How Something In The Water Festival Honored Both A Region And Its Founder, Pharrell Williams

Managing Editor, Music

Philip Cosores for Uproxx


To categorize Something In The Water as just another music festival would be selling it short. Last weekend’s Virginia Beach event is the brainchild of musical legend Pharrell Williams, held during what is the region’s annual “College Beach Weekend,” when young students from the area take to the sand and party it up. According to some locals I spoke with, the tradition has some negative side effects for the region, including vandalism, which made a more organized activity at the beach all the more appealing (though there is something to be said about the reality of this reputation). If young people were already going to come to Virginia Beach to party, why not organize a festival and try to change some of the narratives surrounding the annual escapade?

Enter Pharrell and an entire community. Pharrell is from the region, as are a ton of other successful musicians, and Something In The Water aimed to honor that, right down to the naming of the festival. Something In The Water implies that something special comes from what is called “the seven cities,” referring to the greater metro of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Suffolk. And it’s a hard point to argue when you consider artists like Pusha T, Dram, Dave Matthews Band, Chris Brown, Timbaland, and others that would feature into the event were all born or raised relatively near the festival’s site. Hometown pride could be felt in the festival’s creation and its execution, wanting to put Virginia Beach’s best foot forward to those traveling in, sure, but mostly honoring the hard-working, dedicated locals who’d never had an event of this scale take place in their home city.

And the city responded with both resilience and enthusiasm. The former could be seen in the festival’s opening day, which was scheduled to feature Matthews, Lil Uzi Vert, Migos, Maggie Rogers, and Janelle Monae among others, but found a weather delay turn into a full-scale cancelation. With intense winds, lightning, and hail, the festival did the right thing by putting their attendees’ safety at the forefront and not creating an unnecessarily dangerous situation, even if it hurt that so many great artists wouldn’t get the chance to appear. Partial refunds were granted for the scrapped day, and most importantly, the festival pulled up their bootstraps and focused on making the final two days as memorable as possible. If there was any concern whether fans had ill will, that was alleviated by the massive lines that formed well before the gates opened on Saturday, with festival goers sprinting to get prime viewing locations, clearly ready to make the most out of the great weather that the rest of the weekend held.

Festival weather concerns are nothing new and something that will only be more common due to increasingly unpredictable weather around the globe thanks to climate change. Lollapalooza evacuates at some point almost every year, and New York’s Governors Ball has often seen weather halt their festivities. At the same time as Something In The Water was happening, New Orleans Jazz Fest was dealing with their own rain-related woes. It remains to be seen whether Something In The Water will turn into a yearly event or if the Friday cancelation affects its long-term viability, but regardless, this is something that happens at many music festivals, and should not be held against them.

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