Music is the language we all understand, said the great Stevie Wonder. The universal communicator can unite millions through one sublime moment. It can also be used to project a message. Aware of this, Broccoli City, a forward-thinking collective that promotes health and sustainability in urban environments, used music as the lasso to corral the largest possible crowd for their credo.
The fourth Broccoli City Festival, which took place at Gateway D.C. pavilion on Saturday, was the grandest production to date. The event was sold out, so the acclaimed national acts drew the desired crowd. Although the question of whether Broccoli City’s gospel truly reached beyond its followers inside the venue remains, its latest festival lived up to its aggrandized hype.
The second stage did more than simply catch the main attraction’s overflow. Maryland rapper Ace Cosgrove took a break from draping his staccato over mellow production, beckoning the crowd to come closer. Later, go-go luminaries Rare Essence provided their own rendition of O.T. Genasis’s “Cut It” — a timely choice, as video footage of Beyoncé dancing to it during her Formation world tour went viral. But, as anticipated, the relocated primary stage was the locus for the day’s highlights.
As a live performer, Los Angeles singer-rapper Anderson .Paak illustrates all the eccentric genius that has made his album “Malibu” one of 2016’s standouts. Paak’s voice is an endearing, sometimes wrenching complement to his music’s atmospheric swirl. At one impressive point, he took to singing from behind a drum set shortly before launching into a percussive explosion.
Recent Grammy nominees the Internet upheld the serene afternoon vibe, opening their set with the Neptunes-inspired swing of “Dontcha.” Vocalist Syd tha Kyd called the day one of the band’s “best festival experiences,” and their breezy set closed with her bandmates singing “Happy Birthday” to her. Rapper GoldLink, who made an impromptu appearance during producer Sango’s set, crept onstage to present a gift to Syd: a portrait of herself.
The highlight of singer Jhené Aiko’s set was the brief Prince tribute. As her band teased traces of his “Diamonds and Pearls,” the amethyst sky on the massive screen above transitioned to doves being released. The Prince homage continued during the wait for Future: “Purple Rain” played as actual precipitation fell from the sky.
The Atlanta rapper’s performance was reflective of his recent Midas touch. Future navigated his catalogue nimbly, starting with “Thought It Was a Drought” and reaching back to past hits such as 2012’s “Turn On the Lights” before delivering the moment that sold thousands of tickets: the inescapable “March Madness” on the final day of April.
Perhaps some attendees learned about the benefits of sustainability, and perhaps some were only present for Future’s purple reign. Rain aside, all got a good show.