Rock the Park DC, the concert series in Franklin Park curated by music industry veteran Abby O’Neill and artist/DJ Adrian Loving, returns to downtown over the next two days for an event O’Neill and Loving are calling “Rock The Park DC WKNDR.”
Last year, the duo curated the first Rock the Park DC series as a five-part series of shows that, like the WKNDR, sought to emphasize and celebrate the communal and healing power of live music; and showcase some of D.C.’s finest musicians – and some sharp guest artists too – in the beautiful space of the prime downtown outdoor location of Franklin Park. Last year’s line up ran the gamut in the wide space of creative, revitalizing artists: from local free-jazz icon Luke Stewart’s Pioneer Quintet (disclosure: I work with Stewart at CapitalBop) paired on the same bill with house DJ Joe Claussell to enterprising, prolific saxophonist Brad Linde leading a tribute to the iconic Sun Ra and DJ Ron Trent for a night of Afrofuturism also to a collaboration with Eaton DC for a multi-act bill celebrating Black rave culture.
This year, O’Neill and Young wanted to focus on their love of house music and the pulse of D.C. with go-go music, and condense the celebrations into one, weekend-long celebration of vibration. On-top of go-go acts like TOB there are house icons like DJ Spinna and Kenny Dope as well as rising jockeys like DJ Kamala and DJ Geena Marie. “It was really important for us to have an element of go-go, so we brought TOB band in, who are the leading, young go-go tribe in Washington,” O’Neill said on a Zoom call last month with Loving. “Adrian and I are both old-school house heads, electronic heads, both grew up in the area, both super influenced by the club scene, the rave scene in the area; and both of us have attended WMC [Ed. Note: Winter Music Conference, a weeklong conference on electronic music in Miami known as the premiere platform for electronic dance music] in Miami when it was really popping. So, we put together a dream board in terms of representing house music.”
Sunday’s headliner, DJ Jazzy Jeff, is probably best known in the popular conscience for his work producing some of Will Smith’s top hits when the rapper and actor was performing under the his “Fresh Prince” persona. But he is also one of the best house DJs in the world, and was at the top of O’Neill and Loving’s list of gets for this weekend. For those unfamiliar with house, the pair differentiate it from other EDM styles through its rhythm and call the embodiment of love. “It really signifies feel goo energy, vibrations and dancing. I’m sure Jeff and [DJ] Spinna will incorporate other elements of funk, soul, hip-hop – as they always do,” says O’Neill.
“I think one of the main differences in these things is that there’s a narrative,” adds Loving. “A lot of the DJs that we’ve selected are intuitive enough to pull into their crate and create a faster tempo of vibration that is – like when you listen to trap or hip-hop its slower – pushing the envelop for speed, tempo and putting more wattage into the park. You know, you gotta rock the park!”
Part of O’Neill and Loving’s motivation for this line-up of Rock the Park DC WKNDR is to also do some community service, to help people who are newer to the city, to make sure the people that are coming in with the tides of Chocolate City’s rapidly changing demographics, about that chocolate city history. “This city has a history of funk and soul and disco and R&B. So, to preserve some element of Blackness and a local spirit,” says Loving. “What we’re trying to do is synthesize community and be able to bring people together in safe and comfortable space for what we’re curating for them.”
“It’s an opportunity for us to be artists and to contribute to the dialogue of civic responsibility in this city,” Loving explains. “It’s really an element of us being able to pay respect and homage to the city that birthed and raised us musically and catalyzed our pathway forwards, respectively, in music,” O’Neill adds. “The vibe is just extraordinary out there. It feels really rewarding and exhilarating to bring our curation and our relationships and leverage them on behalf of creating a free experience that, you know, all ages can come to. Our hope is it is representative of the melting pot of D.C.”
The Rock the Park DC free outdoor music series is every Saturday in October from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Franklin Park, 1315 I St NW, DC.