The music fest – which is in its second year of existence – was attended by nearly 10,000 people and featured a more musically and ethnically diverse lineup than it had in its inaugural year.
But the rapping wasn’t merely tied to big names, Seattle rapper Shabazz Palaces, Dallas favorites Cure for Paranoia and new schooler Rapsody ensured that at least one day of the festival included lots music of the non-singer-songwriter variety.
Noticeably, Saturday also featured several of non-white performers who play genre defying music. Those bands included these favorites of NPR Music: Bedouine, Jay Som, Hurray for the Riff Raff and Chicano Batman.
And the audiences for these acts (which largely seemed non-white as well) seemed particularly invested in showing up and showing out in celebration of equal representation. For example, at least 100 Latino audience members skipped a performance by Waxahatchee to position themselves in front of the stage for Los Angeles’ Chicano Batman.
Sunday’s lineup wasn’t nearly as ethnically diverse as Saturday’s. And musically speaking, Sunday was a more alt-rock centric gathering. Father John Misty and Courtney Barnett headlined the Northern Stage and North Texans the Vandoliers and The Texas Gentlemen headlined the Wildcatters Network Stage.
All four performances were well attended and thoroughly enjoyed. But it was the indie band tUnE-yArDs who won the day.
The band, which is the brainchild of leader Merrill Garbus, featured ukulele, African and Haitian rhythms, vocal looping, synths and more percussion than could ever be described. And it had audience members (including myself) jumping, dancing and reciting lyrics.
Garbus’ music tackles race, gender, privilege, culture and appropriation and is still uplifting. Luckily, tUnE-yArDs is focused on entertaining, not preaching. It was fun from start to finish.
Overall, the Fortress Festival seemed to go off without a hitch. The diverse lineup yielded a diverse audience. And the return to traditional alt-rock on Sunday was appreciated by fans of music stations like 91.7 KXT.
Unfortunately, visual arts were poorly represented at the fest. An installation by arts collective Art Tooth was the lone piece of visual artwork. It was a beautiful yarn weaving that lived between the two stages, but that being the lone piece of artwork was sort of odd. The festival is produced by Fortress Presents and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, so one might assume that contemporary artwork would’ve been on view. Last year, the Modern hosted one of the two stages on their reflecting pool and the outdoor sculptures added something special to the venue. Plus, your ticket offered you free admission into the museum. This year, both stages were on the Memorial Center’s yard and there did seem to be a vacuum of culture despite being in the city’s cultural district. But rumors are that this complaint will be remedied in the future.
Though still in the infancy stages, Fortress Fest looks like an event that will become larger and become the sort of destination festival that organizers desire it to be.