“Something in the Water” Music Festival Celebrates Black Artists

This past Juneteenth, the “Something in the Water” (SITW) music festival was held on Independence Avenue in Washington. The event, centered mainly around hip-hop and R&B artists, was founded in 2019 by musician and producer Pharrell Williams in Virginia Beach. This year’s concert featured 70 acts, including performances by Pharrell & Phriends, Calvin Harris, Chloe X Halle and SZA.

The festival was open to people of all ages and boasted 50,000 attendees. The event was spread out over three stages, as well as festivities on Independence Avenue and connecting streets. For those who could not attend, the festival was also live streamed by Amazon Music via Twitch and Prime Video.

One of the reasons for moving SITW from Virginia Beach to Washington was to celebrate Black excellence and the success of making Juneteenth a paid federal holiday, which Williams has been passionate about advocating for. The festival highlighted Black artists and Go-go music, which is native to the Washington area.

According to Live Nation Entertainment, Williams wanted to invite some of the world’s biggest artists to the nation’s capital to “show what [Juneteenth] means,” and “provide a glimpse of its potential.”

SITW is more than just a music festival, with a mission to “unite communities” and “celebrate diversity,” according to Live Nation Entertainment. The concert organized free community events and spotlighted small businesses and Black entrepreneurs of the Washington area. In addition, the festival included a pop-up church that held gospel music, dancing and worship. The festival also included “community conversations,” which were panel discussions on topics such as education, small businesses and the influence of Go-go music on culture at large.

Attendees of the festival saw a large assortment of artists.

“Williams did a great job with getting such a wide variety of artists,” junior Gigi Katsock said.

Katsock, who attended with a friend, saw 17 different performances over the weekend. Her favorite artist of the weekend was Gracie Abrams, who she described as energetic and engaging with her fans. Tyler the Creator and Post Malone were two other highlights of the festival for Katsock.

Although peoples’ experiences at the festival were largely positive, some reported a lack of safety at the event, including pushing and shoving in the pit. Escaping the crowds was difficult for some due to the large number of barricades, and the excessive heat of the  weekend did not help. Despite the difficulties, most festival goers had an enjoyable time. Katstock was pleased with the access to food and water at the concert.

The energy of everyone in attendance is what stood out the most to Katsock. “Seeing so many people gathered over a collective love for the artists and their music was the highlight of my weekend,” she said.