It’s looking like the highly anticipated Something in the Water concert series in Virginia Beach will not be making a comeback in 2022.
Musician Pharrell Williams, who organized the first festival in 2019 and informed city officials that he won’t be bringing it back, insisted in a letter this week that he still loves his hometown of Virginia Beach but has been deeply disappointed that it’s been run “with toxic energy,” particularly in the wake of his cousin’s death at the hands of police in March.
“I love the city of Virginia Beach,” Williams wrote in his letter Tuesday to the Virginia Beach city manager. “I’ve always loved the city of Virginia Beach—and most importantly our people.”
Williams expressed that the purpose of the festival was to help “ease racial tensions” in the area and boost local businesses in marginalized communities. However, his optimism ends there.
“We achieved those things!” he wrote. “I wish the same energy I’ve felt from Virginia Beach leadership upon losing the festival would have been similarly channeled following the loss of my relative’s life.”
The artist continued by saying Virginia Beach has been “run by—and with toxic energy.”
“The toxic energy that changed the narrative several times around the homicide of my cousin, Donovan Lynch, a citizen of Virginia,” he wrote. “I sang about a room with a roof, but I am tired of kindly and politely being shown the door.”
“Until the gate-keepers 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 any problems with the city, but I realize the city hasn’t valued my proposed solutions, either,” Williams ended his note.
On March 26, three separate shooting incidents left two people—including Williams’ cousin, Donovan Lynch—dead and eight others injured. During the chaotic night, Lynch, who was reportedly out bar hopping with a friend, was fatally shot by police who were responding to a report of gunfire on the oceanfront strip. Police allege Lynch pulled out a weapon, but the police officer who fired the fatal shot did not have his body camera turned on.
Residents of Virginia Beach have demanded a more explicit explanation for Lynch’s death, which the coroner ruled a homicide. An investigation was launched by the Virginia Beach police and Virginia State police amid widespread community outrage. Lynch’s family has also filed a lawsuit against the officer involved, whose identity has yet to be publicly released.
After initially learning that Williams did not want to bring back Something in the Water, City Manager Patrick Duhaney sent him a memo on Sept. 29. He told Williams that he was thankful for his “unwavering support and commitment to Virginia Beach over the years” but was disappointed that Something in the Water may not return in 2022. He recognized that the concert made a positive impact on the city—financially and socially—and that it provided a sense of unity. He suggested meeting with Williams and the festival’s leadership team in person before making a final decision.
At a city council meeting Tuesday night, Virginia Beach residents discussed Williams’ decision to not hold the concert in 2022. “Something in the Water was very, very big and positive for the City of Virginia Beach,” Mayor Bobby Dyer told Wavy TV 10. “Unfortunately last year with the COVID, we had to cancel it. But... the manager and I want to connect with Pharrell, sit down, talk things out, and that’s what we’re going to take. We are going to try to be positive about this and we are going to try to make a case that, you know, we are moving forward.”
However, an organizer for Something in the Water confirmed to the local CBS affiliate, “Festival is not happening in Virginia Beach next year. Pharrell loves the people of Virginia Beach and wants positive change and equality for everyone. We are all disappointed, but hopefully, this can be a catalyst for positive change for our City in the future.”