Dreamville Festival brought out the stars and the crowds for another year in Raleigh
With clear and sunny skies, the music and activities continued Sunday afternoon at Dorothea Dix Park for the third year of Dreamville Festival.
The day was scheduled to start on time with performances by 13 hip-hop and R&B artists with a joint performance at 9:15 p.m. by Grammy Award-winning rappers J. Cole, the creator of the festival, and Drake to close out the weekend.
Burna Boy, the Nigerian pop and Afro-beat singer, was also in the line-up for performances alongside Summer Walker, J.I.D, Glorilla, Bas, Mario, Ayra Starr, Baby Tate, Cozz, Jordan Ward and Reuben Vincent.
On Saturday, the threat of thunderstorms in the Triangle area delayed the start of the festival with gates opening at 3 p.m. There was also a last minute change in the set list.
Rapper Key Glock was scheduled to perform but his flight was canceled because of the weather, the festival announced. Instead, New York rapper Toosii, with roots in Raleigh, filled the 5:50 p.m. slot.
Day one ended with an electric show by Usher, the singer behind No. 1 hits such as “Yeah!” and “Confessions Part II.”
This year’s music festival was the largest to date with about 100,000 people in the city for the event. The event sold out tickets in weeks.
Cole, who grew up in Fayetteville and owns the Dreamville Records label, started the music festival in Raleigh in 2019 with over 40,000 attendees and headliners like Big Sean, SZA, Nelly and 21 Savage. Cole’s headlining performance with Drake had not started by Sunday’s print deadline.
On Saturday, Def Jam rapper Marqus Clae kicked off the day of performances, followed by Dreamville record rappers Omen and Lute.
Between the lines for food and pictures next to some the large art displays, festival-goers waited for performances between the “Rise” and “Shine” stages by SiR, Jessie Reyez, and EARTHGANG. The Miami hip-hop duo, City Girls, graced the “Rise” stage to perform some of their hits like “Take Yo Man” and “Act Up.”
Over on the Shine stage, Reggae rapper and singer Sean Paul took the crowd to Jamaica, going down a road of nostalgia with his early 2000s hits like “Get Busy” and “I’m Still in Love with You.”
The park filled with attendees armed with sunscreen, colorful hats, shoes and sunglasses. Others wore Dreamville T-shirts and still wore rain jackets to prepare for any changes in the weather.
Lines for drinks and local food vendors grew longer throughout the day.
Some people were laying out on the grass with blankets, sweatshirts and inflatable pillows.
Photos: Dreamville Festival 2023 comes to Raleigh, NC’s Dix Park
The fans were diverse in race and ethnicity, background, hometown and interests.
Alexis Jones sat on blankets between the Rise and Shine stages with her friends. She said she was excited to see Drake, Sean Paul, Mario, Lil Durk, and City Girls and “especially Cole because I’m from Fayetteville.”
“It was super easy getting here. I’ve not had any issues at all. It’s been smooth,” Jones said. “As soon as I walked in there was bathrooms, food, everything is organized, clean and fine. I have no complaints.”
Her friend, Jack Calhoun, was there to see his favorite singer, Jessie Reyez.
“That was like... the time of my life,” he said. “It was the most fun I’ve ever had, I’ve been waiting to see her for so long.”
Usher and Ari Lennox light up stage
For some festival-goers, the most anticipated performances were by Usher and Dreamville’s Ari Lennox.
Lennox, a Washington, D.C. native, sang her R&B ballads from her newest album, “Age, Sex, Location,” and some familiar hits like “Shea Butter Baby” featuring J. Cole and “Whipped Cream.”
Fans stood swaying to her songs, which seemed to prepare them for Usher, who continued to serenade the crowd by going down memory lane.
In total, Usher performed 21 songs, showing his range as a musician, songwriter and as some would call him “the King of R&B.”
Known for his smooth dance moves and melodic voice, Usher ended his performance shirtless, dousing himself in water, and pulled an April Fool’s joke, teasingfans with a surprise Beyoncé appearance, sending fans into a frenzy. (Beyoncé did not join Usher on stage.)
On Friday, Usher dropped by popular bar He’s Not Here in Chapel Hill to meet some fans.
It’s still April 1st right? ♂️ #DreamvilleFest2023 https://t.co/p9jPSRuDMB
— Usher Raymond IV (@Usher) April 2, 2023
Elijah Weathers traveled with his friends from Fort Parrish, Florida. He was most excited to see J. Cole.
“I’m excited about the experience. I’ve never been to a festival before,” he said Saturday. “We got here early, early this morning at 4 o’clock.”
The rain wasn’t going to stop Weathers and his friends. He came dressed in a jacket with a hoodie, just in case it started raining again.
The merchandise tent was in the middle of the field. The lines wrapped around on both sides with people waiting to get T-shirts, mugs, sweatshirts and other items.
Daniel Hunter, a Durham native who traveled from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, said he “fought to get here” and since being in the park said the experience was overwhelming. Dreamville was his first festival.
“I actually was caught in the storm the whole way up through here,” he said. “So far, it’s real amazing. It’s amazing.”
Fans from all 50 states and 23 countries were in attendance this weekend, according to Dreamville.
Y’all came from 50 states and 23 countries to celebrate with us at @DixPark, #DreamvilleFest is GLOBAL!
: Alex Peterson / The Parallel Agency pic.twitter.com/9HbjLoTKWT
— Dreamville Fest (@Dreamvillefest) April 1, 2023
Traffic off Centennial Parkway and Western Boulevard crept along toward the park Saturday afternoon. Attendees had the option of getting there by shuttle, parking in nearby lots, ride share or by foot, train or bike.
Festival organizers announced before the festival opened that both shuttles and parking had sold out.
A portion of proceeds from the event go to Cole’s Dreamville Foundation and the Dorothea Dix Park Conservancy. The City of Raleigh projects the event to have an economic impact of over $7.8 million.