Concert Review, festival

Sunday Recap: Fortress Festival

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.

Courtney Barnett. Photo by Ismael Quintanilla

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. Photo by Ryan Vestil

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.

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Interview, RPM, Singer-Songwriter

Moroccan Ballroom – A Chat with Katie Toupin

Katie Toupin grew up in Indiana and became part of the band Houndmouth. After taking a few years off, Katie took her chances at writing her own music and moved to LA. The result of this is her self released EP: Moroccan Ballroom, coming out March 2nd. I was fortunate enough to speak with Toupin on air about her new music, Midwestern upbringing, and her dog, Cheeto.

AE: Your EP is called Moroccan Ballroom. Can you tell what listeners can expect from the new sound?

KT: Moroccan Ballroom is named after the room in which we recorded in… I just spent 6 hours recording. And then when it was done we were looking back and thought this sounds great. This is exactly who I am, exactly where I’m at. These songs are all tracked live and they sound really great to me. There are five tracks on the EP and they all sound different. There’s an upbeat thing, there’s a very flow full key thing, there’s a duet, and a little darker rock, so there are different songs but they’re all me in my own voice.katie2

AE: The album cover is aesthetically pleasing, I love the colors. Can you tell us a little about the album cover? Was it shot in an actual moroccan ballroom?

KT: Thank you! No, the album cover is actually a subway station in Hollywood. My boyfriend is a photographer so he had taken it. Right when I saw that particular photo I said “Oh that’s gotta be the album cover”. No doubt in my mind. We’re actually shooting a music video for ‘Shake Baby’ which will be the new single we release. We walk through that subway station in the music video so you get to see a little bit more.

AE: You recently moved to LA. Do you think that’s influenced your sound at all?

KT: It’s hard to say. I took two years away from music after leaving [Houndmouth]. I was writing the whole time and it was a two year process of trial and error. Trying to find who I am because it was basically my entire adult life I spent in that band and the people in that band. I moved to LA about a year ago. And it’s really the first time I’ve had my own place and wasn’t travelling all the time and had got to have a normal routine… It’s the first time I feel confident in who I am. It took settling down for a second to find that and feel grounded. When I first moved I was like, do I wanna make pop music? Do I wanna make electronic music? What do I wanna do? I was all over the map. I think being in LA sorta helped me own what I have, which is a midwestern upbringing and a midwestern mixture of sound.

AE: I think whenever a person has a transition period it gives them time to define who they are and what kind of person they want to be. I think it’s important to know who you are… it’s good to have a sense of identity.

KT: Change is hard and a lot of the songs are about that change… I tapped in that as I went along and hopefully captured [that change] for the music part.  

AE: Is there a set date for Boston?

KT: I don’t have a set date for boston I literally in the last few days locked in some booking agents and was getting it all sorted. Because this is an entirely self released EP, there’s no label behind it. Im very happy about that. In a lot of ways this connected to the fans… I listen and can make things happen and decide in the direction in which I want things to go. [my listener’s] opinion very much matters to me. So I hope to get to Boston…  I’ll get there very soon.

AE: Are you listening to anyone in particular right now?

KT: Not anything new. I’m not great at finding new music. I find stuff I like and listen to it over and over. Recently, I’ve been on this pretty strong Strokes kick.

AE: Lastly… Your social media is always filled with beautiful pictures of your dog, Cheeto…

KT: He’s actually sitting right next to me right now, in a sweater with ears on the hood. I think I want to tour with him… I want to figure out how to bring him along. He’s like my best buddy. I thought I should maybe have a social media page entirely for my dog but I’m not sure I want to be entirely one of those people. Do I want to commit there? I’m not sure.

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Toupin’s dog, Cheeto. Taken from her instagram: @katietoupin

Pre-order: Moroccan Ballroom

Katie Toupin’s Official Website

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Blues, Review, Rock

Album Review: Dan Auerbach – Waiting On A Song

Dan Auerbach is a busy man. Aside from his successful rock project The Black Keys, Auerbach created The Arcs, an impressive side project that took off during his hiatus from the Keys. His latest music project is simply himself: Dan Auerbach. Auerbach’s second album, Waiting on a Song, comes 9 years after his debut album Keep it Hid. Waiting on a Song is unique in its sound. Black Keys were bluesy, The Arcs were modern but still bluesy, and even Auerbach’s own Keep it Hid disappeared into the abyss of his other work. Waiting on a Song portrays a side unseen in Auerbach’s work before. While the majority of Auerbach’s work undertakes a dark guitar centric sound, Waiting on a Song has a southern upbeat tone with undertones of soul and funk, using violin, trumpet, acoustic guitar, clap styled percussion and other unlikely Auerbach-esque instruments.

Auerbach has been in Nashville since 2010, and it shows in his music. The album has southern rock hints comparable to that of Steely Dan, or CCR. In fact, many of the songs on the album parallel some of the greats. Auerbach mimics the likes of Al Green or Neil Young throughout the album.  In “Shine on Me” hints of John Lennon can be heard. On a similar note, Show Me” could be some variation of a George Harrison song. Originality in music is not as relevant these days, which makes the lack of it here alright; that’s not the issue with the album. The main problem with Auerbach’s album is the missing change in rhythm or pace.

“Waiting on a Song” starts off the album. A catchy and simple track about looking for that song to write, Auerbach explains the patience and process of writing music: “Songs don’t grow on trees/ You gotta pick ’em out the breeze…And pray one comes along,” stating that sometimes, and arbitrarily, the song will appear.  Creating a song is not an effortless process, so it is interesting to hear Auerbach’s unconventional perspective.

“Never in my Wildest Dreams” is the most sensitive track in the album. A soft love song about an unattainable love, Auerbach sings “I know where my purpose is/ It ain’t on some pilgrimage/ It’s wherever my baby is/ My love supreme.” The sadness in the lyrics can be heard in the slow tone mainly backed up by an acoustic guitar.

One of the lighter tracks is “Stand by My Girl”, a comical song about staying with a girl out of fear. Auerbach sings, “I’m gonna stand by my girl,/ because she’ll kill me if I don’t.” Banjo plucking in the background and tambourine shaking, the old Auerbach cannot be traced in this track.

Waiting on a Song is an album full of mostly empty lyrics. The overall simplicity of the lyrics is unfortunate and can get lost with the vague pop rock from the 70’s. Not every good artist needs to make meaningful music all the time, but it would have been nice to have seen some in this album. Regardless, the album gives off retro vibes that will provide comfort for soft rock fans. As for old fans of Auerbach or the Keys, the album is not of their regular blues sound and the new direction might be unsettling for some, but at the same time, Waiting on a Song has the potential to attract an entirely new fan base.  

Best Track: “Never in My Wildest Dreams”

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