids running around with their families, or the festival-ready, glitter-clad girls dancing along to rap and electronic music? There were a lot of good acts, but they didn’t necessarily make sense together.

However, with the wide variety of talent it presented, Fortress Festival was a great example of how multifaceted the local music scene is. Sunday started off with So-So Topic on the Will Rogers stage, performing his funky, personal brand of rap. A few minutes later and 0.3 miles away, Sudie gave the audience at the Modern a performance as forward-thinking and artistic as the venue.

Although it had its minor kinks, the festival was an overall success, and a triumph for Fort Worth. Hopefully it will come back for a second year, and maybe rethink its logistics to be a little less Fortress-y.

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