In theory, fandoms are supposed to feel like families, even if each of the individuals have nothing in common besides their shared love for the same artists. And this weekend, J. Cole’s second annual Dreamville Festival was a family reunion.
I’ve only been to North Carolina one other time in my life, for an actual family reunion. My great-grandmother was turning 100 years old, and to celebrate the occasion, the entire family on my dad’s side traveled to the state. I was young at the time, but I distinctly remember how warm it was—not just in temperature, but in spirit. The atmosphere at Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh for Dreamville Festival was the same, and even with 40,000 attendees occupying the massive open field each day, there was still a familial spirit that’s rare at most major music festivals.
As I walked through the giant park to take in the full scope of the event, people were lounging on the ground on picnic blankets, blowing bubbles into the sky near a Ferris wheel in the center of the field, and swinging peacefully from hammocks positioned across the grounds. At one moment during the two-day festival, my entire section joined in unison to sing happy birthday to a bartender. In another, Kehlani invited a member of the event staff on stage to let him sing for the masses, because she heard him practicing his vocals backstage. In general, the staff was very attentive to the crowd’s needs, making sure water bottles were being passed around regularly and checking that everyone was safe. It was hot during the day and freezing during the night on both Saturday and Sunday, but it didn’t mess with anyone’s mood.