When I first heard that one of my favorite DC venues, U Street Music Hall, was putting on a daylong music and food festival, I couldn’t have been happier. It boasted an impressive lineup of artists of both local and international renown and I began counting down the days to the day of the concert. Although there are many festivals around the country this summer, this one easily had one of the most interesting lineups. From UK producer Jamie xx to psychedelic poppers Animal Collective to the entire Moombahton Massive crew, there was something for everyone who was ready to get down.
I will admit, I went to the Union BBQ for the music and the food. Ready to eat my way through the festival, having heard about the legendary pho dogs that were served up at U Hall in its early days, I was determined to get my hands on (at least) one. So determined, that that was the first thing I did once I got to Dock 5 at Union Market. You may be asking: what exactly is a pho dog? These are 13th Street Meat sausages cooked in Toki Underground’s pho broth and topped with hoisin sauce, basil, cilantro, and sriracha, if you so desire.
It was so good.
After reminiscing on the hot dog that I’d finished eating only minutes before, I decided it was time to check out the music and start dancing.
By this point, Gent and Jawns had taken the stage and played a trapped-out set to a crowd that was headbanging away. Spinning a variety of self-produced and remixed tracks, Gent and Jawns got the crowd grooving away. Next on my agenda was the Moombahton Massive stage, which featured performers for most of the afternoon and evening. Nadastrom and Sabo played back to back for two and a half hours, amazing me with their consistently high energy.
So high in fact, that I spent a good amount of their set wondering how in the world I had never been to one of the famous Moombahton Massives at U Hall. (If the Union BBQ was any indication of what that is like, count me in as a new regular.) However, during their set, I decided it was time to take a break from jamming and try food from another vendor. This time, it was Mama Nada’s Empanadas.
Made by Dave Nada’s mother herself, these empanadas were chock full of delicious meat, vegetables, and seasonings. They even featured an empanada with macaroni and cheese inside but by the time I got to the stand there weren’t any left, which means that they must have been amazing. After eating my fill, I headed inside to see Viceroy and Kaytranada.
Viceroy, a San Francisco-based artist (shoutout to the Bay!), was easily the most boogie-friendly artist of the day. His tropical-house music was so infectious, I couldn’t help but keep moving the entire time I was trying to take photos. Trust me–standing still was difficult. Transporting the entire audience to a beach somewhere far away, his set was perfectly suited for an outdoor stage. The highlight of his set was when he dropped the classic, “Pony,” by Ginuwine and got the entire audience to sing along. By the end, I was stuck trying to figure out what was more fun: Viceroy’s set or his patterned outfit.
Next up was Kaytranada, who brought his slinky-smooth beats to the now packed warehouse space. Moving swiftly through his repertoire, the crowd never stopped dancing, with some eager fans sitting on the barricade to shimmy back and forth.
Closing out the festival was Jamie xx. Stepping onto the stage amidst a haze of fog and lights, he wasted no time getting the crowd moving. Playing a dance-heavy set, Jamie played a mix of his older songs, ranging from his Gil Scott-Heron remixes to his latest tracks–“Girl” and “Sleep Sound.” His set ended promptly after an hour, but it was a spectacular performance nonetheless.
For a festival in its first year, the Union BBQ did not disappoint. From its excellent food and music lineup to its wonderful atmosphere, the only thing left to do is start counting down the days until the next one.