In the “Live Music Capital of the World,” this past week saw the much-anticipated release of the Austin City Limits Music Festival lineup, replete with headliners and trending bands sure to sell out both weekends of the incomparable festival. After 17 years, the annual gathering has grown and deepened, attracting bands from all along the spectrum of popularity. This year sees the legendary Paul McCartney sharing a bill with the likes of Metallica and Childish Gambino, with support from acts as diverse as Brandi Carlile and Hozier, or Sylvan Esso and Shakey Graves. It’s a big line up, full of surprises in its over 100 artists over two three-day weekends that draw almost half a million people to Zilker Park.
But it wasn’t always that way. It started out as a two-day, one weekend event with a modest goal – provide music to the people. It still does that, but perhaps has lost some of the intimacy and ease that those early years presented. That smaller and intimate music festival in the park has moved on.
Or maybe it has just moved further North?
On the weekend before last (April 28-29), Fort Worth hosted its second Fortress Festival, a two-day event held at a park in the center of its cultural district. The park, full of abundant shade from a storied tree grove, also sported a couple of stages, a handful of local food truck providers and a great vantage of the surrounding city. Musical acts were evenly split between their stages and the crowds moved easily between them, taking in a temperate and sunny day while listening to a carefully curated and diverse soundtrack of live music. If it all sounds a little familiar to Austin and her frequent visitors, there’s a good reason.
Not only was all of the charm of those early days in Zilker in ample supply, but there was a pervasive excitement and an even more common ease that were a thread throughout both days. The weather, an accomplice that was impossible to ignore, made it more than bearable to stand – or sit – in the sun while listening to the likes of RZA, Chromeo, Courtney Barnett and Waxahatchee. The lineup, an extraordinarily diverse offering that balanced local heroes and favorites ( The Texas Gentlemen, Ronnie Heart) with up-and-coming national acts (Courtney Barnett, Chicano Batman, Hurray for the Riff Raff), as well as a well-beloved indie closer in Father John Misty.
[Stay tuned for our reviews of individual performers from Fortress Festival]
The general feeling in the park was one of absolute comfort. The crowd, as diverse as the lineup, moved with fantastic ease from stage to stage and back, depending on when the bands were scheduled to appear. The festival organizers even brought in a ringer among the food trucks, importing Austin’s own Micklethwait Craft Meats to serve massive BBQ sandwiches along the local eateries’ installation. Local brewery, Rahr & Sons was on hand to distribute the unofficial beer of the weekend, a Lemon-Lime Saison appropriately named “Adios Pantalones.” All in all, it was the neighborhood music festival that ACL Fest started out as.