Fort Worth’s Fortress Festival is a rarity in music festivals in that it is just that: a festival of music. In today’s entertainment world, festivals aren’t good enough until they have over the top accessories like ferris wheels, comedy shows, movie viewings, celebrity attendees, and an excessive amount of vendors. Boston Calling is becoming that type, having recently added a film and comedy aspect to the event. It feels like we are becoming less satisfied with one source of entertainment and constantly in need of distractions. Why I liked Fortress Festival was that it was completely dedicated to the music. Yes, there were the typical overpriced vendor and merch tents surrounding the premise, but nothing too showy that took away from the music. Well, with the exception of a hair styling tent. The complimentary braiding and glitter accessorizing led to an infestation of glittery braided festival goers, which felt odd since it wasn’t Coachella. In the spirit of the festival, I got glitter braided, then immediately regretted the decision.
Fortress Festival is in its second year and is still small enough to feel like a personal experience. Unlike Boston where an April day could be cold rain, snow, or 90 degree weather, Fort Worth is pleasant this time of year. Festival goers were able to enjoy each act without worry of rain. Located in the cultural district of downtown Fort Worth, Texas, the festival neighbors the acclaimed Kimbell art museum as well as the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, where ticket holders received free entry there. I will say that witnessing band-mates from Pear Earl dance around the Kimbell fountain to Courtney Barnett’s set was a personal highlight of the festival.
Now let me tell you about the music. Midnight Opera was the first act of the day and unfortunately only a handful of people were in the crowd. People slowly trickled in throughout the day, and it really only got packed towards the later side. Ronnie Heart, once described as “future funk,” really blew the crowd away. His dance moves were on point, and his flute player rocked as hard as any flute player could rock. Local act Andy Pickett did not dance like Heart, but the energy was prevalent in his singing, piano playing, and his rockin’ horn section. His smooth soul singing is reminiscent to the 70’s and 80’s, but the young crowd seemed to be digging it. Pickett’s interactions with the audience added a nice friendly touch. Pearl Earl gave quite a performance, as well. Drummer Bailey Chapman was especially fantastic, whipping her hair back and forth putting her heart and soul into each song.
And of course, the bigger acts did not disappoint. Lee Field & the Expressions danced and sang, their happiness completely contagious and tangible. Tune Yards acted as a double espresso shot, providing an energetic burst for the tired afternoon. I don’t know how else to describe Courtney Barnett’s set except that she totally rocked, as she showcased her punk side screaming into the mic. I missed The Texas Gentleman in order to secure a good spot for Father John Misty, but I will say they sounded great from a distance.
Father John Misty’s performance was worth both the wait and the almost destruction of my knee caps. Misty’s dreamy ballads had audience members singing each and every word, even the songs that were leaked from his upcoming album (God’s favorite Customer, coming out June 1st). Fans got to hear classics such as “Chateau Lobby #4”, “Ballad of the Dying Man”, and “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” as well as some newer tracks like “Mr. Tillman.” Dancing, twirling the mic stand, and looking straight into our souls, Misty was an excellent performer. He sounded great live and the only disappointment was his rejection to the crowd’s ongoing encore request.
Fortress Festival is one of the smaller festivals, but it is worth going to. I came for Father John Misty, but the smaller acts really made the day. Even though the glitter in my hair may be temporary, I hope Fortress Festival is here to stay for awhile.