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Leon Bridges at Fortress Festival 2019. Photo by Vishal Malhotra.

I hate to admit this, but I didn’t know what Ubbi Dubbi was until I was tasked with writing about it, and that assignment was curious anyway, because it popped into my inbox after the event had already happened. Ubbi Dubbi was a traveling EDM festival held at Panther Island Pavilion on the same weekend as Fortress Fest. Its Saturday event had apparently sold out, which meant there was a huge crowd going nuts over music I don’t really like, with decibel levels so large that people in Sansom Park allegedly complained that they could hear bass long into the night. None of that sounded enjoyable to me. 

I would have, however, gone to Fortress Fest had I been able, and that conditional-perfect intention is really at the root of what is essentially the tale of “I wanted to go to the huge event, but I had this other huge event to go to.” Why don’t the departments that issue permits for large events in this city seem to talk to each other about scheduling overlaps? Why don’t the concert promoters talk to each other?

For the record: I reached out to Ubbi Dubbi via my only contact, the event’s Facebook page, but they offered no response to my solicitation for a phone call. I did get a hold of Fortress Fest honcho Alec Jhangiani, and the first thing I asked him was if he knew about Ubbi Dubbi and what date it was booked for. “I remember seeing it announced around October, the day before we announced,” Jhangiani said. “It was definitely confusing and surprising. Our primary reaction was, ‘Why it would be on the same weekend?’ ”

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Seeing as how concert promotion exists in a free-market economy, I surmise that if Ubbi Dubbi’s producers knew Fortress’ dates, they didn’t care. Moreover, the events themselves aren’t the only players in the free market of all-day/multi-day music festivals –– Panther Island has as much right to make money as any other entity, right? 

The thing is, Fortress Fest is something that puts Fort Worth on the map, so to speak. I don’t mean to disparage the various events that have filled Panther Island’s dusty, sun-baked grounds with enthusiastic fans of music (and beer, and tacos, and so on), but if you’re marketing Fort Worth, you’re more likely to talk about the big-deal two-day music fest that happens every year in front of Panther City’s hippest culture treasure (the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth) and less so whatever traveling festival brings Bad Religion or Nikki Lane to town.

There’s also the argument that maybe there isn’t a lot of overlap between the target audiences of Fortress Fest  and Ubbi Dubbi, but Jhangiani believes that the EDM event did take away from Fortress’ attendance. “It’s impossible to see how much, but there are several anecdotal things like people on social media saying, ‘I can’t decide which to go to,’ and a couple people questioning why it had to be on the same weekend. 

“We had a couple of TCU students who are pretty active in promoting for us on campus, and the feedback from them was that their friend groups were split between the two,” he continued. “You had a contingent that was interested in Fortress because it was more known as a brand, but once UD was announced, they were going to that instead. We estimated, based on anecdotal data, that we probably lost 500 to 1,000 people.”

The cynic in me wonders why Fortress Fest or any other event merits extra support from the city, but it’s nice to know that Fort Worth can take pride in something like Fortress Festival, a legit cultural event that targets a demographic not automatically associated with strollers, Fox News, or 50-foot horse trailers. So it seems like it’s in the best interest of Fort Worth tourism to head off scheduling conflicts at the pass. Jhangiani said the scheduling overlap is basically a new problem. 

“We haven’t really thought about it before,” he said. “It’s never been an issue. I don’t know how that works in terms of communication between departments and what kind of role the city plays in that sort of thing.”

Cynthia Alexander, who works in the Fort Worth Office of Outdoor Events, said that since each event area has its own governing body –– the Trinity River Vision folks run Panther Island –– it’s a challenge to achieve much coordination in planning events. In her estimation, the best thing promoters can do is reach out to those bodies individually and try to plan that way. She mentioned that her office always tries to coordinate with Texas Motor Speedway to avoid conflicting events.

Regarding future planning, Jhangiani figures that for big events, “planning a year ahead is a good time frame, as is looking at what went on in previous years. Anyone who’s familiar with the area should take common sense into account when planning this sort of thing. There’s a surface level evaluation we did that’s just as effective.”

What Jhangiani is suggesting in the subtext is that, to maximize attendance at events, organizers should be chill enough not to step on each other’s weekends. And by the unwritten law of seniority, new events such as Ubbi Dubbi should defer to the calendar preferences of more established festivals. And then maybe they’ll pop up on my own radar more conspicuously. As terrible as I made Ubbi Dubbi sound, I probably would have enjoyed it.

1 COMMENT

  1. I wonder how much of this is a weather based problem for North Texas festival promoters. If they are looking at the calendar, we have around 8-12 weekends per year when you have a better shot at not being frozen or cooked like a rotisserie chicken. Then subtract the two weekends of ACL in the fall and major sporting events. So they smash everything into April, hoping there isn’t a tornado or flood.

    To your point, Steve, it’s not a good situation for us to be throwing them together even if the fandom doesn’t usually cross. If we are filling all our hotel rooms to capacity for multiple festivals, visitors will either not come or move their lodging to other nearby cities. We lose that sweet Hotel Occupancy Tax that many of our cultural institutions thrive on. Spreading it out means more opportunity to make money for everyone.

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