‘Something in the Water’ audio pageant debuts in Washington, D.C.


To say that a great deal has happened in the entire world because the initially Anything in the Water festival in Virginia in 2019 is an understatement. Protests about racial justice, a contentious presidential election that ended in an insurrection, horrific gun violence — all in the midst of a pandemic that has taken the lives of a lot more than 1 million Americans.

Without a doubt, when rapper Lil Uzi Vert done his hit “XO Tour Llif3” at the competition Saturday in downtown Washington, his spiked hair poking against the Capitol dome backdrop, the song’s chorus — “all my pals are dead” — strike a bit differently.

Perspective: A little something in the Drinking water hints at something in the air

Competition creator Pharrell Williams opened his Saturday-night time set with “Freedom,” an appropriate tune for a holiday getaway weekend that marks the stop of slavery in Texas.

“Look at our persons,” Williams advised The Washington Submit on Sunday morning, recalling the views going via his brain as he took the phase Saturday. “Listen to our people today and truly feel our men and women while we are giving reverence to this amazing vacation.” The award-winning producer then tore by more than 20 decades of hits, from time to time nodding together to his lots of beats as if it ended up an intimate listening session. At other situations, he received assist from pals these as N.O.R.E., Justin Timberlake, T.I. and Clipse, who reunited right after about a 10 years off.

“Music has usually been one of the most amazing couriers for a much-necessary message and to break down the partitions into partitions,” Williams reported. “[Saturday] night time debunked and dispelled a ton of stereotypes. There had been no fights or violence. It was just really like.”

But the night time was not devoid of its hiccups. Several pageant attendees took to Twitter to complain about being squeezed on the narrow street or not becoming let back in due to the fact of basic safety considerations with regards to the size of the group. These not permitted back will receive refunds, Williams claimed. “There are a good deal of kinks to function out,” he stated.

On social networks and at the scene, on the other hand, it seemed as if most persons have been obtaining a fantastic time. Kevin Thaxton, 47, claimed he was glad that coronavirus constraints have abated more than enough, “so we can do things like this in the city.”

Thaxton, a D.C. indigenous, experienced just concluded listening to hometown favourite Yard Band delight the audience Saturday afternoon with a bevy of crowd-pleasers, which include their protect of Adele’s “Hello.” But the celebratory character of the weekend could not cease the actual entire world from creeping in.

“Put them guns down and stop killing every single other,” Anwan Glover, the band’s co-founder, pleaded to the viewers. The brother of the go-go legend turned actor was gunned down in D.C. 15 yrs back.

Glover wasn’t the only just one getting the moment in between sets to get a message across.

“Make some f—ing noise for the ancestors just one time,” explained the rapper JID prior to launching into “Skegee,” a song he unveiled for the duration of Black History Month in 2021. “I never care if you want to listen to it.”

At most audio festivals, there is a mad rush for the front row, but on Friday, A thing in the H2o concertgoers craved the shade. They huddled on the pavement, stretched their legs and nodded their heads to the new music. It was incredibly hot — scorching, with temperatures in the significant 90s — and no total of absolutely free water taps or cheery sunscreen reminders could just take that absent. The weather conditions on Saturday and Sunday arrived like a miraculous reversal: breezy with temps in the substantial 70s.

Far more than 70 musical functions — like Usher, Pusha T and the Dave Matthews Band — and an believed 50,000 or additional attendees descended on 6 blocks of Independence Avenue SW.

The highly melanated celebration took spot on Juneteenth weekend, a time generally celebrated by cost-free functions and inclusive gatherings for D.C.’s Black local community. The selling price tag, nonetheless, was barely accessible. A few-day tickets commenced at practically $350 ($299 without costs) and speedily sold out. The $50 discounts available to D.C. and Virginia inhabitants ended up available for only one particular day in April.

Those people who snagged the coveted wristbands justified the hit to their wallets.

“Last time, he brought out Jay-Z, and I didn’t shell out for Jay-Z,” explained Xavier Jackson, 28, on Friday, referring to the past One thing in the Water festival he attended. “It’s really worth it.”

“When I place in my time-off request, I reported it was to celebrate my Blackness,” explained Jackson, an Apple staff, as he stood in a very long goods line. “That’s what this is.”

On Saturday afternoon, groups of 20-somethings in multicolored bucket hats, Bohemian trousers and jumpsuits jogged to every stage to snag a good place. Until finally the crowding elevated, each and every angle was best, and no issue wherever folks stood in the crowd, the beats vibrated by means of them.

In the course of the set by Yvngxchris, a indigenous of Chesapeake, Va., a fan threw futuristic sun shades onstage for the artist to dress in. They did not stay on extended. Neither did his pants during his second-to-previous tune, revealing his turquoise paisley boxer briefs.

The cluster of people dancing in front of him weren’t fazed. They continued leaping, their box braids and Afros bouncing to the beat as they filmed on their phones.

“That was the very last track, but y’all want extra?” Yvngxchris asked.

“Yeah!” the group yelled.

This was the 1st time the competition was held in the nation’s money. Something in the H2o was earlier staged in Virginia Seaside, Williams’s hometown. The identify is a nod to the cluster of musical talent from the region, these kinds of as Missy Elliott, who done at the 2019 competition, and Pusha T, who carried out this weekend.

Williams moved this year’s festival a couple months soon after Virginia Beach police killed his cousin, Donovon Lynch, in March 2021. Adhering to the shooting, Williams proposed that the town hold a forum to “talk about your issues, chat about your struggles.” But, in accordance to Williams, they never did. Six months afterwards, Williams said the city’s “toxic energy” could not be house to the competition. D.C. was selected in its place.

“Ultimately, the intention is for Virginia Seaside to comprehend that they messed up and that they could have just tackled the problem if they wished to, and they didn’t,” reported Jackson, a Virginia Seaside indigenous. “I feel it will make whole perception, what Pharrell did.”

Kristopher Lee, 17, and his mom, Karen Lee, 64, attended the concert collectively and stood far from the stage — not in the shade, due to the fact people places have been taken — as Lakeyah rapped Friday.

“I’ve been seeking to go to this pageant since it was at Virginia Beach. He’s listed here to hold me organization,” Karen explained as she gestured to her son, whose tall, lean stature bears a solid resemblance to Pharrell’s, though which is just a coincidence.

Downtown D.C. avenue closures for Some thing in the H2o festival

The move from Virginia Beach was not the only detail that loomed in excess of the competition some had been worried about their security soon after current mass shootings. Right before it began, festival organizers reported 800 to 850 guards would be doing the job on the grounds in the course of the working day, and an additional 100 patrolling at evening.

Higher education learners Leila and Nalani Butler and Jenai Roberson selected two assembly places: one in situation of a minor unexpected emergency, these kinds of as dropping every other in the group, and a different in the circumstance of a little something even bigger, these as gunfire.

“I’m a minor extra nervous now that it was so straightforward to get in,” explained Roberson, 19. “We got listed here early and walked via an open up gate. They questioned if we experienced wristbands, and that was it.”

“I assume we’re just striving our finest to be safe,” reported Nalani, 20. “All we can do is at least consider to plan and savor the very good.”

Will the festival be back again in D.C. following 12 months?

“There’s conversations,” Williams advised The Submit on Sunday. “It would be various. It is bought to be distinctive.

“We have to have a substantially larger street.”