Music

The crowds came out for year three of Fortress Festival and the music didn’t disappoint

Leon Bridges meets fans at the Dickie’s trailer at the Fortress Festival

Ann Richardson from Dickies describes what it's like working with Leon Bridges as he meets fans at the Fortress Festival.
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Ann Richardson from Dickies describes what it's like working with Leon Bridges as he meets fans at the Fortress Festival.

Chvrches headlined the first night of Fortress Festival on Saturday just hours after a feud with Chris Brown was making national headlines. In a statement on Twitter posted April 25, the synth-pop band from Glasgow criticized EDM producer Marshmello, who they recently collaborated with on the song “Here With Me.”

“We are really upset, confused, and disappointed by Marshmello’s choice to work with Tyga and Chris Brown,” the statement begins. “Working with people who are predators and abusers enables, excuses and ultimately tacitly endorses that behavior.”

In 2009, Brown was arrested for assaulting then-girlfriend Rihanna. After a standoff with police in Los Angeles, Brown was again arrested in 2016 for assault with a deadly weapon. Brown was sued over alleged sexual assault in 2017 and in January he was arrested in Paris after a woman filed a report of aggravated rape.

On Saturday, Brown posted a comment on one of Chvrches’ Instagram posts. “Bunch of losers,” Brown said, in the comment. “These are the type of people I wish walked in front of a speeding bus full of mental patients.”

Hours before going on stage in Fort Worth on Saturday, the feud was making headlines and Chvrches vocalist and singer Lauren Mayberry posted a screenshot of a disturbing threat in a direct message she received on a social media account.

The Scottish band was halfway through an energetic, near-flawless set at Fortress Festival when Mayberry paused the show and said that she is not currently able to interact with fans on social media. She explained that her accounts had been given to authorities after receiving death threats and continued addressing the controversy publicly for the first time.

“We would be really hypocritical if we worked with somebody and didn’t say anything about what they did immediately after that fact,” Mayberry said. “We give money from our headlining shows to Girls Rock camps and I’m a patron of Rape Crisis Scotland. We weren’t just deciding to pick on Chris Brown for the sake of it. I was like, ‘I don’t know, I think domestic abuse might be wrong.’

With the crowd cheering, Mayberry then suggested that she might need to invest in a “bulletproof tutu” because this stance did not apparently sit well with Chris Brown fans.

“We were like, ‘Maybe don’t promote serial convicted violence to kids,’” Mayberry continued. “And then they were like, ‘We’re going to rape and shoot you.’ But they kind of proved our point though, so thanks.”

Before resuming the set, Mayberry pointed out that the threats of gun violence came on the same day as the Poway Synagogue shooting and referenced the Time’s Up movement by saying, “Time needs to be (expletive) up if you’re going to say that it’s up.”

Chvrches’ planned hour-long set was cut ten minutes by sudden heavy rain and winds that had many in the crowd running for exits.

But year three of the Fortress Festival had no other hiccups. On two stages, all twenty-two acts started on time to provide nonstop music each day in the Fort Worth Cultural District. Most of the performances were strong and there were no noticeable technical difficulties. Attendance was 7,000 on both days, a nearly 50% increase from last year.

First and foremost, Fortress Festival is a fantastic showcase of Texas music. Hip-hop, in particular, shined. Fort Worth’s Solar Slim, Austin’s Abhi the Nomad, along with Cardiac the Ghost and Adrian Stresow from Dallas all performed high-energy sets. (After leaving the stage, Stresow was so exhausted that he actually started heaving.) The festival was a tour stop for Dallas’ Bobby Sessions, who signed with Def Jam last year and showed that he is quickly becoming a world-class performer.

From Austin, hip-hop duo Blackillac (“like Cadillac, but black”) lived up to the hype. Gary Clark Jr. produced their upcoming EP and has been known to join them onstage, but they did just fine without him Sunday afternoon. The two emcees compliment each other perfectly and could very well be the next great Texas hip-hop duo. With Zeale humorously wearing a shirt with the stars of the ’80s sitcom, The Golden Girls, they effortlessly won over the crowd.

All of the Texas hip-hop artists at Fortress Fest gave impressive performances backed by live musicians. But Rae Sremmurd made them look even better. The hip-hop duo from Mississippi features Swae Lee, who collaborated with Madonna on a song for her upcoming album and Slim Jxmmi, who got in a fight at a show in Florida a few weeks ago. With platinum-certified singles like “No Type” and “Swang,” Rae Sremmurd were one of the biggest acts on the bill. But all of the music and most of the vocals coming out of the speakers during their set were prerecorded. Aside from posturing, throwing champagne on the crowd, and yelling things like “Yeah!” and “Hey!” on top of the tracks, not much of their set was live.

Other notable performances from Texas acts came from Houston’s infectious tropical fusion duo, Gio Chamba, and Austin’s feminist post-punk band Sailor Poon featuring two drummers and a saxophone. A musical trio from Houston, Khruangbin gave one of the best performances of the weekend. Mostly instrumental, the band clicks like few others and effortlessly blends classic soul, dub, and psychedelic rock. A medley that somehow included songs by Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Dick Dale, and Chris Isaak had the crowd roaring.

And Leon Bridges finally performed in front of a large crowd at home. Since playing an album release show in front of a few hundred people at Scat Jazz Lounge in 2015, Bridges has become an international star. The soul singer has two successful albums and a handful of hit singles, he’s performed on virtually every talk show, played hundreds of shows all over the world, won a Grammy, and even performed at the White House.

Backed buy a five-piece band and two backup singers, Bridges now has serious chops as a performer. He danced with reckless abandon throughout a set made up mostly of songs from his second album, Good Thing, which introduced more of a jazzy new age sound.

But Bridges still presents himself as a modest man of few words. As always, he introduced himself to the crowd, just in case they didn’t know who he was. His ballad-heavy set had very few breaks and aside from explaining that he wrote “Better Man” while living at his mother’s house with no money, he only referred to be from Fort Worth by saying, “Man, it’s good to be home.”

Scheduled to play for an hour, Bridges ended an 85-minute set with an intimate rendition of “River” before returning long enough to tear through a sped-up rock version “Twistin’ & Groovin.’”

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