Pharrell’s Something in the Water fest has potential… but needs work


Pharrell's Something in the Water fest has potential... but needs work

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Kia Turner

Kia Turner is a freelance journalist and music historian from…


Credit: Greg Oribhabor

Pharrell’s Something in the water Festival took place in Washington DC, featuring acts such as Moneybagg Yo, Chloe x Halle and Anderson .Paak with an all-star performance from the visionary artist himself.

Joining Drake’s OVO Fest, J. Cole’s Dreamville, Travis Scott’s astroworldand JAY-Zs made in america, Pharrell’s Something in the water festival is one of the many celebrity music festivals that have popped up in the last decade. This year’s festival, entering its second year, got off to a rocky start.

After a solid first year – with acts like Missy Elliott, SZA, Gunna and a set from Pharrell and Friends with JAY-Z and Chris Brown – the second edition of this festival has suffered some setbacks. For one thing, in 2o2o, COVID-19 completely halted live performances in the music field. Second, Pharrell’s cousin was tragically shot dead by Virginia Beach police in 2021. Reportedly, Pharrell was unhappy with the investigation and decided to move the festival to DC (his hometown reportedly lost about $24 million that could have helped the festival community.) Despite these factors, Pharrell and his team moved the festival, so the show took place against the backdrop of the Capitol Building.

Within a few acts and his own, Pharrell managed to fulfill his mission for the weekend: celebrating his own legacy while highlighting the talent of the next generation. However, problems were plentiful: multiple emergencies from in-person guests who passed out due to dehydration and exercise in the extremely crowded crowds; People who managed to cut the lines and enter the festival without tickets or passes; people who have their phones stolen; and an oddly arranged terrain floor that could easily have posed a major safety hazard.

On Friday, the first day of the festival, Anderson .Paak and his band The Free Nationals got together for a lively set at the moon stage. They performed fan favorites like “Suede” and “Am I Wrong”. Paak’s musicianship, camaraderie with the band and fans, and humor made his set the must-see of the first night. Anderson’s set contradicted that of Usher, who performed hits like “You Make Me Wanna” and “Yeah!”. While his show was exciting and energized the crowd, Usher and Anderson should have been given the time they needed to get the most out of their discography.

Photo credit: Karas Marsh

There were three stages: moon, earth and sun. The Sun Stage was announced on Saturday. Things wrapped up with a cast of Chloe x Halle, Snoh ​​Aalegra and Lil Uzi Vert dominating ahead of “Pharrell and Phriends.” However, there was an atmosphere of claustrophobia in the area that made it difficult for media and fans alike to safely maneuver through the crowds to properly enjoy the sets or even head to one of the many drinking stations available. The earlier sets and crowded guests were just a hint of how overwhelming the night on Pharrell’s set was going to be. With almost 25,000 people crammed into a street — which included three stages, two long lines of food trucks and several drinking stations — it became a logistical nightmare as many chose to sit in the middle of the street and watch performances on two larger screens to see.

The Chloe x Halle set appeared to be shortened while Q-Tip and SZA performances were cancelled. Snoh Aalegra’s ethereal personality was on full display during her set, as she spun through hits like “Woah” and “Find Someone Like You.” Unfortunately, the sound seemed to be an issue too, as the further away you got from her stage, the more Mariah The Scientist bleed into Snoh’s production. Lil Uzi Vert delivered one of the best sets of the entire three-day weekend. Full of energy and a cohesive setlist, Uzi dominated with “Money Longer” and “Neon Guts,” which saw Pharrell spotted early on. He walked by before paying homage to XXXTENTACION, calling him, “The only rapper that was my competition.”

The energy and anticipation for Pharrell’s closing sentence was high. Poor communication, logistical planning and disorganization prevented hundreds at the door from even catching the set of Skateboard P due to overcrowding (organizers have since announced they will be refunded). While I was able to enjoy the set from the luxury of being backstage, many patrons and friends who were in attendance confirmed that the crowd was constantly rushing onto the stage, contributing to Pharrell stopping the show several times to post EMT to call.

Highlights of Pharrell’s set included Justin Timberlake’s performance of “My Love” with TI and Clipse’s performances of “What Happened To That Boy” and “Grindin'” alongside Pharrell. NORE’s intro by Pharrell, “going back to where it all began,” captivated the audience into a roar of chant as The Neptunes’ iconic four count introduced hits “Superthug” and “Nothin'”. P took us through a brief musical journey of hits including Nelly’s “Hot in Herre”, “Drop It Like It’s Hot”, “Signs” and the classic “Frontin'” that would almost bring a die-hard Neptunes lover like me to tears let .

Photo credit: Karas Marsh

However, it wasn’t Pharrell’s performance that rounded out the importance of the weekend, as well as the importance of his set and presence. After partners Chad and Pharrell were inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame the day before the festival began and the NERD-exclusive merchandise sold out at the merchandise booth almost immediately, it was clear that while the lineup of intriguing artists was a plus, the crowd was here for Pharrell and what he symbolizes for them. At almost 50 years old he is beginning to reap the rewards and accept the flowers of the children who, like me, have admired the self-proclaimed nerd. It was Baby Tate and Tyler, the creator, front row to his set, and Tyler, who almost jumped onstage in amazement when Pharrell performed this In my thoughts Classic “The Girl”. The feelings of why we were there were perfectly summed up by Tyler in his Sunday night set that closed the festival. Wrapping up his performance with Pharrell and 21 Savage on Sunday’s Cash In Cash Out, Tyler Pharrell passionately declared, “The innovation, the execution… I am forever in your debt.”

Leave Something in the water, I realized that celebrity festivals are not necessarily the way to dominate and reinvent culture. As we have seen astroworld and other festivals of the past, it’s a concept that, like the music itself, is constantly evolving. For a man who has predicted the changes in music and helped guide them through its evolution, one can only hope that with time and experience Pharrell and the organizers can learn, adapt and accommodate changes as festival culture evolves.

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