ABOVE PHOTO: Jay-Z.
(Photo: Bill Foster)
By Kiarra Solomon
This past weekend Jay-Z and more than 30 of his musical friends, shut down the Ben Franklin Parkway for the first ever “Made in America Festival.” Officials from the City of Philadelphia, Live Nation and the Police Department stated days before the two-day festival, that it would be something like a “small city” inside.
A small city it was. Maps were handed out and smart phone apps were downloaded to help attendees navigate the event. Jay-Z, who curated the festival also headlined the first night, bringing on stage with him Philadelphia natives Freeway and Neef. Later during his set he left the stage while Kanye West and members of his G.O.O.D. music group performed (which include rappers Common, 2Chainz, Big Sean and Pusha T). Jay Z’s set opened with a PSA from President Obama, urging everyone to vote.
Earlier in the day, crowds roamed from stage to stage to see performances by a very eclectic group of artists which included Latin sensation Prince Royce, Maybach Music Group (Rick Ross, Wale and Philly’s Meek Mill), and Jay Electronica, who exited the stage through the crowd. Janelle Monae, performed and put on arguably the best performance of day one. There was a DJ Performance Tent that featured popular DJs like Calvin Harris and Skrillex. Soul singer D’Angelo’s performance was definitely better than expected. He performed some old favorites including his last big hit “How Does it Feel”, as well as a few new songs. Contrary to criticism of his recent performances in Atlantic City with Mary J. Blige, crowds seemed to enjoy his performance, most fans singing along or screaming during his set.
(Photo: Bill Foster)
When attendees weren’t watching a performance they were most likely standing in line. Despite numerous food vendors, portable toilets and other activities that were there to participate in, it seemed there was always a line. There were also cooling stations and carnival-like games on the grounds. Additionally, several community organizations at the Made in America festival were working to register people to vote, including the Philadelphia NAACP. Event planners scored big points by anticipating the need to recharge cell phones and offering three charging stations which featured Duracell’s portable powermats.
Day Two of the festival included performances from some well-loved Philly women including Jill Scott, who brought along Philly’s own Eve, and Santigold. During Santigold’s performance she bought about fifteen fans on stage and dance while she performed “Creator”. Rita Ora, who opened during the rain, The Hives and Run DMC also performed. Shockingly, Rev. Run, who is an actual Reverend, used a lot of profanity during their performance, charging it to the fact that he hasn’t “done this in so long”, ten years to be exact. Odd Future, who also performed spent time walking around the crowd signing autographs and taking pictures with fans. Rapper Drake brought G.O.O.D. Music’s 2 Chainz and French Montana on stage, but ended his set about ten minutes early.
Both days fans spent time trying to spy celebrities. Day Two was when most fans got a glimpse of Jay-Z’s wife Beyonce. Jaden Smith, Angela and Russy Simmons also made appearances. Jay-Z himself decided to surprise the crowd by hitting the stage for a second night during Pearl Jam’s set to perform ’99 Problems.’
PHOTO: Janelle Monet.
(Photo: Bill Foster)
Eddie Vedder, of Pearl Jam, also made a political gesture during his set: “I want to talk about one of the political parties, ” he told the crowd before performing the Clash’s “Know Your Rights.” “I won’t mention any names, but one of the parties wants to make it harder for you to vote.” He later followed up with comments on the job market before the appropriately titled “Unemployable.”
For those who didn’t attend the festival, Made in America decided to live stream the concert on YouTube. Still estimates of 50,000 or more people were in attendance to the two-day festival. The numbers still aren’t in yet on how much money the Made In America Festival actually bought to the city, but a portion of the proceeds did benefit the local United Way. It does seem that what’s now being called the ‘first annual’ Made in America Festival was a huge success. And normalcy has returned to the Ben Franklin Parkway. The area that was once completely shut down for days in preparation, now shows no remnants of the “small city” that was erected to host Made in America.
To view performances from the Made In America Festival visit www.youtube.com/MadeInAmericaFest.