2018 Fortress Fest Recap

And just like that, the second year of Fortress Festival comes to a close. Having learned a thing or two from the challenges of launching a first-year fest, it was clear Fortress Fest founders Alec Jhangiani and Ramtin Nikzad took the time between Year 1 and Year 2 to really perfect the festival experience. We were relieved to see significant changes in the overall festival layout. Rather than two stages separated by a ten minute walk, the festival grounds were confined to one entrance and exit, with stages only seconds apart. This setup made the entire festival feel more cohesive and connected, keeping concertgoers enjoying the ambiance the entire time.

On a hot Saturday afternoon the festival kicks off with a daylong lineup skewing a hip-hop tone. Acts like Bedouine, Cure For Paranoia, Jay Som, Rapsody and Waxahatchee made for an impressive daytime lineup. While we applaud the many upgrades Fortress Festival offered this year, nothing is foolproof. Chicano Batman enthusiastically entered the stage only to find sound difficulties causing a delay. “This shit ain’t working, but let’s rock,” says frontman Bardo Martinez. He ripped off his mic and went into his set trying to act like the sound wasn't an issue but a few songs later was visibly frustrated as he slammed his guitar down on the stage. Sound was an issue for a lot of artists last year at Fortress Fest and it seemed at least for Day 1 that those issues weren't fixed.  We witnessed many artists still sound checking 10 minutes after their set was supposed to start. 

The Saturday sun started setting as Hurray for the Riff Raff took the stage, followed by legendary hip hop artists including RZA ft. Stone Mecca, Shabazz Palaces and DE LA SOUL. RZA got the crowd hyped, playing Wu-Tang favorites like “C.R.E.A.M” and "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing ta Fuck Wit", while DE LA SOUL made it their mission to school Millennials on what real hip-hop sounds like, loosening everyone up from the fans in the far back to the photographers in the photo pit.

Chromeo closed out the night with an intense light show and the exact energy you would expect from the duo. Fans chanted "Chromeo-oooooo" as the band came on stage. You could feel the energy of the crowd as Chromeo played hits like "Jealous" and "Fancy Footwork" marking the end of a succuseful day 1.

The heat and dirt blowing on day two made it truly feel like a Texas fest. We were extra thankful for how much shade could be found on the grounds. And we have to admit, Fortress Festival is definitely one of the few festivals where upgrading to VIP makes a big difference. The ability to bounce back and forth between stages without ever leaving the section is quite the luxury. However, the entire festival grounds emulated an enchanted forest with strings of light and art installations cascading through the trees so there really wasn’t a bad place to be.

A handful of local artists started the second day off making a noteworthy lineup of DFW artists including Midnight Opera, Pearl Earl and Ronnie Heart. We were pleasantly surprised by the funky as hell performance by Lee Fields & The Expressions. His patterned suit coat and groovy moves shook up the afternoon and got the crowd ready to party. tUnE-yArDs kept the funky feels going with their impressive sound work looping vocals and switching between two mics to create a fading effect. It was nothing but playful pop dance party.

More locals bands graced the Wildcatters Network Stage Day 2 in the evening with favorites like The Texas Gentlemen, The Vandoliers and Henry The Archer. Henry the Archer ran through many hits off their latest album Zero Is A Number, while The Vandoliers really connected with their hometown Fort Worth crowd and cheerfully stimulated the evening with their Texas-folk anthems.

The Texas Gentlemen continue to show why they keep moving up higher on festival lineups, growing their fanbase with every show.  The Gents as usual played a mix of songs from their debut album TX Jelly and crowd favorite covers like "Crazy" by Patsy Cline and "The Shape I'm In" from The Band.

Father John Misty closed out the festival playing hits from all of his albums including his new single "Mr. Tillman".  FJM's witty lyrics and unpredictable stage presence was the perfect end to a very successful day 2.

After Year 2, we’ve experienced the potential and promise that Fortress Festival can bring to the North Texas festival scene.  The festival was well organized, had a great lineup and made much needed improvements from the first year.  With the culture and vibes this fest has created, we are already looking forward to what next year brings.

PreviewAmy Mrstik