Broccoli City brings together music and culture

The energy was palpable as over 30,000 fans converged on FedEx Field for Broccoli City’s seventh annual music festival. The move to the new venue was in response to their unprecedented turnout – featuring headlining sets from Childish Gambino and Lil Wayne, this year’s event was their biggest yet.

After an hour-delayed opening due to severe weather the night before, the festival kicked off with a mainstage performance by local go-go band New Impressionz. Following the recent #DontMuteDC controversy in which a U Street record store and cell phone carrier was forced to silence the go-go music which usually plays from their windows, it was refreshing to hear a performance so steeped in local culture.

“The community serves as the catalyst for all that we do, and we are thrilled to continue providing live entertainment experiences that mobilize millennials around issues plaguing our most vulnerable communities,” Broccoli City co-founder Brandon McEachern said in a press release.

Broccoli City had no shortage of local talent. Beyond New Impressionz, many of the performers were also local. Silver Spring rapper Adé’s set was followed by a performance from Suitland’s YBN Cordae during which he brought out surprise guests Southeast DC’s WillThaRapper and fellow Prince George’s County rapper Q Da Fool to play their respective hits “Pull Up Hop Out” and “Guns N Bells.” Local DJs such as DOMO, who founded female-forward collective GIRLAAA, spun sounds between sets and amped the crowd up with a surprise appearance by A$AP Ant.

“I continue to be proud of [Broccoli City] for taking on the challenge of encouraging healthy & eco-friendly lifestyles in urban communities,” five-time Broccoli City Festival host Rodney Rikai said in an Instagram post. Throughout the day, Rikai repeatedly emphasized the festival’s commitment to educating its attendees about the importance of sustainability and healthy living in urban communities.

Beyond the stages, the festival was still teeming with culture. Fans from all over sported DMV brands like Solbiato, EAT. and Diet Starts Monday. Work from artists from all over the area was showcased on three-sided boards, dubbed “Immersive Art Triangles,” in the community area east of the stages. The community area also featured displays from voter registration organization HeadCount, the “I Am An Immigrant” campaign and a community library among interactive art displays and vendors in market stalls.

“The power we bring as a unit is what compels us to create a space to celebrate, and provide programmatic resources and education through uplifting our supporters and extended community,” McEachern said.

The highlight of the night was Childish Gambino’s electrifying set, which he told the audience would be more like church than a concert. Featuring live instrumentation, back-up dancers, a small choir, unreleased music, an elaborate lightshow, multiple descents into the crowd and a disco-ball adorned platform that would occasionally raise him about 12 feet above the audience, Gambino’s performance was as intimate as it was mesmerizing.

“Every show I do is extremely personal, I didn’t come here for a check,” Gambino told the crowd. “I’m supposed to be on vacation right now. You know why I did this show? I did this show because this is the [expletive] funnest place I ever did shows.”