H Street Concert Easter Weekend Sparks Outcry From Irate H Street Neighbors

Wale Concert Sets Up (Virtually) In Neighbor's Back Yards With No Notice

Wale Concert Sets Up (Virtually) In Neighbors’ Back Yards With No Notice

H Street Concert Easter Weekend Sparks Outcry From Irate H Street Neighbors

Lack of Notice, Poor Judgment Fit Larger Pattern of City’s Indifference

by Larry Janezich

It probably seemed to be a good idea to all concerned in the planning:  a secret, free concert on H Street Easter weekend where recording artist Wale could promote his new album. The organizers behind the event included Events DC and the partly city-funded* (see below) Washington, DC Economic Partnership, H Street Main Street, and &pizza among others.  WestMill Capital Partners provided the venue:  the Auto Zone Parking Lot on H Street between 11th and 12th.

Whatever good publicity Wale generated among his fans – many of whom appeared to be out of state and brought in by tour bus – the brief afternoon concert on Saturday came at expense of the nearby residents of H Street, a dynamic that fits a larger, disconcerting pattern whereby the city prioritizes business over the quality of life of city residents.

Residents of Linden Place, the block backing up to the parking lot, already feel under siege by an ongoing battle with the city over enforcement of rodent control and sanitation and access regulations in the abutting alley behind H Street, which includes restaurants and ongoing construction. (See photos below)

But on the Saturday afternoon before Easter, the quality of life for these residents near H Street sunk to unprecedented levels.

With absolutely no notice given to nearby residents, several thousand concert goers gathered in the lot on H Street. According to ANC6A Commissioner and Chair Phil Toomajian, no notice of the event was given to the ANC.  In response to complaining constituents, Toomajian said, “I too was disappointed to hear the loud noise from this event inside my own home 5 blocks away when I brought my newborn son home from the hospital this afternoon.”

The noise was disruptive to many, but even more offensive was the character of some of the lyrics the neighborhood was subjected to, which one poster to a local listserv described as follows:  “I was walking by and heard some of it. A lot of “n word this, n word that. Eat that puxxy! Fxck that bitch!” Not once in awhile but nonstop – every other word…Not appropriate music to blast in public.”

Respectfully setting aside the fact that, for many, when used in the specific context of modern rap, the n* word does not carry the offensive character that it does elsewhere, the remaining lyrics still raise questions about the judgment used in scheduling this event.  Any woman, any child, any person close to this location in the middle of the day on a holiday weekend heard lyrics which they would be well within reason to regard as offensive.

The concert started at 2pm and went until nearly 5:00pm.  After the concert, a large crowd, which some neighbors characterized as intoxicated, remained on the site until three vans of Metropolitan Police, called by a resident, arrived to disperse them.

Residents who complained to Councilmember Charles Allen and to Mayor Bowser’s office received the following reply from Allen:

“Thank you for adding me to this email chain. After getting your notes, I contacted Greg O’Dell, head of Events DC, this afternoon to let him know about the issues and complaints, as well as the lack of notice to neighbors and the ANC. He committed to me that he will have his staff review their event and get back to me with how they’ll change moving forward. They do not have another pop-up concert scheduled at this site (although they do apparently have one scheduled for Yards Park – which is probably a more appropriate venue to begin with given the weekly concert series already taking place there).  Thanks again and I’ll work with neighbors and the ANC on more follow-up.”

Allen did not raise the possibility of a fine or penalty of any kind for the poor handling of this event.  The debacle poses serious questions about how community norms relate to issues that affect the character of public and private space and what is the process by which such a discussion should be undertaken.  Also, as has come up repeatedly on this blog, just how much of a burden must nearby residents be forced to bear as the city encourages the development of commercial corridors devoted to restaurants and bars while maintaining a stony indifference how this development affects the quality of life of neighboring residents.

From Wikipedia:  “Olubowale Victor Akintimehin (born September 21, 1984), better known by his stage name Wale (/ˈwɔː leɪ/ wah-lay), is an American rapper from Washington, D.C.. He rose to prominence in 2006, when his song “Dig Dug (Shake It)” became popular in his hometown. Wale became locally recognized and continued recording music for the regional audience. Producer Mark Ronson discovered Wale in 2006 and signed him to Allido Records in 2007. While signed to that label, Wale released several mixtapes and appeared in national media including MTV and various black magazines.”  Wale performed at an event celebrating Mayor Bowser’s inaugural.

