By: Shilo Urban
Fort Worth’s New Citadel of Culture: Fortress Festival brings two days of music and art to the Cultural District.
Rising as a fresh stronghold of creativity in the city, the inaugural Fortress Festival features a critically acclaimed lineup of innovators and a unique outdoor setting in the Cultural District. Musical pioneers from myriad genres are slated to perform at the event – a forward-thinking gathering that reflects Fort Worth’s diverse community and true artistic character.
Taking place the last weekend of April, this celebration cherry-picks the best qualities of both open-air and urban music festivals. Fans can roam freely between the outdoor stages and enjoy city conveniences before and after the event.
Fortress Festival will swirl around two main stages, one by the reflecting pool at the Modern Art Museum and another on the grounds of Will Rogers Memorial Center (Lancaster Avenue will be closed between the venues). Ticketholders will be able to explore exhibits at the Modern and fuel up with treats from local food trucks and vendors.
Playtime at the Fort: Everyone’s Invited. Fortress Festival founders Alec Jhangiani and Ramtin Nikzad bring a sense of creative play (and years of experience from their former gigs with the Lone Star Film Festival) to their new endeavor.
The musical lineup feels unexpected for Cowtown, and that’s exactly the idea. Creating a breeding ground for connection is a vital mission for the founders. “We are so isolated today that large-scale communal experiences stand out now more than ever,” Jhangiani explains. “Mass media no longer has the same presence in our lives.”
Nikzad continues, “We absorb art and entertainment in a long-tail way, listening to music by ourselves on headphones or in a car with a few friends. But a music festival has the capacity to inspire connection on a much larger level – to surprise people with the power of collective emotion. Fortress Festival’s unique environment will amplify and enhance this shared experience.”
Music That Moves. Pop Culture Electrifying this connection between partygoers is impressive programming. Expect wildly different styles and genres from the lineup, stacked with relevant, influential artists who have shaped contemporary pop culture. The festival’s musical pedigree is another sign of Fort Worth’s expanding artistic imprint.
Get to know some of the performers and plan on a mind-stretching experience at Fortress Festival.
Run the Jewels. Turn up the bass and rally the troops. This isn’t just music – this is a resistance, a tectonic movement of togetherness propelled by body-shaking beats, razor-sharp lyrics and blunt force bravado. Performing with ferocity and finesse, Run the Jewels is a hip-hop supergroup comprised of two illustrious rap scene veterans, El-P and Killer Mike. The two best friends captivate crowds, forever one-upping each other with their intuitive connection, exquisite smack-talking and irrefutable artistry. RTJ delivers heavy-hitting truths with lethal humor, their message motivated by a fervent desire for change.
Why the Music Matters: Since slamming onto the radar in 2013 with the release of their hugely successful debut LP, Run the Jewels has rocketed skyward. Their albums keep getting better, their lyrics more creative, their onstage chemistry more compelling. RTJ is the only truly elite rap group to emerge in the last decade or so. Shows on their current Run the World Tour have sold out from Los Angeles to London, including four in New York City alone. With a No.1 album on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop and Rap charts, Run the Jewels proves that they’ve earned their bragging rights.
Sounds a Little Like: Danny Brown, A Tribe Called Quest, Chance the Rapper
Purity Ring. Ethereal Earnest. Electro-pop for tomorrow with a throwback vibe of the past. Wave your arms in the air, close your eyes and sway to the music of Purity Ring, a Canadian indie pop duo made up of Megan James (vocals) and Corin Roddick (instrumentals). Dreamy, synth-heavy washes of sound blur with delicate melodies, disconcerting lyrics and a dark sensibility. Performing in self-sewn clothes with a custom, tree-shaped control for audiovisuals, their extraordinary live shows balance precariously between preciousness and danger.
Why the Music Matters: Purity Ring’s 2012 debut album Shrines had an immediate effect on pop music production. The band’s influences can clearly be identified in the output that followed by superstars like Taylor Swift (1989s “Style”), Miley Cyrus (Bangerz’ “My darlin’”), and Katy Perry (Prism’s “Double Rainbow”). Purity Ring’s live performances feature creative, high-wattage visuals that stand up to their enormous electronic sound: exploding flashes, pulsating lasers, and a 3-D forest of light controlled in real time.
Sounds a Little Like: Crystal Castles, Grimes, Lorde, Portishead
Houndmouth. Ardent Americana and roots-rock with a distinctive country soul make up the hearty sonic palette of Houndmouth. All four members of this Indiana band contribute to the songwriting and singing, coming together with exuberance in almost every chorus. Shaggy around the edges and effortlessly rustic, Houndmouth is known for outstanding craftsmanship, character-driven lyrics, and euphoric live performances.
Why the Music Matters: Fort Worth will like the feel-good music from this band, a bona fide festival darling. Houndmouth arrived into the national music consciousness after a standout show at SXSW in 2012, where they were signed after a single gig. From rambunctious rock to bruised-soul ballads, Houndmouth’s free-rolling music has secured the band’s place in the long tradition of folk storytelling in America.
Sounds a Little Like: The Lumineers, Alabama Shakes, Mumford & Sons
Flying Lotus. Find Flying Lotus shaking off the cosmic dust at the convergence of hip hop, jazz and experimental electronica. For the great-nephew of John and Alice Coltrane, exploring sound is a spiritual journey – and you can follow his path to the future of music. Flying Lotus’ boundary-breaking productions are fearlessly prismatic and stunningly diverse. Vivid visions of surreal beauty meld with a smoked-out soulfulness, free-ranging rhythms and monster-battling bass.
Why the Music Matters: Flying Lotus is an undeniable musical pioneer whose formidable influence emanates from the epicenter of the global beat-making community. With a quiet and cool charisma, he has introduced the infinite possibilities of jazz to a whole new generation – and expanded the very definition of the genre. Let go of the ground and join this imaginative, avant-garde artist on a transcendent audio exploration.
