Music festivals in Washington DC: Broccoli City, National Cannabis Festival and Project Glow

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If you need more signs that things are getting back to normal, look no further than the swarms of people returning to outdoor music festivals in DC over the next three weekends.

And while music is at the center of the National Cannabis Festival, Project Glow, and Broccoli City Festival, a solid lineup of songs is no longer enough to draw people in. These all-day, weekend-long festivals, all taking place on consecutive weekends beginning April 23 at the Festival Grounds at RFK Stadium (2400 East Capitol St. SE), are packed with “experiences,” of “installations” and “activations”.

This year, festival-goers can sample the cuisine of top chefs from some of the region’s best restaurants, immerse themselves in art exhibitions or participate in wellness activities – all before spending a relaxing day in listening to old, current and future favorites.

For those focusing on the music at these festivals, the array of talent is stronger than ever. In addition to some of the world-famous artists performing over the coming weekends, these locally organized festivals will highlight the best of this region, including go-go luminaries, soulful R&B and techno and the rising house. DJ. Here’s what to expect.

National Cannabis Festival

Like many politicians around DC, Caroline Phillips wanted to make a difference. Phillips worked in human rights advocacy until around 2015, when she and her hometown were faced with a new political challenge: the legalization of marijuana.

While there’s still a lot of hesitation about this (see the ongoing debate over “gift” shops), Phillips is more focused on ensuring fairness as to who benefits from these sales. She remembers being moved by activist movements such as MTV’s famous “Rock the Vote” campaign, so she and her organizing team of mostly women of color thought the best way to get the word out about disparity in the weed world was to throw a party.

The National Cannabis Festival began in 2016 and has been held annually (it took 2020 due to the pandemic) on the grounds of RFK. More than seven years after DC residents voted to legalize marijuana possession, you might assume you’d be able to smoke or otherwise consume it at a festival that celebrates the leafy green plant, but Congress still bans legal sales in the city, and things remain messy.

The marquee portion of the weekend will take place on April 23 and will always be your best bet for finding carefree fellowship with other enthusiasts while enjoying the music and all the usual festival fun. But if you want more information to untangle what’s going on with marijuana in DC, check out the National Cannabis Policy Summit at the Ronald Reagan Building on April 22 (10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; free with registration), where activists and policymakers can discuss the present and future of marijuana in the city. Or if you’re less interested in the bureaucracy of it all, head to the National Cannabis Championship at Echostage on April 24 ($55). There will be an awards show honoring the best producers in the Mid-Atlantic accompanied by a performance by rapper Slick Rick.

The festival has hosted a reliable mix of big names in hip-hop such as De La Soul and Talib Kweli, and this year brings Wiz Khalifa and Ghostface Killah and places them alongside a wide range of local bands, including DC go -go legend Backyard Band, who have played at every iteration of the festival.

“They’re the first go-go band I’ve ever seen live,” says Phillips. “Being able to put them on stage was very meaningful because we believe go-go music is the heart of our city. And we believe go-go music should be on every stage at every festival in this city.

Bongs, yoga and camaraderie at the first National Cannabis Festival

Along with the music playing all day, you can expect this year’s biggest addition to the aptly-named cravings zone: a culinary pavilion that features talks and dishes from the chefs behind some of the hottest spots. vogue of the city, including Darnell Thomas of Maydan and Kevin Tien of Moon Rabbit. While there are more refined dining options, attendees will also find the return of eating contests, including ice cream, hot dogs and pizza, or exclusive DC Brau beers made for the occasion such as Legalize. It Lager and Smells Like Freedom IPA. (As per city laws, you will not be able to purchase or consume cannabis or THC-infused edibles.)

April 23 at noon. $85.

Glow has been spreading the gospel of electronic dance music in DC since 1999, giving trance and house fans the first tastes of Tiesto, Armin van Buuren and Paul van Dyk. Its founders held special events at the DC Armory, featuring headliners like Avicii, before opening Echostage a decade ago. In 2021, readers of DJ Magazine voted the Northeast DC club the best venue in the world.