The City has provided token response to neighbor’s complaints about trash, rodent, and access issues in the alley behind Linden Place to seemingly little effect.

Rat Abatement Container and Food Waste In Alley Behind Smith Commons

Rat Abatement Container and Food Waste In Alley Behind Smith Commons

Open Trash Containers Behind Smith Commons

Open Trash Containers Behind Smith Commons

* Washington, DC Economic Partnership, according to a representative, is in public/private partnership with the city. As a nonprofit organization, some of the initiatives are partially funded by city grants, but they are not wholly funded by this.


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16 responses to “H Street Concert Easter Weekend Sparks Outcry From Irate H Street Neighbors

  1. c labbe

    The event started at 2pm, I agree. I had neighbors ringing my doorbell at 11:30 in the morning asking if I knew what was going on. Sound check had started in earnest by then.
    Surely this was known as H St was closed to traffic. I never realized I lived next to an open air music stadium.

  2. c labbe

    Sound check started at 11:30am, neighbors were at my door asking if I had a clue as to what was going on. I didn’t, but someone in DC did as they’d gotten permission to close off H St on a Saturday afternoon.
    It wasn’t clear to me before, but evidently, we live next to an open air music venue, profits & proceeds to benefit someone surely.

  3. Mark

    This is why we can’t have nice things. Busy-bodies are always offended by people having fun. I guarantee you that property values are higher in the H St. corridor because of unique events like this. Also, there wouldn’t have been complaints if the free concert was Mumford and Sons.

    • Kathleen

      I’m offended by this comment and surprised it was approved. I find the term “busy bodies” as applied to neighbors who expect to learn of major disruptions right outside their door to be insulting and un-neighborly, exactly inimical to the kind of neighborhood so many of us work so hard to build and preserve.
      I also find the implication that the people critical of this event to be engaging in subtle racism to be outrageous. Studies I’m familiar with show rap & hip-hop to be *less* misogynist than other forms of music, although the exceptions to this are notable and receive a lot of attention.
      Please believe me, if Mumford and Sons played and hurled the same sexist epithets at the same incessant rate, this article, and the outrage, would be just the same.

      • Ana


        I rarely post comments but I have to. The people critical to the event were probably some of the same who asked my Black coworker ” What are you doing on this neighborhood” at 10:30 pm on Easter Sunday while she was walking home after having dinner with me. She is a responsible African American, rent-paying resident of the neighborhood and had this comment thrown at her by a neighbor who stood in front of her, arms crossed at chest. I don’t think that is very neighborly, is it? It is, as you mentioned in your comment, insulting. I am sorry but I do agree that the criticism to the concert is very biased.

        With that said, I agree that residents should have received notice, however the outrage is disproportionate and I am 100% sure it has to do with the type of music and people who attended the concert rather than the lack of noticed received.

    • Kathleen

      surprised by the unsupported accusations of racism and privilege. ad hominem attacks are always the first sign of a weak argument. if people are wrong to think that they deserve notice of a major disruption on this scale, or if they are wrong to assume that offensive and occasionally misogynist language should not pervade our public/private space by an event sponsored in part by the city, then let’s hear those cases on the merits.

      to the person who claims “radio edit” below, this and every other youtube of the concert contradicts you.

  4. Kim T.

    Its always difficult to bring these problems to the attention of local citizens as the comment about the value of H street property mentioned above by Mark attest.
    Mark, I invite you over to my home. You come over and pick up the trash, the debris and all the crap, that has been laid outside my back gates.

    You can also come and sit with the rats, we have an infestation over three years ago, due to illegal construction.
    As tax payers, we all pay for that.

    There is a laundry list of issues and problems affecting the H street corridor, the people who live here, and those who frequent the businesses.
    My neighbor and I have had a dead corpse placed outside our gates, and ignited on fire over 8 years ago, I have had blood, people engaging in sex, and illegal construction cement and wood debris placed in my recycle and trash cans. I have had a sewer backup due to the garbage thrown and strewn throughout the alley.
    I see no consequences of this type of abuse, when a simple fine, would do the trick.

