An important milestone along our beloved burg’s Tolkien-esque quest toward becoming a legit music town happened two years ago with the shocking announcement that a bona fide two-day multi-genre music festival would land squarely in the middle of the Fort’s sleek and pristinely manicured Cultural District. After two impressively successful campaigns, which featured a diverse and equable infusion of eyebrow-arching national acts such as Run the Jewels, Courtney Barnett, and Father John Misty mingling with a wealth of homegrown talent, the self-touted 100-percent independently created Fortress Festival has already become a can’t-miss event for North Texas music lovers.
On Monday, local lads Alec Jhangiani and Ramtin Nikzad, the cofounders of Fortress Presents, the production and promotions company behind the festival, began the process of teasing next year’s event by announcing Phase 1 of the 2019 lineup. Phase 2 will be announced after the first of the year. This year’s headliner is Fort Worth’s best-known dishwasher-turned-soul-singing-superstar, Leon Bridges, who will return to perform in front of a (open-to-the-public) hometown crowd for the first time since 2016’s Coming Home became the glass slipper in his Cinderella story.
Jhangiani said that landing Bridges to play next year’s festival was “a conversation we’ve been having with his team since we originally started the company back in 2016, but for whatever reason, the timing hadn’t worked out with him. The stars really aligned, and it’s really the perfect time for him to have a big homecoming performance after going out and proving he’s an artist of depth and long endurance –– that he’s going to be around,” he added, referencing the success Bridges’ sophomore album, Good Thing, has been enjoying.
As in the two previous incarnations, the festival is paying special attention to booking a variety of genres and ethnically diverse performers, as well as highlighting opportunities for women artists. Sharing the fest’s two stages with Bridges next spring will be the lovably quirky rap ’n’ soul outfit –– and NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Series contest winners –– Tank and the Bangas. Dallas rapper and recent Def Jam signee Bobby Sessions is also scheduled to perform.
“Something people will see more of is a lot of hip-hop, [especially] local hip-hop and rap,” Jhangiani said. “Again, that’s something not normally associated with North Texas. We’ve got Bobby Sessions, who’s probably one of the more visible members of that community, and a lot of up-and-comers that people will be hearing a lot more about in the coming years.”
Joining the larger national acts, concertgoers will be treated to Austin-based desert-trip captains Bright Light Social Hour, rapper/singer Abhi the Nomad, and provocative punkettes Sailor Poon. From Lubbock by way of Fort Worth, Red Shahan will provide some Americana, and from Big D, club-banger MC Adrian Stresow and smooth indie-pop sextet Luna Luna will play sets as well. Among those representing the hometurf are the dreamy psych-pop four-piece The Cush and bratty-yet-brainy synth-punks War Party.
Nikzad said the duo’s approach to filling the fest’s 22 time slots was to keep variety in the forefront of their minds.
“As you start to build your lineup, you start with the headliner, and you think about direct support –– you don’t want it to be too similar but at the same time not be very different [from] that,” he said. “Then we think of, ‘What are we missing? What is there a need and a want for that is not being fulfilled and being expressed?’ There’s no formula or dogma. It works pretty intuitively. We’re always thinking of how best we can package this into a weekend that offers a spectrum that makes sense for people to want to get a pass.”
A limited supply of discounted early-bird general admission tickets for Fortress Festival 2019, which takes place Sat-Sun, Apr 27-28, are on sale now through the Fest’s website, fortressfestival.com