But when Glow has been involved in major outdoor events, its organizers have looked outside of DC: to Jiffy Lube Live, where Glow worked with Live Nation for Identity Festival, or to Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course for the Moonrise Festival, which returns in August. for the first time since 2019. A performance by Tiesto in the parking lot of Love, a now closed nightclub in Ivy City, is as close as an outdoor festival in Glow’s hometown. “It’s hard to find seats here,” says Pete Kalamoutsos, co-founder and CEO of Glow. “Much of it is federal land.” So when the opportunity arose to host an event at the city-run Festival Grounds, Glow jumped at the chance. “I wanted to do something in DC proper,” says Kalamoutsos. “I think it’s long overdue. It took 20 years of preparation. »

In 2020, Glow was acquired by Insomniac Events, the national production company behind major EDM festivals Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas and Beyond Wonderland, held more recently in California and Washington State. , and known for its extravagant scenes and immersive sets. Insomniac has held festivals “down to a science”, says Kalamoutsos. “Normally at a festival all that’s on stage is what you get in terms of experience – maybe there’s a LED wall, that’s all. What makes Insomniac so unique is is all the attention to detail they carry, with decor and transporting you to a different world when you enter the site.

The Glow Project layout includes two main stages – the Eternal Stage and the Pulse Stage – and Unity Square, which features vendors, art installations, a Ferris wheel and the Boombox Art Car, a boombox-shaped stage for talent emerging and local. The lineup features 30 performers a day across all three stages, and an array of performers that includes bigger names like Diplo, Above and Beyond and Martin Garrix, and on-the-point artists, such as John Summit and the locals of Late London b2b Misha. The festival has partnered with local organization GOODProjects to help the community: volunteers who participate in neighborhood cleanups and other activities can win tickets to the Glow Project.

Pre- and post-games are also planned. Echostage booked Slander for a pre-party on Friday night, and after-parties with Diplo on Saturday and Martin Garrix and Justin Mylo on Sunday. Soundcheck, Echostage’s little sister downtown, hosts James Hype on Thursdays, Walker and Royce the day before the festival, Whethan after the festival on Saturdays and John Summit on Sunday evenings.

Project Glow has been in the works for more than a year, Kalamoutsos says, but he doesn’t plan to slow down once it’s finished. “We’re going to do another Glow project this year on the East Coast,” he says, without giving details. “It will be announced after the festival.”

April 30-May 1 from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. $90 to $285.

You might not expect one of DC’s best annual music festivals to be born on a holiday – let alone one you’re more likely to forget than observe. But Broccoli City Festival, which has brought loaded lineups of the best and brightest in hip-hop, rap and R&B to DC, took inspiration from Earth Day.

It all makes sense when you see the calendar of wellness events that co-founders Darryl Perkins, Jermon Williams, Brandon McEachern and Marcus Allen surround their music festival with. After the festival was canceled in 2020 and 2021, this year marks the return on May 6 of BroccoliCon, which aims to build financial literacy among aspiring Black entrepreneurs as well as learn more about the environmental costs of doing business. Or if you want to get your workout in before a weekend of hanging out and partying to the music, there’s the BC Fit Fest, which will feature activities like a fun 5k run and yoga in band at the Anacostia Park skate pavilion on May 7. .

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“We didn’t see people who looked like us, talked like us, had conversations about environmental sustainability or community health,” says Perkins, who is black. “At the same time having fun doing it and knowing that our communities are impacted by environmental justice issues as well as health issues – so how do we bring attention to that and also have a good time?

“The party is awesome. … But it’s always about how to shift the culture towards health, wellness and sustainability? So that was always the big picture of Broccoli City. How do we make it cool to be healthy? How do we make it cool to be active and engaged in your community? »

It’s easy to broaden your focus when you’ve locked out all the music. This year’s music lineup features a tight mix of local stars and newbies, including Ari Lennox, Rico Nasty and Alex Vaughn, alongside global sensations such as Wizkid and Summer Walker.

May 7-8 at 1 p.m. (doors open both days). $109.50 – $499.50.

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