FROM AUSTIN, TEXAS There was no finer example of South by Southwest’s knack for remaining seemingly recession-proof this year than the Levi’s/Fader Fort. A cross between a heavily sponsored Woodstock and a post-apocalyptic hipster commune, the joint venture between the denim maker and the magazine earned some of the festival’s biggest buzz, due to its elaborate setup and poorly guarded secret cameo by Kanye West.
Organized by The Fader marketing division Cornerstone Promotion—and produced by Lacy Maxwell Productions—the fort took over an entire field, sandwiched between a warehouse and defunct railroad tracks. Sheets of old metal and plywood haphazardly erected around the perimeter kept details of the playground secret from the long lines waiting for free admission, letting only the sound of artists like Little Boots, Peter Bjorn & John, and Jadakiss slip through the cracks.
The fort kept its doors open for all four days of the music portion of the festival, and guests passed time between sets drinking free Budweiser, shopping in the pop-up stores from Ray Ban and Levi’s, and interacting with the many installations, like a giant couch-shaped swing made from old tires. Attendees looking to get out of their dirty clothes were even encouraged to strip down and take advantage of a complimentary laundromat.