Letter: A Happy Story: Watching Shaggfest Grow from the Inside

Written by DJ CanRock on .

Pharrell Williams has undoubtedly skyrocketed to world stardom with his global hit “Happy,” and caused a ruckus with his new signature hat. With thousands of music video remakes from every corner of the world surfacing on YouTube, if you haven’t heard the song, trade in your parents and friends for someone who really cares about you.
He has blessed multiple venues this year already, from Coachella, the NBA All-star game, the Today Show, and the Apollo Theater for an unstaged event directed by Spike Lee. At the peak of his career, coming off a stellar solo album release and hit after hit gracing the charts, Pharrell will headline the Virginia Beach Amphitheater stage for the first time in his career. However, this homecoming has been in the works for years. One of Pharrell’s close friends is bringing the hometown hero back to Virginia Beach. Mostly everyone in Hampton Roads knows this blonde-haired beach kid. He stuffs buses for kids at Christmas time and wakes you up every morning on Z104 with his crazy stunts and off the wall commentary.

shaggy and pharrellBrandon “Shaggy” Stokes had a vision back in 2011 with a goal to provide local musicians with a chance to open up for national acts at no cost to them. Shaggfest was born, an all genre, all ages show giving the hometown talent a shot at the big stage. I have worked alongside Shaggy to help prepare and produce the show in any way I could. I first met Shaggy while DJing in Virginia Beach and we became friends pretty quickly. Both Shaggy and myself were eager to help local musicians be heard in our area, and put ourselves on the line to push their music. Shaggfest has been an adventure each year, with selecting artists, to dealing with different artist’s demands and needs, to not eating the entire day of the show because there was so much to do. But each year has quickly outdone the previous, and it’s amazing to watch an idea go from paper to the stage.

In the first year, with literally no budget at all, he worked with long-time employer, Peabody’s Nightclub in Virginia Beach, to host the event. Signing up 19 of the best local acts in the area, the foundation for the event was taking shape. Shaggy then reached out to long-time friend and rapper from Richmond VA, Skillz, to headline the show. Bringing back the top names in Virginia music has been a secondary goal for Shaggfest, and Shaggy has outperformed himself year after year.

In its second year, the buzz had emerged and pushed them out of the nightclub to the Virginia Beach Sportsplex, for capacity reasons. Two stages, multiple acts including big local names such as The Last Bison and Famlay, Shaggfest was gaining steam. Shaggfest 2012 brought home a super squad of hometown talent including super-producer Timbaland, Missy Elliott, Magoo, along with Teddy Riley and the original Blackstreet. Most of these Virginia legends had not performed in Virginia in years and were graciously welcomed by a deafening roar when they hit the stage.

Last year, after steamrolling through the first two years, Shaggfest graduated to the largest venue and biggest stage in Hampton Roads, the Virginia Beach Amphitheater. I can remember Shaggy being nervous about jumping the gun with having the show at the Amphitheater and losing momentum with the success of the show. At this point, other radio stations were beginning to see the progress and tried to have shows of their own, with two major shows being cancelled or underperforming. Shaggfest held strong with multiple stages, more local acts, and a star studded lineup including J.Cole, Juicy J, Ashanti, and hometown favorite Pusha T of the Clipse (who absolutely crushed the stage).

But back to Pharrell…


Pharrell has been a part of Shaggfest in some form since the beginning. When the show was first envisioned, Shaggy reached out to longtime friend Pharrell for advice and guidance. What should I call it, who should perform, etc etc. Pharrell quickly responded with “Shaggfest… call it Shaggfest… it is your show, nobody can take Shaggfest away from you.” Obviously, Shaggy then reached out to Pharrell about performing at his event, in which Pharrell said “Now is not the time. When the time is right, I will be there.” He couldn’t have said it better. Now fast-forward to 2014, coming off multiple performances, he is rocking a two song set on the Today Show just this week. Pleasing the crowd with his smash hit “Happy” followed by his catchy “Come get it bae” … he shouts to the crowd “See y’all at Shaggfest this weekend in Virginia Beach.”

This Saturday, June 7th, 2014, Pharrell will headline his buddy’s music festival, Shaggfest. Pharrell is supported by fellow Virginia rapper, No Malice of the Clipse, along with Sean Paul, Rico Love, August Alsina, Mack Wilds, and Virginia Native and former American Idol contestant Chris Richardson. Local acts such as Hi 5 Ghost, Breeze Park, the Cody Austin Band, and more will keep the spirit of the show alive, providing a platform for those up and coming musicians to share the stage with the stars. Shaggy always has surprises up his sleeve each year, who knows what he’s got planned this year for the biggest Shaggfest yet. Tickets are hard to come by, but if you can score a pair, come out to Farm Bureau this Saturday and witness Virginia Music history. It’s been a pleasure of mine to be a part of Shaggfest since it originated and it gives me a sense of pride to see the community band around a show that gives opportunity for the local music scene to thrive. Congrats to Shag, we’re all looking forward to the show.

For more on ShaggFest, here is the website, here is the Facebook page, and here is more info on tickets.

DJ CanRock
About DJ CanRock
Born and raised in Norfolk, VA. Strong supporter in everything local, especially the the restaurant, music, and entertainment industries. Co-Founder of the Get Loose Crew. Open Format DJ who can be found throughout the 7 cities. A quote I live by "Don't spend all your time and trust in the wrong places" - The Roots

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DJ CanRock