“For me, there’s no better music than live music,” said Tim Love (right) with fellow festival organizer Larry Joe Taylor. Courtesy

There was a time, probably 20 years ago, when South by Southwest was a legitimately incredible way for fans to see dozens of young, up-and-coming artists sharing stages with just as many notable established acts, as well as, on the other side, a great means by which new bands could get their music in front of thousands of new fans and industry kingmakers. Sadly, the success with what once made the famed Austin festival and conference so great has led over time to an ever-expanding financial behemoth whose original, more magnanimous mission has been swallowed by commerce.

That original SXSW vision has been the blueprint for the Fort Worth Music Festival, which kicks off its second year Wednesday.

“We wanted to create a music festival that truly was about the music,” said festival co-founder and international chef Tim Love (Tannahill’s Tavern & Music Hall, Atico, Gemelle, Love Shack). “And the people behind the music, the people that make the music happen. We feel like there is a hole for that kind of thing.”

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Running through Saturday, four days of performances by more than 80 Texas artists both big and small will complement industry panels with artists, songwriters, agents, and management groups.

With the bigger festivals, Love said, “the focus on the up-and-coming artist has fallen by the wayside. As good as the Texas music scene is, and as good as the growing Fort Worth scene is, we felt we needed to produce something that kind of took it back to the roots.”

Spread over eight stages scattered throughout the Stockyards (Billy Bob’s Texas, The White Elephant Saloon, and Tannahill’s, to name a few), developing local artists like Abraham Alexander, Grady Spencer & The Work, Summer Dean, Matt Tedder, and Keegan McInroe will share stages with crowd-demanding national acts like Jack Ingram, Band of Heathens, Ben Kweller, and William Clark Green.

Though music isn’t necessarily the first thing associated with celebrity chef and restaurateur Love, he has been involved in the music business for decades as a venue proprietor, a fan, and a collaborator via his vast experience with Austin City Limits, which serves up culinary events to go with the live music.

“I’ve always been a fan of live music,” Love said. “For me, there’s no better music than live music.”

Love founded FWMF with veteran singer-songwriter Larry Joe Taylor in partnership with promotions giant Live Nation. Taylor, as well as having his own long-standing music career, has more than three decades of experience staging music festivals. His legendary LJT Fest will enter its 35th year in Stephenville this April.

With his team, Taylor culled through more than 250 submissions for this year’s FWMF to select the 25 or so local artists to make the final bill.

“It’s a bit like being underwater for a full 10 minutes,” he joked about the daunting task. “I’m happy with who we’ve got, but I just know I still missed a bunch of good ones in that 250.”

Though well-experienced in coordinating musical elements, FWMF’s industry conferences have been a new wrinkle for Taylor. “My life is working with young guys and girls coming up, and a lot of the times, I don’t have the answers they need. There’s a lot of information for young songwriters, developing songwriters, and established songwriters, too [at FWMF]. It’s an avenue for [artists], especially in the Metroplex and across Texas, to have a venue to play in front of people and also to get in front of agents and record labels and management companies, too.”

Love is also excited about the possibilities that might come out of the panels.

“South-by used to be a lot about that,” he said. “If you wanted to be a manager, you went to South-by. If you wanted to be an agent, you went to South-by. If you wanted to be a new band and be discovered, you went to South-by. They all mingled together. We wanted to provide an environment for these young artists — and the seasoned artists, frankly — to marry themselves together, so that the young artists can meet the people that run the music world and vice-versa: The people who run the music world can meet young artists that they might not have been exposed to.”

Due to the co-founders’ existing relationships, the festival leans heavily into country and Americana. Still, Love and Taylor have made some efforts to expand the sounds coming from the festival’s stages with this year’s roster.

“The lineup is very evident of the direction we’re going,” Love said. “Last year, most of [the artists] tended to be Texas or Red Dirt country, but this year, we’ve added other genres, anything that fits the vibe. That vibe can be any kind of music but sort of has this indie feel to it.”

The organizers hope that, as well as a boon to artists, the festival provides a lift to local venues whose struggles have been well-documented of late.

“The live music scene is not back to what it was in 2019, but it’s getting there,” Taylor said. “One of the cool things about this is that if we can give these small clubs a shot in the arm from this festival, maybe they don’t close, and it helps get them over the hump for the next year or so.”

As well as a financial injection, the co-founders hope it reignites a general appreciation of live music and a motivation for fans to get out and take more of it in.

“We’ve got to encourage people to come out to shows,” Love said. “That’s part of what this festival is about. It’s to encourage people to come out to shows and to understand how great it is, just how great it feels to be around other people you don’t even know enjoying music.”


Fort Worth Music Festival
Wed-Sat at multiple venues, the Stockyards. $19-690.