Event returns to Virginia Beach for 2023

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Pharrell Williams’ Something in the Water music and culture festival is coming back to Virginia Beach in 2023, and tickets go on sale Saturday morning.

Williams, a Virginia Beach native, announced the festival’s much-anticipated return on the second day of his Mighty Dream Forum in Norfolk. Something in the Water 2023 will be April 28-30 from 4th Street to 15th Street on the beach. Local live event producer IMGoing will help Live Nation with the event.

“Something in the Water is coming back home,” Williams said at the announcement. “It’s very, very, very exciting to do it… this will bring our region together.”

3-day passes go on sale online Saturday, Nov. 5 at noon at Something in the Water’s website. Virginia locals can get a jump on tickets, with fees waived, at a special “locals only” event at the Virginia Beach amphitheater on Nov. 5 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Williams says everyone who bought a pass for his Mighty Dream Forum is also getting a free festival pass.

The poster for the 2023 event (Courtesy of Something in the Water)

The first Something in the Water was held in Virginia Beach back in 2019, with well over 35,000 people traveling to the Oceanfront to see numerous big-name acts such as Missy Elliott, Pusha T, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z and Usher.

Williams pitched the event as an effort to move the city away from the stigma of College Beach Weekend, an unofficial annual event that had been associated with crime. Its mission is to “unite communities, celebrate diversity and empower everyone from the youth to small business owners.”

The 2019 festival was widely lauded as a success by city leaders, local businesses and members of the public, with it contributing millions of dollars in economic impact to Virginia. In addition to the economic and cultural impacts, as well as a sense of community pride the event instilled, city officials also noted the decrease in crime compared to previous College Beach Weekends.

An aerial shot of the crowd at the 2019 festival in Virginia Beach from WAVY’s Chopper 10.
Virginia Beach city leaders talk about the success of Something In The Water
An aerial shot of the nighttime crowd at the 2019 festival in Virginia Beach from WAVY’s Chopper 10.

Williams moved the festival to Washington, D.C. this past year on Juneteenth weekend, after calling Virginia Beach “toxic” for the way it handled the fatal shooting of his cousin Donovon Lynch at the hands of a Virginia Beach police officer in March 2021. However, the reviews of the new location just off the National Mall in D.C. were mixed, with many people saying it was overcrowded. Photos from the event show crowds tightly packed into a much narrower space than the Virginia Beach festival.

Other attempts to bring the festival back to Virginia Beach after 2019 were canceled due to concerns with the pandemic.

“The demand for the festival in Virginia Beach and The 757 – among the people – has never wavered, Williams added in a release. “If anything it has only intensified. College Beach Weekend continues every year and the city of Virginia Beach leaders have been eager to reconcile and move forward. The environment is finally optimized for return and the announcement will delight everyone – from HBCU students across the eastern USA to the hundreds of small businesses who will play a role in the festival to the cities within the region and neighborhoods that will serve as hosts. I need to come back home. There is a pervasive feeling by almost everyone that the festival belongs in Virginia Beach, and the time is right to bring it back.”

City leaders and Williams excited for renewed partnership, feedback sought

Williams made the announcement Wednesday alongside Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer, Councilman Aaron Rouse, City Manager Patrick Duhaney and Deputy City Manager Taylor Adams. The latter three were pictured with Williams this August at a meeting in New York City.

“This would not have happened without Pharrell,” Rouse said in thanking Williams. “… Something in the Water isn’t just about Virginia Beach, it’s about Hampton Roads, it’s about VA, it’s about our commonwealth …”

Dyer said “we want everyone to know Virginia Beach is everyone’s beach and everyone is welcome” while speaking to reporters on Wednesday. He says he’s confident the city will vote on a sponsorship agreement with the festival.

A public comment session ahead of a vote on the proposed terms will be held November 15 at 6 p.m. Virginia Beach has offered a $500,000 advance to the festival for marketing purposes, along with other city property to help the festival such as parking garages and school buses, a summary of the proposed sponsorship terms shows.

Though we have a confirmed date for the festival, it’s still unclear when the lineup may be announced. In 2022, it wasn’t until about two months before the event. Ahead of the canceled 2020 festival, organizers were looking to announce in November, ahead of the April festival.

WAVY’s Brett Hall is at today’s announcement and working to learn more about the logistics of this year’s festival, including any new additions this year.

Keep up to date with the latest news on WAVY.com.