The Broccoli City Festival – Washington, DC’s (and for that matter, the world’s) first urban alternative Earth Day celebration – occurred on Sunday afternoon at the relatively new Southwest DC gathering spot Half Street Fairgrounds. Headlined by Mississippi-based rapper Big K.R.I.T., nationally respected socialite/party organizer Va$htie, local acts like go-go soul band Black Alley, rapper Phil Ade, and DJs Tittsworth, Jerome Baker III, Stereo Faith and more, the event’s mix of DJs, indie bands and rising emcees gave the event a kinship to DCtoBC.com’s Trillectro event at the same location last year. With a crowd strewn between re-purposed freight crates, food trucks and independent vendors, from a numerical standpoint, the event excelled. If Trillectro drew roughly 4,000 attendees, Broccoli City likely did the same. However, on the level of leaving a sustainable footprint on the Nation’s Capitol’s growing urban alternative party scene, the event may have fallen short of expectations. In succeeding in execution but truly underwhelming – possibly to the point of failure – in purpose, it was a glass half empty event in a town clearly full of unlimited potential to support quality social activities.
Two vastly different yet equally as impressive compositions spring to mind when considering the Broccoli City Festival: Tupac Shakur’s posthumous album of poetry The Rose that Grew from Concrete, and the famed Symphony No. 8 (Unfinished) by Franz Schubert. Foremost, Broccoli City was indeed the rose that grew from concrete. The idea of attending a festival on Earth Day that is supposed to celebrate sustainability in a space covered by concrete was strange. When the only sign of flora is the admittedly cute touch of broccoli stalks as centerpieces on the table stations scattered about the main festival area, they certainly appeared as lonely and as poignant as the roses growing from concrete.
Throwing Broccoli City at any great number of the city’s parks may have been difficult from a logistical perspective, but may have ultimately been a better look. The idea of Broccoli City at Rock Creek Park or on any of the baseball diamonds or rugby fields that are in the shadow of the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial would have made Broccoli City, well, truly more green. As well, when the food trucks being courted for the event as well do not feature a plethora of vegetarian/vegan options, it makes a “green” festival feel like a poorly rendered marketing ploy that needed better development prior to execution.
The event was an Unfinished Symphony, too. The lack of pre-event connectivity between the Broccoli City blog’s content and the festival’s performing artists and vendors regarding the stated goals of the celebration made the organic theme feel haphazard and ill conceived. Not that there are many noted urban alternative musicians who are activists for sustainability, Smart Growth, physical fitness or green living initiatives, but at least highlighting the artists and having them discuss how important having a space to showcase these rising-to- high importance issues is of absolute importance. If, however, as once could arguably surmise, the Broccoli City organizers wanted to throw a dope party featuring dope acts with a dope crowd to really kick off an urban alternative blog in a major way, that – by itself – would be reason to throw a party. But in adding the Earth Day component (no matter how key to the website’s ultimate aims it may be), the event – while entertaining for what it was – felt disjointed and in many ways absurd.
At roughly 5 PM, Vincent Gray – the mayor of Washington, DC – took the stage to stump for green initiatives. As with all things regarding the festival’s advertised purpose, he was met with a tepid response. Broccoli City had every chance to be a tremendous gathering-as-horse of a different color. However, in being the unfinished symphony that rose from concrete, it was a well-attended yet haphazard mishmash that I would gladly attend again, but with deeper attention paid to the details that ultimately were the devils that dragged it down. Yes, DC loves to party. But, as well, at this juncture, DC deserves better.