Hundreds of Stevie Wonder fans descended on a field near RFK Stadium this morning to hear the Grammy-award winning artist perform “Sir Duke,” “I Wish” and some of his other hits for free.
The pop-up show, which was announced just hours before Wonder took the stage, drew more than 500 singing and dancing concertgoers, despite the late notice. Many of the attendees said they left work or switched their schedules to catch the five-song set.
“I just messaged my boss and said, “It’s my birthday. I don’t have any meetings today, and this is happening so I’m going to go,'” Fairlawn resident Rebecca Wyatt said. “Stevie Wonder is an American institution. Asking if you’re a Stevie Wonder fan is like asking if you’re a fan of pie.”
About 40 teachers and administrators from the Kingsman Academy Public Charter School in northeast Capitol Hill walked to the show together.
“We had a full day of [professional development] scheduled, but we put that aside and said, ‘Let’s have some fun,'” said Karimah Ware, the school’s director of interventions. “We’ll do a working lunch and catch up.”
The audience also included several National Guard members who work in the D.C. Armory building and a group of people brought to the show by D.C. General homeless shelter.
The surprise concert was a promotional event for Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life” tour, which was just extended to include 20 more U.S. dates, including an Oct. 3 performance at the Verizon Center. Tickets for the D.C. show go on sale tomorrow.
The performance, which started at 10 a.m. and lasted about an hour, was the first of three free performances that Wonder performed on Monday. After finishing his set in D.C., Wonder left for Philadelphia, to perform a similar surprise show. He also will head to New York later today to play in the city’s Central Park.
On stage, Wonder talked about his new “Curb the Bullet” campaign against gun violence, and also brought out his children in between a set that included “Sir Duke,” “I Wish” and “As.”
The pop-up concert was the second such show hosted by Events DC, which also put on a surprise concert by local rapper Wale on the H Street corridor in April. Erik Moses, senior vice president and managing director of Events DC, said he hopes the success of the shows will encourage more organizations and performers to come to the District.
“All of us are interested in making certain that brands and event organizers know that D.C. is open for business,” he said. “We didn’t become the coolest city in America by telling everybody no.”