Fortress Festival's Debut Felt Like a Refreshing First Date

Article by: Maddie Rish|@maddie_rish

Tue May 02, 2017 | 13:00 PM

In many ways, going to a first-year music festival is like going on a first date. Equipped with the limited info you can scrounge from the internet, you agree to the plan with only a topical understanding of what you’re getting yourself into. Even so, your preparation is ritualistic. Like clockwork, you sift through your wardrobe for your go-to “first date” outfit and pack your bag of “first date” necessities.

Similarly, like any first date, you toss around an image in your head of how the occasion will play out. You get excited. You get nervous. You change clothes two or three times before indecisively settling on the same outfit you started with. But when it’s finally time to head out the door, you realize that you can only plan so much of what you can’t control; the allure of the unknown is what sparked your interest in the first place. And at the end of the day, all you can really hope for from a first date is that you vibe well with one another. So, you say “fuck it,” let your hair down and set off to do just that.

Fortress Festival Andy Mcerlean 35

Run The Jewels performing at Fortress Festival. Photo by: Andy McErlean

Enter Fortress Festival , my aforementioned “first date.” If there is such thing as “having a type,” then mine is admittedly more outlandish and elaborate than this new festival in North Texas. But let me tell you: There is nothing quite as refreshing as hitting it off despite your many differences – and that’s precisely how it all played out.

Fortress Festival 2017 Andy Mcerlean 18

Photo by: Andy McErlean

What impressed me first about Fortress Festival is that it wasn’t trying to impress me at all. Take that how you want, but I was genuinely pleased to encounter a festival that wasn’t trying too hard to be something it’s not.

Fortress Festival 2017 Andy Mcerlean 15

Photo by: Andy McErlean

Fortress is not a “transformational” festival, nor does it claim to be. There are no over-the-top costumes, no LED-strewn totems, no sign of acrobats tumbling from the sky on a silky band of stretchy cloth. That’s because what Fortress Festival is is an awesomely intimate, laid-back gathering where tasteful simplicity set the tone for a perfect weekend. With a lineup of interesting vendors, delicious food options and an eclectically curated musical bill, the festival’s no-frills vibe was a welcomed change of pace from the sensory overload of other events I frequent.

Fortress Festival 2017 Andy Mcerlean 23

Photo by: Andy McErlean

But remember: We’re talking about my first date with this shindig. If he wants a second shot with me, he has to set himself apart from the others. He has to wow me.

Piggybacking off of its celebrated location in the heart of Fort Worth’s Cultural District, Fortress Festival’s partnership with The Modern Art Museum (“The Modern”, as locals call it) crafted a completely unique experience for attendees that – as far as I can tell – is thus far unrivaled by other music festivals. Located between the two stages, The Modern served as the cultural epicenter of the event. On a normal day, the building closes its doors at 5 pm, but for the weekend of April 29-30, only those with a Fortress Festival wristband had full, unrestricted access to the museum’s nationally renowned galleries.

So, when I found myself stumbling haphazardly into a room illuminated by LEDs at 9 pm, I had to remind myself that this was not a common occurrence. Jenny Holzer’s Kind of Blue – a mesmerizing display of neon letters and lights – was not something the festival’s crew built the day before. No, I was standing inside a contemporary masterpiece within one of the most beautiful art museums in the world. As if that wasn’t already enough, the giant floor-to-ceiling windows surrounding me offered a clear view of one of the cooler festival stages I’ve seen: a giant raft-turned-stage floating along the museum’s 1.5-acre reflective pond. How’s that for something different?

Fortress Festival 2017 Andy Mcerlean 13

Photo by: Andy McErlean

Fortress Festival was the first date scenario I never knew I needed. There were no awkward moments of silence like you might expect on a first date. Instead, Fortress gave me brief periods of quietude within the museum’s walls – a welcomed and cherished respite from the inevitable sonic chaos of outdoor music festivals.

Fortress Festival 2017 Andy Mcerlean 7

A quiet moment of reflection in one of The Modern's galleries. Photo by: Andy McErlean

And let’s not forget that first dates have the potential to be tumultuous, cringeworthy nightmares. If I had accepted the invitation to go on a date with Fyre Festival , for example, I would’ve traveled all the way across town for a “fancy” dinner reservation, only to discover the dude was a no-show. But hey, at least I would’ve gotten a $1,200 cheese sandwich out of it! (Pro tip: Don’t spend too much on a first date).

Fortress Festival 2017 Andy Mc Erlean 48

Purity Ring performing at Fortress Festival. Photo by: Andy McErlean

But in all seriousness: When all is said and done, the best way to truly get to know someone is to meet their friends. After all, you are the company you keep, right? It’s not much different for a first-year event. A fest is only as great as the people who show up – and that right there is how I fell in love with Fortress Festival; the bubbly, genuine vendors, the insanely hospitable staff, the beautiful, kind-hearted attendees--it was only a matter of hours before these strangers began to feel like family. And that’s a good look for you, Fortress Festival. I’m just bummed it’s too soon for a second date.