Democracy Dies in Darkness

Going Out Guide

Why the Landmark Music Festival isn't returning to the National Mall this year

By Emily Codik, Lavanya Ramanathan

February 24, 2016 at 2:21 PM

Band of Horses performs at the Landmark Festival last September. (Kyle Gustafson for The Washington Post)

The Landmark Music Festival, which debuted last year on a section of West Potomac Park, won't be returning to the National Mall this year, a spokeswoman for the Trust for the National Mall has confirmed.

MacKenzie Babb said the Trust for the National Mall, which organized last year's festival as a fundraiser for the grounds, decided to postpone the event until 2017 after learning that the festival's planned date would conflict with the Sept. 24 grand opening of the National Museum for African American History and Culture. "As partners of the Smithsonian, we want to be there to really support and elevate that event -- let that opening weekend shine in every way that we can," she said.

"We remain committed to building on the success of the inaugural Landmark Music Festival and staging the cause-related festival next year," she added in an e-mail to The Post.

When asked why the festival couldn't move to another date, Babb said that with 3,000 permitted events on the Mall in a year, pinpointing a date isn't easy. She added that "there's a whole science to scheduling a festival," and this one is planned to fall at a time when it appeals most to millennials.

News that the festival would not return in 2016 was first reported by Washington City Paper after the Landmark Festival website changed its display text to read, "See you in 2017!"

Landmark's future had been in some doubt. Though the Trust had hoped to raise awareness about the Mall, particularly among millennials, with the two days of performances from big-name artists such as Drake and the Strokes, the idea of cordoning off the public park spurred controversy. Activists and historians feared the ticketed festival could set a troubling precedent.

And then there was the fact the inaugural festival, held Sept. 26-27, proved at times a bumpy experience for concertgoers who'd ponied up more than $100 for tickets. The first day was plagued with endless lines for beverages (including bottled water), a lack of toilet paper, crammed cell towers and wristbands openly being given away during the festival, in front of customers who'd paid the steep ticket price for theirs.

Related: [D.C.’s Landmark Music Festival: Mallapalooza it wasn’t]

The Mall needs more than $750 million to make repairs to landmarks and monuments; the festival raised about $570,000, much of which, Babb confirmed, would go toward costs associated with throwing the festival.


Emily Codik is an assistant editor for Weekend and the Going Out Guide.

Lavanya Ramanathan is a features reporter for Style.

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