Just how cataclysmic the pandemic has been on the concert industry cannot be overstated. One of many casualties was Fort Worth’s own Fortress Festival, which was scheduled to celebrate its fourth year in late April.
The festival is tentatively rescheduled to take place April 24-25, 2021, and cofounders Ramtin Nikzad and Alec Jhangiani confirm that Diplo and Miguel are still headlining the affair as originally planned. But like every other concert with responsible organizers, these dates remain at the mercy of some longed-for scientific breakthrough.
Still, the Fortress brand is not stagnant, as Nikzad and Jhangiani have been cooking up a new venture called Fortress Creative. This marketing operation, which was announced Thursday, acts as a counterpart to Fortress Presents, the event organizing arm that has been used to book previous incarnations of Fortress Festival.
“After we did the first festival, we were approached by different parties,” Jhangiani explains. “It started out with events, and as we went through the month and through the years, it kind of took on a life of its own. We started to take on clients that were not really event-based.”
While marketing and event production are two ostensibly separate provinces, the latter relies heavily on the former, especially when it comes to sponsorship proposals and creative branding. So among concert promoters, institutional progressions of this sort are common.
After the inaugural Fortress Festival in 2017, which was headlined by Run the Jewels, Purity Ring, Flying Lotus and Slowdive, Nikzad and Jhangiani acted on an opportunity for a creative partnership with Fort Worth’s Kimbell Art Museum.
“We had this one part of our business that was selling tickets to the public, and then we had another that was doing work for clients,” Nikzad says. “It just made sense down the line to draw a distinction between those two and identify them as separate [entities].”
One of the most successful, highest-profile marketing campaigns happened under the Fortress brand last year, when Fortress Festival 2019 headliner Leon Bridges participated in an experiential marketing installation for Dickies. Dickies was also a sponsor for the main stage that year.
Nikzad and Jhangiani are taking this time to broaden the scope of Fortress Presents’ operations in spearheading the opening of an outdoor stage at Wild Acre Brewing Co.
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“We’ve been doing shows year-round at other venues, so it gives us a brick-and-mortar home [where] we can do things throughout the year,” Jhangiani says. This stage is approximately the same size as Fortress Festival’s main stage, and that they are looking into using the space to coordinate social distancing-friendly shows.
“We’re always in touch with artists, managers and agents because of Fortress Festival anyway,” Nikzad says. “Those conversations have been lingering ever since we postponed the festival, so alongside that now, we’re starting to introduce the venue.”
At this time, it is uncertain if Fortress Festival 2021 will definitively be in the cards, and it is even more unclear when Fortress Presents will start ticketing shows at Wild Acre Brewing Co., but if these new developments are any indication, Nikzad and Jhangiani have some irons in the fire, and they are ready to strike them once they turn hot.
“A lot of this work has been ongoing before COVID,” Nikzad says. “I think there’s going to be a lot [of] pent-up demand.”