A music festival at a modern art museum sounds like a pipe dream. However, Fortress Festival, now in its second year, has taken on the challenge to prove that it can be done. When I first heard of it last year, I was very intrigued. The lineup boosted acts such as Run the Jewels, Slowdive, Purity Ring and Peter Hook and the Light. I wanted to go, but the timing with finals at school made it too hard to do so. This year, the schedule allowed for it, so I packed up and hit the road for Ft. Worth (for the first time, I may add). The two-day festival included prominent indie acts Father John Misty and Courtney, but also threw in some newer acts like (Julian Casablancas +) the Voidz. In addition, they also threw in throwbacks like Rza and De La Soul, while keeping it local with acts like Cure for Paranoia.
Now, for some reason I was thinking that the festival was going to be inside the museum. That was partially true, though, because they seemed to have an indoor stage. But I don’t think many people even knew that. The main section consisted of two stages in the neighboring field for the Will Rogers stadium. There was also no overlapping with the sets, which is always a very nice experience because it allows you to see every single band on the lineup that you desire.
I got there before gates opened (2 p.m.), leaving me some time to plan out and talk with other people about which sets I was planning on watching. The first was local rap outfit Cure for Paranoia. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t particularly into it, largely because I don’t personally believe that the songs and their structures were all that great. However, I will say that, being that they are a local group, they were received pretty well by the crowd. They were also high energy, so for someone that is more interested in just a set to get people excited, then they’re great. That’s understandable.
Another set worth mentioning was Waxahatchee, the first I saw on the smaller stage. I should also say that there were a lot of photographers there, so many that this stage (substantially smaller than the larger) was split into groups for each song because the pit was so narrow. This made it very tricky for a few sets, especially one I’ll talk about shortly. Anyway, after the three songs, which I am sure was a bit obnoxious for the people in the front row, one guy belted out a “photographer, fuck off!” Waxahatchee responded to it, basically telling him to chill out.
Later on in this set DFN alum Shabazz Palaces took the stage, serving up the same spacey hip hop that the Sub Pop band has been doing for years now. They are always an interesting band to see because they take away the high energy and replace it with uncanny musical precision. I think that they are on the road with the Voidz, the band that followed. SP frontman Ishmael was sporting a Voidz shirt, as a matter of fact. When vocalist Julian Casablancas popped up onstage during his soundcheck, the crowd went seriously insane. The staple 2000’s alt rock star decided to go sunglasses-on at his p.m. set. Being split up into three different photo groups for the pit, everyone took as many as they possibly could. Unfortunately, the Voidz also had a blacklight, which made it super dark. Virtue, the new record, is insanely weird and good, though.
Back over on the main stage, the final two acts to take the stage were De La Soul and Chromeo. Both in no regards are the newest, hottest act to book, but their tenure in the game has shown that they are worthy of headlining slots. The former I have never seen before (actually, I saw them at ACL with Gorillaz, but does that count?); the latter at Float Fest a few years back, so I knew what light show I would be working with. De La Soul kept the stage set minimal with dark lighting and no theatrics — it was straight to the point. They were also pretty engaging, talking to everyone from the fans to the security, even finding time to jokingly give the photographers a hard time and tell them to let go, just enjoy the time with everyone. The influential hip-hop group’s last album was 2016’s and the Anonymous Nobody… Chromeo is on the cusp of releasing a new record, but in the meantime they’ve been teasing the songs “Must’ve Been” and “Bedroom Calling.” The band was a surprise addition to this year’s lineup after doing some sets at Coachella. They keep a very similar format to all of their shows: They start with the track “Intro,” lights start reflecting on Funky Larry’s guitar, and P-Thug gets the crowd going wild with his talkbox.
Unfortunately, I had to make the voyage back home Sunday, missing acts from FJM and Courtney Barnett along with Lee Fields and Tune-Yards. Overall, considering the experience that I, and I am willing to argue most others had, it’s baffling to think that this festival is only two years deep. DFW doesn’t have anything like it there, so I think that Fortress Fest has to work. Luckily, I think that is exactly what is going to happen.