Dreamville a sellout at 40,000; prepare for traffic Saturday in Raleigh
Posted April 2, 2019 9:00 a.m. EDT
Updated April 5, 2019 3:50 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — One hurricane and nearly six months later, Dreamville is finally here. As of Thursday afternoon, the first major music festival at Dorothea Dix Park, the 306-acre park just west of downtown Raleigh, has sold out.
That is due in part to impressive star power, starting with the main headline act on the bill. J. Cole (Jermaine Cole), the Fayetteville rapper with a platinum track record is the biggest name in North Carolina hip-hop. Cole, 34, has seven Grammy Award nominations to his credit, and all five of his albums have hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts, including last year’s “KOD.”
As selected by Cole, the rest of festival's lineup on Saturday features singer SZA (Solana Imani Rowe), “Big Sean” Michael Leonard Anderson, British-born 21 Savage (Sheyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph), Atlanta’s 6lack (Richard Valdez Valentine), early-aughts hitmaker Nelly and more, including local heroes like multiple Grammy nominee Marlanna “Rapsody” Evans and Morris Wayne “Mez” Ricks II.
Dix has hosted live music before, with a series of free concerts in 2016 and 2017 featuring local acts. But Dreamville represents a higher level of ambition, produced by Live Nation subsidiary ScoreMore Shows as a ticketed event.
City officials on Monday approved a request from organizers to increase the capacity to 40,000 people — up 5,000 from the original expected attendance.
Dreamville was originally to have happened last Sept. 15, announced just under a year ago with a statement calling the festival “an opportunity for J. Cole to give back to his home state that has helped shape the artist he has become.”
That first date fell during Raleigh’s crowded fall festival season, which had it bumping up against both the free downtown SPARKcon arts festival and a home N.C. State football game a few miles away at Carter-Finley Stadium. But Hurricane Florence brought torrential rains and heavy floods to Eastern North Carolina that weekend, forcing postponement.
Dreamville is a for-profit event but with a charitable component, originally set up to benefit an array of causes, including Dorothea Dix Park Conservancy and Cole’s own nonprofit Dreamville Foundation. In the wake of Florence, hurricane relief was added to the list of causes the festival will support.
Parking, shuttle options
The festival layout calls for multiple stages in the big field behind the State Farmers Market. A limited amount of official event parking is available for $20 per car at N.C. State University’s Centennial Campus within walking distance of Dix. There will be no parking allowed on-site or in surrounding neighborhoods, which means thousands of parking spaces normally available on weekends won't be.
For those parking at garages in downtown Raleigh, the festival has shuttle options.
The Official Downtown Shuttle, which is operated by Park Jockey, will have numerous vehicles stopping at 500 S. Blount St., 135 E. Martin St. and 137 E. Hargett St. from 10 a.m. until 1:30 a.m., a Dreamville spokesperson told WRAL Thursday. The cost is $10 round-trip.
For those coming from outside Raleigh, Regional Express Shuttle, run by FestDrive, will have numerous shuttles operating throughout the day from Charlotte and Greensboro. Round trip tickets for that shuttle start at $64 and all buses are guaranteed to be at the festival for pick-up at least one hour after the final act, approximately 11:30 p.m.
While festival organizers would not comment specifically on security measures, they did say that they are working "closely with our onsite security and medical personnel, as well as the City of Raleigh, the Raleigh Police and Fire Departments, statewide safety personnel, among other trained professionals, to ensure the event provides a safe environment for all festival-goers."
With a capacity expected to double the 20,000 that Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek holds, this should be the largest concert crowd in the area since Beyonce played Carter-Finley Stadium in 2016.
All secondary streets leading to Dix Park will close 6 p.m. Friday, and part of Centennial Parkway will be closed during the festival. No camping on site will be allowed, with officials urging concert-goers to arrive on Saturday when doors open at noon.
David Menconi was a music critic and arts reporter at the News & Observer in Raleigh for more than 25 years. He has written for Rolling Stone, Spin, Billboard, New York Timesand salon.com. His books include the 2012 biography Ryan Adams: Losering, A Story of Whiskeytown (University of Texas Press), and his next book will be a history of North Carolina music for UNC Press.
He also hosts “That Old North State Radio Hour,” a weekly show about North Carolina music, on Capitol Broadcasting's That Station, 95.7-FM in Raleigh, from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays. Download the That Station app or stream online at thatstation.net to listen.