Fader Fort is smaller and invite-only this SXSW, but we got a peek inside

9:44 p.m Tuesday, March 14, 2017 South by Southwest

They’re age-old South by Southwest questions: Who’s playing Fader Fort, and how do you get in? We know the answers to those questions, but more importantly, we can show you inside this year’s fan-favorite pop-up venue.

When the City of Austin released a SXSW permit list in February with no Fader Fort to be found, festgoers scratched their heads. The music and style magazine later confirmed that the party would indeed return, but in a smaller, more intimate space than its previous Pine Street Station home, which Fader co-founder Jon Cohen said was no longer available due to development of that east Austin site.

Fader co-founder Jon Cohen talks about the past, present and future of the SXSW party.

A catch: Guests received invites to the party through email only, with no public RSVP. If you usually rely on Fader Fort for your unofficial festivity, that might put a damper on your plans. Luckily, we took a tour of the space on Facebook Live on Tuesday as crews still worked to set up the party’s installations, and we brought viewers along. 

Watch a replay of those two broadcasts: Part onePart two

Fader Fort organizers say that after closing last year’s party with Drake, they wanted to do something different for it’s 16th year that called back to the very first year: just friends in a room discovering new music. A quick stroll through the new digs shows that this is indeed a tighter, cozier spread. 

Though reps did not confirm an official capacity limit, this is not the same mega-party space at which Kanye West and Miley Cyrus once dropped in. Artists currently booked to appear include rapper Young M.A., Austin360 fave Lizzo, Cardi B., Downtown Boys and Kap G. We asked Cohen if fest-goers could expect more surprises this year. He was tight-lipped, but did not rule anything out.

“This year is a return to our roots,” Cohen said. “We really want to put the focus on who’s next, and what’s up and coming. If people decide to drop by and pop in, we welcome them.”

As for the non-musical amenities at Fader Fort this year, look for a couple bars serving Jack Daniels: one inside, one near the stage.

In the way of photo opportunities, there’s an “Infinity Room” featuring an in-car camera that takes a photo reminiscent of a back-up camera, as well as a Budweiser strobe booth for all your Boomerang selfie needs.

Eric Webb/American-Statesman

There’s also an “Unknown Room” that promises some type of interactive mystery (as the name might imply), with custom patch and enamel pin booths, to boot. And let’s not forget that throne room inside that looks like something straight out of “Empire.”

Eric Webb/American-Statesman
Eric Webb/American-Statesman

The award for installation with the most special effects, though: a North Face-inspired room with a video rain wall and enough fog to lose your friends in.

Eric Webb/American-Statesman

That’s the spread, but still wondering if any big names will pop in? We know we were after taking a tour.

“We had a great way to end last year with Drake,” Cohen said. “We’ve had Kanye West, we’ve had Bon Iver. But makes the fort great is and what it is, it’s you don’t know who you’re seeing until months or years later. We had Amy Winehouse, very few people knew who she was. We had the Black Keys. We had M.I.A. We’ve had Sam Smith.”

So no, we didn’t find out if any huge names are showing up at Fader Fort. But if we find out, you’ll know about it. Stay tuned to austin360.com/sxsw all week long.

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