Fort Worth has no shortage of small-ish music festivals. Most are booked at Panther Island Pavilion, Shipping and Receiving, or Lola’s Saloon, and the lineups generally consist of local bands with the occasional national act as a headliner. Those festivals are a great way to get the casual music fan out for the day, but they usually don’t appeal to the sort of music fan who has never been to Lola’s or any other local club – they’re certainly nothing that moves the needle on a national level.
The organizers of Fortress Festival are dreaming a little bigger. The inaugural music festival, April 29 and 30 in the Cultural District, features some big names on the touring circuits like co-headliners Run the Jewels and Purity Ring. The two-day event will also include some local heavy hitters, but the size of the crowd won’t depend on them. The festival brass hopes the draw of the bigger national acts will introduce some of the local talent to a new audience.
Fortress Fest is the brainchild of Alec Jhangiani and Ramtin Nikzad, former director and managing director, respectively, of the Lone Star Film Festival. The men worked for Lone Star until they reached an impasse with the festival board and resigned. Why? Because Jhangiani and Nikzad wanted to bring a multifaceted, urban, and diverse music festival to Fort Worth and the powers that be at the Film Festival didn’t share the pair’s vision. In their suddenly abundant free time, the two hatched Fortress Festival with the help of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and booking agency Margin Walker Presents.
The decision to jump from the nonprofit film festival world to the for-profit music festival arena was a calculated decision by the two. Jhangiani said that in the past few years, the film and music industries have been on divergent paths.
“With film, everything is gravitating more toward personal, at home, individual consumption as opposed to going to the theater, which is what a film festival is all about,” he said. “Whereas with music, everything is gravitating to the live experience.”
The duo liked the idea of the festival being held in an urban setting because it allows concertgoers to use public transportation, show up early to shop and eat, and check out the area museums.
Ramtin said he thinks the choice of setting will highlight the diversity of Fort Worth and will help the festival to grow and introduce audiences to more diverse programming.
“The population of North Texas is about 8 million people,” he said. “Just right there I think is enough to support a large scale music festival that’s multi-genre with a diverse lineup that some are not used to seeing all in one place.”
Besides impacting the Cultural District economically and the city at large, the duo aims to affect Fort Worth’s art and music scene.
“An analogy I see from the film festival world is [the festival] is a place … for people to get ideas and inspiration, and then everybody wants to run off and work,” Ramtin said. “That creates this cycle where the festival and community feed into one another.”
Aside from Run the Jewels and Purity Ring, Margin Walker and the duo have booked big-name artists like Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Slowdive, Flying Lotus, and many others. Local favorites Ronnie Heart, Blue the Misfit, and the Quaker City Nighthawks will play early time slots.
Fortress Festival, Sat-Sun, Apr 29-30, in the Cultural District, 3200 Darnell St, FW. $65-275. Email info@Fortressfestival.com.