    And I support the city recycle and trash crew, who already have a dirty job as it is. as just this morning, they were raising hell to me, because the Oversized trash cans filled to the brim and in the middle of the alley, were to heavy to move. They have had it and so have many of us, BUSYBODIES you refer to.

    I pay my taxes, and my trash can’t be picked up because the alley is blocked, my neighbors and I have to put up with the drunks who fall all over our street from 12am until 3pm–we put up with the large buses who pull into Delux and let off large crowds….we have had people pull hair out in fights during the night on G and 13th.

    We take the noise and all the action, and you can tell me to move, but why should I.

    The city should not indiscriminately show favoritism to these events promoters and businesses, who do not abide by the law like the rest of us.
    They know the licenses and permissions required and so do the city officials.
    If they want to do a concert, and a restaurant wants to operate on H street, then they need to PAY what all the others pay to operate.

    Maybe its because some people are making a little money and getting favors and abusing their positions–sound familiar, this is after all Washington.
    I have lived in other countries, and I have lived in very tensely packed and tourist driven urban cities, but I have never seen the level of corruption that I see happening in DC.
    So, you go to your free concert, and you listen, because we are all going to be paying for this down the line, when DC becomes an elite playground for the wealthy and the middle class and poor residents, are pushed out.

    No wonder the Mayor is visiting Anacostia, as they are next on the list of places and people to exploit.

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  7. Jammin Jimmy

    People can complain all they want. The fact of the matter is, the organizers don’t care about you, where you live, or the impact of their event on you. They purposely kept it “secret” from people living nearby and on Autozone’s private property to because if they didn’t they would have had to get proper permits and notifications would have had to go out. More work that costs money that they could otherwise keep for themselves.

    I think people are pretty open to event on H, Events DC showing minimal respect to residents would go a long way. Hell, they ran the events at RFK that had people pissing in people’s alleys all around the area. Events DC does not care about the residents!

  8. Melissa

    “Any woman, any child, any person close to this location in the middle of the day on a holiday weekend heard lyrics which they would be well within reason to regard as offensive.”


    Will no one think of the women? Our poor delicate sensibilities….
    This is offensive and absurd.
    You have a fair complaint but this sort of pearl-clutching really isn’t helping the case.

  9. Action Jackson Smith

    First off the comments about the lyrics are false. Wale’s lyrics arent even likr that for the most part.

    Even more this wasnt a secret. It was all over the city days in advance. They set up on Friday afternoon around 2pm. How could you not know? This just shows they are out og touch with the community.

    Lastly folks more into communities like this and then want to change them. H street has been a vibrant area of performance venues for decades.

    • MJ Wilson

      For the most part. Guffaw. So, just some part of a concert held in the middle of the afternoon within earshot of a residential community was patently offensive? Win-win.

  10. Hillhound528

    Some of these comments are ridiculous…they didn’t block the street. Trust me, I know because I walked over to see what was in fact happening adn was there for the start of the concert…there was no alcohol served and the fans were not shipped in by bus. I get that many of you were inconvenienced but understand that stretching the truth…doesn’t engender sympathy…it makes people ignore the rest of your comment/complaint. The community should have absolutely been notified but as it was on private property and during the afternoon on a weekend for a short period of time…I imagine deemed it not necessary. That is your chief complaint regarding this particular event. As for the concerns, regarding noise, trash, crime, etc…unfortunately that is a bit trickier as it appears that many of you live adjacent to the “nightlife” portion of H Street. That’s the blessing and the curse of H Street…we get to reap the benefits of increased property values but we also have to deal with the negative associated with living behind/adjacent to bars, restaurants, parking lots…etc.

    i’d also add that the portion of the performance that I heard was the radio “edit” which didn’t include the curse words or the other derogatory remarks that were mentioned here…I did leave after an hour so maybe I missed something. I think it might be just as likely that if people may have filled in the missing words since rap is essentially rhyming to a beat. It’s not hard to figure out what rhymes with witch, pass, luck…etc.

  11. Arthur Delaney

    I have a new baby and people pee on my house every day and sometimes it’s hard to park and the concert was really loud — and it was really no big deal. It ended at 5 p.m.

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