By Kathy Matheson
The city where America was made is gearing up for rapper Jay-Z’s “Made In America” music festival, which officials estimate will attract 100,000 fans to Philadelphia over Labor Day weekend.
Construction of stages and tents began this week at the somewhat unusual venue, a tree-lined boulevard in the heart of downtown. It’s the first show on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to require paid admission. Rock stalwarts Pearl Jam are co-headliners of the two-day event.
Officials said there should be no problem handling the crowd considering the city’s long tradition of staging much larger concerts at the same location.
“Every year, we have detailed plans for public safety, street access, trash removal and we successfully accommodate 400,000 to 500,000 visitors on the 4th of July,” Mayor Michael Nutter said in a statement.
For those who can’t make the festival on either Sept. 1 or 2, don’t worry — filmmaker Ron Howard will be directing a movie about the show.
Overall, city officials expect 50,000 paying fans each day for the bill curated by Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter. Musicians include Skrillex, Drake, Afrojack, Chris Cornell, Run-DMC and hometown favorite Jill Scott.
Concerts will run from 2-11 p.m. on three stages, one of which will be near the Museum of Art steps made famous in the film “Rocky.”
“Thirty amazing acts are coming together to perform at one of Philadelphia’s most iconic sites,” Geoff Gordon, regional president for concert promoter Live Nation, said in a statement Friday.
Gary and Kristin Camp of Wilmington, Del., were enticed by the lineup and bought a pair of two-day passes. Though they have some questions about logistics and transportation, Gary Camp said they’re prepared for a couple of long days and are looking forward to the show — especially Pearl Jam.
“I think it’s going to be an exciting event in a unique setting,” Camp said.
Organizers say the blocks-long site will be enclosed by 8-foot-high double-fencing patrolled by security. Material woven into the chain-link barrier is designed to keep non-paying spectators from seeing the show.
It’s a big change from previous parkway music events, which have been free. That includes annual Independence Day shows featuring performers like Sheryl Crow and The Roots, as well as the Live 8 concert for African poverty relief in 2005 and a Bruce Springsteen set in 2008.
As of Friday, two-day passes for “Made In America” cost $135 each, while a one-day ticket was $75. VIP passes, and travel packages with hotel rooms, ranged from $350 to nearly $2,200. Prices could go up closer to the concert date.
Mark Nevins, who lives in the nearby Fairmount neighborhood, is interested in seeing Pearl Jam. But he said sitting through an hourslong festival for one band seemed like a lot of time and effort.
“I’m hoping I can hear it from my house, or maybe head down toward the parkway and listen in from the outside,” Nevins said.
It certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see people trying to catch a few free tunes from outside the perimeter. But officials stress that fence-climbers will be prosecuted.
Also, Hollywood producers Howard and Brian Grazer (“A Beautiful Mind,” ”The Da Vinci Code”) have signed on to make a film about the festival. The pair’s 2007 movie “American Gangster,” about a notorious Harlem drug lord, inspired Jay-Z’s album by the same name.
“Made In America” is sponsored by Budweiser and will be held rain or shine. It benefits United Way organizations in greater Philadelphia and southern New Jersey; Lancaster, Pa., and New York City.