Sounds a Little Like: Madlib, Four Tet, Mount Kimbie, J Dilla
Wolf Parade. Post-punk infused indie rock surges with a snarl from Wolf Parade, a Canadian band on a comeback. Supremely talented dual frontmen Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner are greater together, generating an idiosyncratic style and eclectic output. In 2010, Wolf Parade shocked fans by announcing an “indefinite hiatus” shortly after releasing their third album. Returning last year with the release of “EP4,” their newest work evokes the stripped-down, guitar-centric ethos of the mid-2000s indie rock heyday.
Why the Music Matters: Wolf Parade’s breakthrough album “Apologies to the Queen Mary” was released in 2005, a defining moment for indie rock. The genre was pushed into pop-culture consciousness during this landmark year, thanks to a slew of standout albums from bands like LCD Soundsystem, Sleater-Kinney, The Hold Steady, and Sufjan Stevens. Indie music went mainstream – and it took the counterculture with it, causing a seismic social shift. Suddenly, being weird and artsy became the norm. The hipster was born, ushering in an era of skinny jeans, Pitchfork, and Brooklyn > New York. But before all this, it was indie rock’s finest hour, and Wolf Parade was at the front of the pack.
Sounds a Little Like: Arcade Fire, Hot Hot Heat, Franz Ferdinand, Modest Mouse
Slowdive. Gauzy streaks of pure noise, slurry guitars and drifting vocals land Slowdive firmly in the realm of shoegaze, an underground style that lathered itself into a peak in the late ’80s and early ’90s. U.K. quintet Slowdive flourished in this garage rock era with their hazy, narcotic sound and incandescent longing. Borders between vocals and instrumentation vanish in a velvet cloud of reverb, creating a beautiful noise out of distortion and strange dreams. It’s the musical version of an Impressionist painting.
Why the Music Matters: One of the most important and original shoegaze bands, Slowdive’s sonic endowment echoes widely across the pop-culture landscape. Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead wouldn’t exist as we know them without shoegaze. In January 2017, Slowdive delighted fans by releasing their first track in 22 years, “Star Roving.”
Sounds a Little Like: My Bloody Valentine, Mazzy Star, Cocteau Twins
S U R V I V E. From the dark space behind the stars comes S U R V I V E, an experimental analog-synth band that designs sparse, eerie soundscapes that shudder and crawl. Their analog approach creates a delicious juxtaposition between warm nostalgia and unshakable malevolence – like you just found your childhood teddy bear nestled next to the cold, dead body of an alien. Imagination, paranoia and slithers up your spine are the hallmarks of this Austin band’s unsettling sound.
Why the Music Matters: Two members of S U R V I V E, Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon, are the mood-tweaking masters behind the Grammy-nominated soundtrack of the hit sci-fi Netflix TV series “Stranger Things.”
Sounds a Little Like: How to Dress Well, Troller, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. Welcome to the revival – it’s gonna get rowdy. The thundering intensity and foot-stomping swagger of Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats will make you feel born again. A powerfully soulful ringleader, Rateliff is backed by a brawny, seven-piece band with a howling horn section. Old-time rhythm and blues, gospel funk, and gritty folk music merge together in a forceful, feverish brew. Burly and insistent, Rateliff’s authentic earthiness is an alluring match with the band’s upbeat rhythms and introspective lyrics.
Why the Music Matters: Rateliff boasts the rare charisma of a soulful preacher. With his passionate performance style, the band’s live shows easily win over audiences, including a gushing Jimmy Fallon. Listen to the group’s breakout hit “S.O.B.” so you can sing along with everyone else at the festival.
Sounds a Little Like: Sam Cooke, J. Tillman, Leon Bridges, Van Morrison
Peter Hook & The Light. Peter Hook was the bassist in two British bands of unparalleled influence from the late ’70s and early ’80s, Joy Division and New Order. His new rock group, which includes his son Jake Bates on the bass guitar, is primarily a legacy act that performs the popular hit songs from these two seminal bands.
Why the Music Matters: Joy Division instigated the post-punk movement with a quintessential, trailblazing sound – until the suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis at age 23, right before the song “Love Will Tear Us Apart” hit the top of the charts. The band’s remaining members picked up the pieces and formed New Order, transforming tragedy into triumph. Embracing the new synths and electronic sounds afforded by the burgeoning ’80s technology, New Order went on to great fame and success with their groundbreaking approach to the dancefloor.
Sounds a Little Like: Joy Division, New Order, Depeche Mode, The Cure
Alvvays. Pop in the cassette and head to the coast. Persuasive melodies and disarming lyrics inhabit the fuzzy-edged aesthetic of this jangle pop quintet. Pronounced “always,” Alvvays is easy to love for their starry-eyed anthems and unrequited reverie. The Canadian band deftly employs repurposed sounds and psychedelic ’60s surf rock, dosing out twee-free charm and cinematic emotion. Balanced between a feeling of freedom and certainty, hope and pain, confusion and clarity – Alvvays’ sound drifts in an ambiguous state with which many quarter-lifers will identify.
Why the Music Matters: Dream-weaver frontwoman Molly Rankin is the musical heiress of Canada’s preeminent family traveling band, The Rankin Family. With a beguiling blend of strength and vulnerability, the songstress issues forth bracingly honest, heart-on-her-sleeve vocals – and she’s been tagged as music’s next “It Girl” by many in the industry.
Sounds a Little Like: The Cranberries, Beach House, Best Coast
Fortress Festival takes place April 29-30 in Fort Worth’s Cultural District. Advance tickets and VIP packages are available online. fortressfestival.com
By: Shilo Urban