Fortress Festival Filling the Void in North Texas
Music festival season is fast approaching, and while Dallas has a handful of great small festivals, to see any big name headliners you have to head down to Austin. While there have been a few to try and bring a large scale festival to the DFW area, (most recently Suburbia Music Festival in 2014), all have lacked real staying power. A few months ago we received a glimmer of hope that all of that might change when Margin Walker, (the team formerly behind Fun Fun Fun Fest, now Sound on Sound Festival), announced they were bringing a new premier music festival to Fort Worth called Fortress Festival. I’ll admit we were skeptical at first, but when the lineup was announced with artists like Run The Jewels, Purity Ring and Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, we were completely on board. Anxious to learn more about what Fortress Festival is all about, we tracked down their founders Alec Jhangiani & Ramtin Nikzad to answer all our questions.
What makes Fortress Festival stand out from other festivals in North Texas?
We hope it has it’s own voice that is defined by the programming, the branding, the experience and our communication with the audience and outside of that is difficult to put into words. It’s something that we’ll continue to define and refine as the festival evolves and in response to audience reactions as well as trends in music, arts and festivals. With all of that in mind, it may not necessarily make us stand out from other festivals but we’ve also spent a lot of time building a foundation that will allow us to endure the ups and downs of this kind of business. No event has the opportunity to find it’s true character and role in the community if it can’t stick around long enough.
Is there a particular theme to this fest similar to the renaissance fair theme of Sound on Sound Fest?
No, there isn’t anything that we’ve specifically identified as a theme although we feel there are themes that are organic to the location of the festival with regard to landmarks and institutions like the Modern Art Museum and Will Rogers Memorial Center. There is so much history and culture in this area that when you juxtapose that with an event like this, undoubtedly themes arise but it’s not anything that we’re intentionally trying to draw out.
With this being the inaugural year, how long has the creation process been to bring the event to life?
By the time the festival comes around it will basically have been 2 years that we’ve spent planning this specific event and building a business to support it. That said, considering how much of our past experience is going into this project, you could attribute more than a decade of work to it.
The DFW festival circuit hasn't reached the heights that other festivals have in Texas such as Free Press Summer Fest in Houston and ACL Festival in Austin, is it the goal to bring a major festival to DFW to compete with these other festivals?
There isn’t really any intent to compete for market share or anything like that. It’s about filling a void. North Texas is a very large metropolitan area with a large economy and media market. It’s important for any area this significant to be able to provide it’s residents with cultural offerings that are of the same caliber as other areas of comparable size. It’s important to the quality of life, to the economy, to the continued growth and diversity, to the whole ‘eco-system’ if you will.
Other music festivals around DFW have had a very genre focused music lineup, was it always your vision to be more musically diverse with the lineup? Will that continue to be the case in future years?
Yes, it always has been our goal to offer a lineup that is as diverse as possible while still being focused and that will continue. We’re not necessarily trying to offer something for everyone but we are trying to represent different music traditions that are important and relevant. We think it’s an important characteristic of the festival going experience and is one of the best ways to ensure people are discovering music at the festival and not just seeing the bands they already know.
How is the collaboration with the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth going to work? - Art Installations? - A modern environment or atmosphere?
Mostly it’s about them allowing something like this to happen at the museum and embracing the juxtaposition of this with fine art in such an exquisitely designed space. It creates a truly unique atmosphere. In the future that collaboration may develop additional dimensions and we’re having those discussions now.
What can festival goers expect at Fortress Festival in terms of fun fan experiences?
It’s all about the music and the location. They’ll be able to see their favorite band and look at priceless art or cross the street, have a fancy dinner and see some more bands. They’ll be able to spend the morning at the Japanese or Botanic Gardens, and then walk over to the festival. Or at the Kimbell or Cowgirl Museum and then walk over to the festival. They’ll be able to see the headliners and then walk a few blocks and party at an after-show.