Put together by Virginia Beach native Pharrell, the inaugural Something In The Water festival brought music, art, togetherness, and creativity to College Beach Weekend.
Pharrell’s Something in the Water music festival in Virginia Beach, VA brought tens of thousands of people to the water on the last weekend in April. A Virginia Beach native, Pharrell began planning the event in the fall; it was born out of his idea to cultivate a structured event during Virginia’s College Beach Weekend.
College Beach Weekend takes place around the end of the spring semester and is largely an event for Virginia’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), dating back to when it was called Greekfest in the late 80s and early 90s.
During the Pharrell and Friends set on Saturday night, New York born rapper Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs took the stage, singing “Finna Get Loose,” “Mo Money Mo Problems,” and “All About The Benjamins.” At the end, after profusely thanking Pharrell, AKA the “King of Virginia” as most performers were calling him, P Diddy called out the City of Virginia Beach for its racist past. He noted that Greekfest was shut down years ago because the city was afraid of black and brown people coming to the area in large numbers over a short period of time. Pharrell interjected by the end, making sure to tell the crowd “It’s all love here.”
Barring Friday’s weather-induced cancellation, the festival went off without a hitch. There were officers everywhere by the waterfront, mostly acting as crossing guards. Festival goers were required to walk through metal detectors and have their bags searched.
The extended area covered by the festival featured all sorts of activities for concertgoers, including sports and other outdoor activities, booths for local businesses, and a pop-up church service that was open to the community. Performers included SZA, Mac Demarco, Travis Scott, Rosalia, Jhene Aiko, Virgil Abloh, and even some surprise guests like Jay-Z and Tyler, the Creator.
Panels on different discussion topics were held throughout the day at the Convention Center, and there was even an art walk constructed along the Oceanfront, with art displayed at various locations throughout the ViBe Creative District. Virginia artists with works on display included Mickael Broth, Charles Rasputin, Nils Westergard, and many more.
Saturday and Sunday were hot. Every performer ended their set with thanks to the crowd, to Virginia Beach, to Pharrell, and advice to hydrate. RMC Events staffers threw water bottles into the standing crowd, and audience members sprayed it in the air to cool the crowd off. As expected, due to the heat, some people passed out from dehydration, but the crowd always parted and first aid responders were punctual. There were no deaths, but a lot of heat exhaustion.
Away from the stage, festival goers had to keep hydrated with $4 water bottles from the various food stands lining the sides of the blocked off beach. Prices for alcohol were significantly higher; a single beer was $12, and cocktails were a whopping $16. Adding an extra shot was another eight bucks.
This did not stop the crowd from imbibing. As the drinks appropriately flowed, audience members ate hamburgers or jerk chicken from food stands, drank boardwalk lemonade, licked Rita’s ice cream, or enjoyed whatever free treat was provided by UberEats for the hour. In order to create an eco-friendly atmosphere, the festival chose not to provide plastic bags or straws for food nor merchandise.
The concert attracted people from across the Commonwealth and beyond, ages ranging from college students to older hip hop and rap fans – there were even a few families with toddlers. For the concertgoers not interested in the packed crowd, there was space for laying down blankets and soaking in the sun with a good view of the monitor airing the current performances. Families and friends swayed to the music, dancing with strangers and enjoying the clear weather. Like Pharrell said, and repeated often, “It’s all love here.”
Written by Christina McBride and Aviance Hawkes. Photos by Aviance Hawkes.
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