Pharrell on Songwriters honor: ‘I don’t know what we’re doing here’
Lil Nas X, Pharrell Williams of The Neptunes and Steve Miller prepare to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. (June 17)
WASHINGTON – Pharrell Williams moved his Something in the Water festival to Washington, D.C., with the purest intentions.
After clashing with city management in his Virginia Beach, Virginia, hometown following the shooting death of his cousin last year, Williams headed north with his marquee lineup that included Usher, Justin Timberlake, J Balvin, Dave Matthews Band and Calvin Harris.
Williams also wanted to celebrate Juneteenth weekend in the nation’s capital, planning his three-day event, which kicked off Friday, as a mega block party on Independence Avenue.
But if 25,000 people – according to Washington police and fire officials – jammed onto one street with three stages sounds like a headache, be assured that it was indeed a logistical nightmare.
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Add in temperatures in the 90s until sundown, inexcusable delays among later sets by Lucky Daye, Lil Baby, Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals and Usher (T.I., scheduled for Friday, was moved to Saturday, while Q-Tip and SZA are out for Saturday) and you’ll land on a recipe for supreme disorganization.
Moving among the stages named Sun, Moon and Earth meant getting wedged and smushed trying to inch down the road, squeezing between people clumped at the concessions stands because the lines bumped into the rest of the crowd and, as the night continued, navigating the obstacle course of tired bodies plopped on the concrete.
There was, however, a notable presence of police and fire representatives as well as a prominent First Aid tent.
Fans openly groused about the late set times – by 10:35 p.m. ET there was still no Usher, T.I. or Anderson .Paak, all scheduled to perform between 9 p.m. and 10:15 – and took to social media to complain about the cramped setup.
“I hope y’all have a ‘come to Jesus’ moment tonight with the organizing team, so the rest of the festival will be well-organized,” tweeted one attendee. “Too many people fainted, too many wrong set times, narrow roads, awkward entrance process…just 0/10 tonight.”
Another added, “Flow of people traffic is terrible, can’t move, staff doesn’t have answers, not on schedule. Love you @Pharrell but DC, and this spot, is not festival material.”
There isn’t much that can be rectified about the location this weekend; festival organizers did not respond to questions about the cause of the set delays.
Earlier in the evening, Latin trap star Ozuna, whose music is ideal for dance floors and festivals, entranced a sizeable crowd with his spinning and hopping during songs such as “Del Mar” and “Taki Taki,” urging them to create a sea of bobbing hands.
Lil Baby, who performed for about 25 minutes after taking the stage 20 minutes late, shirtless and draped in diamonds, zipped through a hits list as he rapped to a track. From the chant-along :We Paid” to the pop-leaning “Close Friends,” he relentlessly paced the stage as he churned out songs.
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Lucky Daye, known for his caressing R&B, slid into the time slot originally set for T.I. on the smaller Earth stage, the only one without video screens for the overflow – which was the majority of the crowd – to watch.
Those who endured the delays were eventually bestowed with a typically slick and skilled set from Usher, who helped cool some angry and tired fans with a parade of evergreens including “U Don’t Have to Call,” “Superstar” and “Nice & Slow.”
Something in the Water – which has Lil Uzi Vert, Jon Batiste and Williams and “Phrends” including Timberlake on Saturday’s bill – is also streaming live on Amazon Prime and Twitch. It’s an enticing option for those who want to avoid the headaches.