Music was in the air over in Washington D.C. this Juneteenth weekend, because Pharrell Williams’ music festival Something in the Water has finally returned! A star-studded group of over sixty performers gathered on Independence Avenue from June 17th to 19th to celebrate all black artists who continue to push boundaries and make their voices heard.
The festival was a great success, with awe-inspiring talent, mouth watering food, and a marketplace for small businesses. Williams had previously said he would highlight DC’s go-go music, and TOB, Barnyard Band, and others were certainly standouts in those regards! Festival goers also got treated to some amazing set work from rap artist Tyler, the Creator. The number of people who stayed late to watch his set just goes to show how much audiences appreciate attention to detail and mood. Also, for the first time in twelve years, brothers No Malice and Pusha T (formerly the duo “Clipse”) reunited onstage in a nostalgic, energetic performance. There are too many more significant acts to name, but just a few include 6lack, 21 Savage, Emotional Oranges, and Baby Tate. The crowd’s excitement was electric — so many people attended that there were heatstroke and overcrowding concerns!
But, in just its second year, Something in the Water already has an emotional history. In 2019, Williams created this festival to celebrate the musical culture of his home, Virginia Beach, and to unite people with that music. Then the pandemic banned the festival for two years. But this April, just as pandemic restrictions were loosening, Williams suffered a personal tragedy when a Virginia Beach police officer fatally shot one of his relatives. The city ignored William’s requests for public forums to discuss the violence and how to do better. In response, Williams moved his festival. He said to USA Today, “Why not take Virginia with me to D.C. so we can take our message of unity, diversity and equity to our nation’s capital?”
Amidst the music, private shops, and entertainment, Williams took a stand against the cycle of poverty. There were five “It Takes A Community” Panels on such topics as preparing children for life after high school and how we ought to handle student debt. He also set aside a free ticket for every graduating high school senior in the DC public school system, so they could view the acts and attend the panels.
As artists, we have a responsibility to make a difference. Art is about reaching people emotionally, but also reminding them what really matters. In the midst of tragedy, Williams took a stand and made steps to use his influence and experience to show others the value of human life and African American art. We should all step back, look at our art and ourselves, and ask what we can do to make a difference.
If any of you got a chance to attend this amazing festival, please tell us about the experience! What was your favorite act? What was the most inspiring moment for you? Tell us in the comments, or tag us on Facebook or Instagram!