Pharrell pulls music festival out of Virginia Beach, citing ‘toxic energy’

Williams penned a letter in which he expresses his frustration with his hometown.

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Pharrell Williams is pulling his Something in the Water music festival from Virginia Beach, citing “toxic energy” in the city.

Something in the Water hit Virginia Beach, Williams’ hometown, for the first time in 2019. Performing alongside surprise acts such as Jay-Z, Diddy, Usher, Snoop Dogg, Missy Elliott, and Tyler, The Creator, Williams himself headlined the inaugural festival. The 2020 festival was postponed because to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SOMETHING IN THE WATER - Day 3
VIRGINIA BEACH, VIRGINIA – APRIL 28: Pharrell onstage at SOMETHING IN THE WATER – Day 3 on April 28, 2019 in Virginia Beach City. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for Something in the Water)

Pharrell explained his reasoning for pulling the festival out of Virginia Beach in a personal and politically-tinged letter to City Manager Patrick Duhaney. Williams’ 25-year-old cousin Donovan Lynch was shot and killed by a Virginia Beach police officer in March. His letter details his pain and frustration with his hometown, and declares that “toxic energy” runs the city.

“I love my city, but for far too long it has been run by and with toxic energy,” wrote Williams in the letter. “The toxic energy that changed the narrative several times around the homicide of my cousin, Donovan Lynch, a citizen of Virginia, is the same toxic energy that changed the narrative around the mass murder and senseless loss of life at Building Number 2. Until the gatekeepers and the powers-that-be consider the citizens and the consumer base, and no longer view the idea of human rights for all as a controversial idea…I don’t have a problem with the city, but I realize the city hasn’t valued my proposed solutions, either.”

Williams also detailed how the entire inspiration behind the festival was to “ease racial tension, to unify the region, bring about economic development opportunities and broaden the horizons of the local business communities,” all of which took energy he wishes Virginia Beach leadership had.

SOMETHING IN THE WATER - Day 2
VIRGINIA BEACH, VIRGINIA – APRIL 27: Pharrell and Jay-Z perform onstage at SOMETHING IN THE WATER – Day 2 on April 27, 2019 in Virginia Beach City. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for Something in the Water)

Williams also spoke openly about about Virginia Beach at Lynch’s celebration of life in April. “Virginia Beach you need to talk,” he said. “Talk about your issues, talk about your struggles so we can get past them. The misinformation, the mischaracterizations and — forgive me — but it took the mayor a week to reach out this family. There are state dignitaries here, there are city officials here — why? Because there’s something staring — there’s something staring in the spirit of Virginia Beach. We must do better.”

Duhaney responded to Williams in his own letter, in which he wrote, “Before any final decisions are made, the Mayor and I would like to fully understand the sentiment that has brought us to this point. With great humility we hope that you and Festival leadership might be willing to meet with us in person to discuss our partnership.”

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