- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION

Thousands from around the country came out to the National Mall at the weekend to attend the Landmark Music Festival, a monumental two-day event to raise awareness for hundreds of millions of backlogged repairs needed for the historic site in the nation’s capital. If you hadn’t heard about it, that makes sense as it wasn’t well advertised. And the festival has received plenty of other criticism this week from The Washington Post and others for its long beer lines and arguably modest attendance.

It seems, however, that the greater point has been missed in the aftermath of the event. On Saturday and Sunday in West Potomac Park, the National Trust for the National Mall got people to gather, not for politics or protest, but for good music, and isn’t that just a nice change of pace for Washington?

Yes, the event was, in fact, supposed to try to raise money to address the $750 million of alleged damages to the grounds — a target that the National Trust has not yet declared to have met.

It did, however, get many 20- and 30-somethings of Washington talking about repairing the national landmark, which could be seen as an accomplishment in itself considering weed removal and sidewalk repairs tend to be far from interesting subject matter, especially in a city with so much to worry about.

For many, the weekend brought back fond memories of visits to the National Mall. Many of the 40 artists performing had stories to tell, including U.S. Royalty, an indie rock band based in the District.

“I remember, as a kid, laying in the grass [at the Mall] watching the planes overhead. It was great,” said U.S. Royalty bassist Jacob Michael with a broad smile. “Everyone has good memories from their childhood of this place.” 

U.S. Royalty, dressed almost entirely in black with sunglasses on even in the overcast weather, is the last band you’d imagine to be nostalgic. But the four musicians seemed more than happy to join the Strokes, War on Drugs, CHVRCHES and many artists to support the cause.

“I was surprised that so many people showed up to watch us perform,” said drummer Luke Adam with a laugh.

But show up they did, and not just the crowd often associated with such events. Concertgoers dressed comfortably in denim, cotton T’s and sweaters and were largely in control of their faculties. There were even a number of strollers in the crowd as young parents brought their children to partake in the music.

“Everyone has been great to the kids,” said Lydia Puente, who sat with her sons, ages 3 and 10, on a blanket in the grass. “He’s been having a great time,” she said, pointing to her younger son, Paolo, who was busy jumping with his father to the music of Canadian electro-funk duo Chromeo.

In Washington, parents eager to expose their children to the joys of outdoor music festivals often needed to travel as far as Texas. Ms. Puentes said she has taken her older son, Mateo, to Austin City Limits, but was happy to have something closer to home.

Another thing that concertgoers seemed happy about: The food stands substituted the regular assortment of deep-fried carnival fare with a number of local favorites, including Maki Shop, Ben’s Chili Bowl and Toki Underground. What could have been improved was access to this food, which prompted lines, sometimes dozens of people long.

“Yes, there was a shortage of bathrooms and food on Day 1,” said Devin Cohose, 29. “[The event organizers] seriously underestimated how many people would come out just to watch Drake,” who performed the first day. “But they got it together on Day 2.”

Mr. Cohose, a Maryland resident, said he has gone to hundreds of concerts over the years; Landmark was just one of eight festivals he had attended this summer alone. In his opinion, however, Landmark was a success.

“The atmosphere here is gorgeous,” he said. “We’re so lucky to be able to come here, listen to good music, and then walk around these historic sites. Most of us are in our 20s and 30s here, but this place reminds us of our childhood. It’s a great cause.”

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