Something in the Water Day Two
Pharrell Williams performing at Something in the Water on Saturday night while hundreds of concertgoers were barred from entering due to overcrowding; courtesy of SITW Instagram

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What started out as a promising second day of Pharrell Williams’ Something in the Water Festival turned into a massive disappointment for many paying customers. The D.C. Fire Marshal shut down all entrances to the festival right before Williams’ headlining set due to overcrowding that left hundreds stranded at the gates.

At 9:56 p.m., the fire marshal announced that all entrances were closed. Any attendee who had not entered the festival by that point, or who had left but intended to re-enter (which was otherwise permitted), was not allowed in. At $350 (or more) for a three-day pass, excluded ticket holders were justifiably livid.

“600+ paying people waiting outside of each entrance because we were promised reentry and left to get relief at this festival with no accessibility,” one attendee tweeted to Mayor Muriel Bowser. “Tickets for #SITW start at $350. So that’s $210,000 that has been stolen from your people. The people of DC.”

Neither D.C. police, nor the festival’s organizers could verify the the total number of attendees for day two. But it was clearly a significant increase from Friday’s attendance of 25,000.

Still, the festival ran smoother (for a time) than Friday’s blazing hot experience. Temperatures plummeted 20 degrees, and performances from Baby Tate, Chloe x Halle, Snoh Aalegra, and Lil Uzi Vert were enjoyable. During his set, Vert paused to sign someone’s graduation cap. But Q-Tip, SZA, and Run the Jewels, scheduled to play Saturday, were no-shows with no explanation given. (Post Malone was announced as a last-minute replacement and will perform Sunday afternoon).

Day two ran on time until Jon Batiste’s set—the last artist to perform on the secondary Moon Stage, prior to Williams’ headlining set on the main stage, scheduled for 10 p.m.

Despite the problems, the headlining Pharrell and Phriends set featured appearances by Justin Timberlake and T.I. (who was originally scheduled to perform on Friday night and was spotted at D.C. Improv earlier that evening). During their performance, Williams stopped the show at least twice to assist fallen crowd members. At one point, the performers asked the audience to take five steps back from the person needing medical assistance so that medics could find them. “Put your thumbs up if you’re good,” Williams asked his audience after directing emergency medics. At another point, Williams instructed the crowd to “lift him up,” when someone had clearly fallen, or passed out.

“Tell the newspaper reporters about that,” Williams said. “We lifted our brother up, we didn’t leave him down.” 

City Paper reached out to festival organizers regarding the fire marshal’s decision, but they did not respond before publication.

Something in the Water continues Sunday at noon when the Howard University choir will transform West Potomac Park into a pop-up church. That event is free and goes until 6 p.m. At this rate, they’re going to need it.