News & Politics

Something in the Water: Everything You Need to Know About Pharrell’s DC Festival

The massive musical event wraps up Sunday.

Pharrell Williams performing at Coachella in 2014. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user, Shawn Ahmed.

This post has been updated.

Pharrell Williams’s Something in the Water music festival is back after a two-year hiatus, and will take place along DC’s National Mall from Friday, June 17 through Sunday, June 19. More than 60 bands and artists include headliners such as Jon Batiste, Justin Timberlake, Tyler the Creator, and Williams himself. It’s one of the biggest festival events to take over downtown DC in years, with multiple stages, concessions, and a permit for 50,000 attendees. Here’s what you need to know if you’re going (and even if you aren’t): 

So when and where exactly is it? 

Musicians will perform along Independence Avenue, Southwest, with entrances on Fourth Street and Seventh Street (here’s a handy festival map). You’ll be able to enter the festival between 2 PM and 11:30 PM on Friday and Saturday, and between noon and 11 PM on Sunday. All ages are welcome to attend, and children five and under get in for free with a ticketed adult.

Attendees were originally told they would be able to come and go (only through the official entrances), but Saturday night some reported that they were not allowed to return to the festival due to overcrowding.

Wait, 11 PM on a Sunday? That seems late! 

Well, yes, no one wants another Project Glow sound-storm on a school night. But remember: Monday, June 20 is the Juneteenth Weekend holiday. Also, permitted DC bars, restaurants, and nightclubs are able to stay open and serve alcohol until 4 AM on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights—courtesy of the District’s Extended Holiday Hours program. So relax and have fun!

Can I still get tickets? 

Yes, three-day general admission passes are still available through the event site, starting at $400, plus a $50 fee. Prices on the secondary market through sites like StubHub are a little less (starting at $350).

I’m a DC public high school senior. Can I still get my free ticket

Check your email! Festival organizers teamed up with nonprofit the XQ Institute to provide gratis passes as a graduation gift. Each public school high school senior is eligible for one non-transferable pass, which must be shown with their school ID. Details were sent via email.

What are the can’t-miss acts? 

With over 60 bands and artists ranging from Usher to Calvin Harris to Dave Matthews Band to Pusha T, there’s a lot to choose from. Pharrell is, of course, headlining. And there are a ton of other A-list “phriends” involved, such as Timberlake and Q-Tip. The Post has a good rundown of who to make sure to catch.

What’s the food and drink situation? 

You will be eating and drinking well at the festival. Bars selling alcohol to the 21+ crowd will be set up throughout the area, and there are plenty of free water stands (map). The culinary vendor lineup mixes popular local spots like Ben’s Chili Bowl, Colada Shop, Bun’d Up, and [email protected] with favorites from Pharrell’s Virginia Beach hometown. Eater DC has a rundown of what to expect on the food front.

What can I bring?

Small, clear bags and clutches/purses of a certain size are permitted, and subject to search. Permitted necessities include phones, empty clear water bottles and hydration packs, feminine hygiene products, and cigs and vape pens. A big no: blankets, coolers, umbrellas, cannabis, and a lot of other things. If you need to stash anything, there are lockers available for rental.

Sounds like 1) fun, and 2) a traffic headache. What’s the road closure situation?

There are several road closures and parking restrictions already in place this week in advance of the festival. WTOP has a full rundown here.

Sadly, I am neither a high schooler nor someone who can shell out $350 for festival tickets. Is there alternative programming this weekend? 

Yes! There’s a lot happening in DC this weekend. Check out our guide to Juneteenth events and Father’s Day festivities. Over at Nationals Park, it’s Ryan Zimmerman Weekend, as the Nats honor and say farewell to #11. Also: Washingtonian‘s 101 of the Best Things to Do This Summer  just dropped online.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.

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