Many spectators at Pharell’s “Something in the Water” festival complained that the event was overcrowded, overheated and that they feared for their safety.
While Pharrell Williams’ “Something in the Water” festival caused a stir in DC this weekend, a large number of concert-goers complained that they had concerns for their safety at the event.
Katerra Shackelford bought her three-day passes for $400 and traveled from Tampa, Florida to attend the festival. But after unpleasant experiences on Friday and Saturday, she told WTOP she would not return for the final day of the festival.
“Both days were terrible,” Shackelford said. “There is nowhere to sit. There is no shade. There is no water. Even if you try to go to the bathroom, you can’t. It was a shit show.
A self-described music festival fanatic, Shackelford said she’s been to a variety of festivals, but none were as bad as her experience at “Something in the Water.”
“The difference between this festival and other festivals is that it’s not safe,” she said. “It’s so overcrowded that you can’t walk through the crowds. People are pushing through the crowd because they are furious that they cannot pass. They are just very narrow passages.
Many people believe that the festival venue and staff were unable to handle the approximately 28,000 ticket holders and dangerous overcrowding was inevitable.
A “fenced” crowd
Shackelford said that while in the crowd between performances, she saw a man trying to get through a barricade being beaten by event staff while still in the crowd.
She also described seeing several people pass out during the event – brought on by heat, dehydration, exhaustion and intoxication – but no urgent medical response.
“You expect event staff to be safe. You expect that if someone calls for help, the doctors will come,” Shackelford said. “As someone who goes to festivals… you expect there to be safety protocols in place. And it was clear and obvious that there was none. The staff was not trained. »
Many users on Twitter have complained about overcrowding and security concerns – they were denied re-entry after briefly leaving the 1festival grounds to relieve themselves of the overcrowding and heat. Many are asking for refunds.
—Ngeri Nnachi (@NubianExcellenc) June 19, 2022
So apparently people are about to suffocate @sitw because there are too many people. Did they oversell tickets or what? So many of us are pissed off on the outside. We need refunds. #SomethingInTheWater @Pharrell pic.twitter.com/zQZRaN71ez
—Ngeri Nnachi (@NubianExcellenc) June 19, 2022
Ngeri Nnachi of Bowie, Maryland, said she felt overwhelmed by the chaotic, fenced-in crowd and was told by event staff that she could re-enter the venue when she returned to see Pharell’s performance. When he returned, he was told by police and security that no one was allowed in.
“Eventually another person told us to go to the other entrance on 7th Street and when we arrived another crowd had gathered who were not allowed to enter,” Nnachi said. “I overheard a police officer on video telling us that no one would be allowed in so we could contact the box office where we bought tickets…I started talking to people coming out who said they were panicking inside, stuck in a crowd of suffocating people.”
Nnachi, who never returned inside the concert, said the frustrating experience caused her to skip Sunday’s events.
“I ended up having to watch clips of Pharrell and Phriends from a livestream while being incredibly upset to just be outside,” she said. “I can’t believe I paid so much money to end up not seeing the ones I wanted to see.”
Personal items and personal security
Other viewers on Twitter claimed their phones were stolen.
How did 30 people have their phones stolen in #SITWFest 😂. As if no one was paying attention?
— Cultural Treasure J. Thomas (@Thomas_JENESIS) June 19, 2022
Maryland resident Remi told WTOP she felt the festival was too busy to be safe.
“The [were] so many people you couldn’t even get around to the watering holes or even queue for food. It was just too crowded,” she said.
As temperatures soared into the 90s on Friday, Remi said she got overheated and was sweating profusely during the festival. But when she tried to escape the packed crowds to access free water, she couldn’t because of the barricades at the event.
In addition to security concerns, festival-goers have also complained about sound distortion and major delays to the schedule of events. Shackelford says she was unable to see one of her favorite artists and the festival’s Day 1 headliner, Usher, because her performance was delayed for three hours.
And while she enjoyed the musicians, Shackelford said she would never even attend a “Something in the Water” festival – or future festivals in DC – again.
“I can’t risk my life. It’s just not safe.
WTOP contacted the event organizers for their comments.
Gigi Barnett and Joshua Barlow of WTOP contributed to this story.