The inaugural Something in the Water festival, organized by Pharrell Williams in 2019, sent a powerful message: There’s nothing Virginia’s musical A-listers can’t do when they put their minds to it. With the event returning to Virginia Beach in late April, the commonwealth’s independent musicians are looking to make a statement of their own.
Amid Pharrell’s signature festival, which features heavyweight headliners like Lil Wayne, Skrillex and Mumford & Sons [as well as controversial addition Arcade Fire], a new and complementary event called Something Indie Water will give Virginia-based artists, DJs and designers their own opportunity to shine. “You’re going to get a true display of, and a collaboration with, the community,” says organizer Will Keck, who founded CNTR (A Creative Space) in Richmond, as well as theMSQshop, the creative consultancy outfit that’s spearheading the event. “This is a real, genuine display of the culture of the music scene in Virginia.”
Keck’s vision for the festival within a festival will materialize between Friday, April 28 and Sunday, April 30 at the FFX Theatre on 16th St. in Virginia Beach, just steps from the main entrance to Something in the Water. On tap for the first day is a marketplace for Virginia-based clothing brands, an extrapolation of the retail storefront you see when passing by CNTR on Broad St. in Richmond. “Everything we do around here is about being prideful,” Keck says. “Every artist in the building is from VA, every clothing brand is from VA.”
The pop-up market will incorporate full band performances, DJs and networking opportunities in the generously sized theater, which is typically home to family-friendly karaoke nights and murder mystery game shows. “The setup is really dope,” Keck says. “It’s got a whole production stage and everything. Bar, green room, all of that. So I’m excited about that. It has lots of space for vendors … We lucked out.”
Day two aims to put those production accommodations through their paces via the theMSQshop Showcase, a sampling of artists from all over the commonwealth. Noah-O and Big No from Richmond. FishSkale Rabble and Kingna Scott from Virginia Beach. Why Not Duce from Waverly. Building a lineup that represents Virginia’s ranging musical talent meant sifting through more than 1,000 submissions, and Keck looked to leverage the network he’s honed through his current creative consultancy work, his HLGNLIFE Records label and his time rapping under the name OG Illa. “I didn’t want to go in there as an outsider and just do whatever I wanted,” Keck says. “I wanted to learn how the city and the culture works out there so I can contribute to it.”
- Richmond rappers Big No and Noah-O will be representing RVA at Something Indie Water festival in Virginia Beach.
The same collaborative spirit extends to the broader Something in the Water festival, which Keck hopes to complement, not supplant. “I don’t want this to be a thing that takes away from Something in the Water,” Keck notes. “I want it to be something that’s a part of it.” To that end, plans for Something Indie Water’s third day center on a brunch that will transform FFX into an oasis for concertgoers who have pushed through two packed days of live music on the main stages. “We found out that people were getting dehydrated and tired on the third day, and there wasn’t enough places for them to go, so we found a spot to take care of that need,” Keck says. “They can rejuvenate and rehydrate and still have a good time.”
Co-sponsored by Slight Since, the merch line of Virginia Beach rapper Intalek, and clothing brand VA Natural Gas, the brunch will include a producer’s showcase, shining a light on the beat-making talent that’s followed in the footsteps of local legends like Nottz, Timbaland and Pharrell himself. Norfolk-based producer J Clyde is among the showcase’s participants, and he appreciates that its lineup is inclusive of a range of styles and ages, from old-school beat-making approaches to younger, more trap-centric ones. “They did a really good job of putting out a really diverse group,” he says. “I think it’s a good representation of the whole spectrum of hip-hop-based music that’s being produced in the state.”
It’s Keck’s hope that these disparate parts — the many facets of the event and upwards of 50 performers from all over Virginia’s music community — will come together to exemplify the greatness that’s made the commonwealth such a cultural force over the past 30 years. “We’re building a time capsule here,” Keck says. “Something that’s going to travel with you as you go through time. You’re going to remember, ‘Hey, I was part of something. I did this, and I enjoyed the experience.’”
Something Indie Water will take place from Friday, April 28 to Sunday, April 30 at FFX Theatre in Virginia Beach during the Something in the Water festival. All Something Indie Water events are free. For more information on each day’s lineup and timing, visit themsqshop.com.