As a local resident of the Philadelphia suburbs, it is fairly strange that I had never attended the annual Made in America Concert before. The two day concert held every labor day weekend is Philadelphia’s only claim to music festival fame, and most residents of the tristate area can proudly count themselves amongst the thousands of past attendees. The majority of people in my graduating high school class have gone at least one year, some having gone to every single one since the founding of the event in 2012. I decided to take on this Pennsylvanian right of passage this past summer of 2014.
The Budweiser Made in America Festival was created in 2012 by the iconic rapper Jay-Z, and is held every year at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It has boasted dozens of today’s most famous musicians, including Kendrick Lamar, Imagine Dragons, Calvin Harris, Passion Pit, Drake, Rita Ora, the entire Maybach Music Group, and many more as headliners. With approximately 80,000 people in attendance, MIA has been hugely successful and generates millions of dollars for the local economy each year. In fact, the concert has been so successful that the creators of it decided to make another location across the country in Los Angeles, California. Since it was the first year in the new location, the LA concert was given the better lineup. However, the Philadelphia concert was still incredible.
The event has three stages, Rocky Stage, Liberty Stage, and Freedom tent, all named after quintessential Philadelphia themes (Rocky being arguably our most famous movie character and our history of fighting for independence during the American Revolution). Some musicians play simultaneously, which unfortunately means festival goers have to choose between which artist they rather see perform, but the even planners do a good job of balancing who plays when, so the people who would want to see one of the artist perform is typically not in the demographic of those who would wish to watch the other. There are many food trucks, and although they are overpriced, the food they sell is not an affront to the taste buds. Members of staff walk around the concert grounds selling giant bottles of water and 40 ounces of Budweiser, which is a relief given that the end of August in Philly is rather hot and muggy.
After making it through the incredibly long admission line, I was bombarded with girls scantily dressed in their shortest denim shorts and croppiest of crop tops. I myself partook in the trend, wearing my most worn in pair of jean shorts and my most neon bandeau. Almost everyone was bedecked in American flag apparel, and those whose wardrobe didn’t have stars and stripes at least made an effort to wear red, white or blue.
Blankets were spread all over the grass, some groups already claiming their spot for their favorite performer who still had hours to come on. Many girls had flowers stuck in their hair or tucked behind their ears, while a few of the stereotypical bros were wearing polarized shades and shirts with slogans like “Cool story babe, now go make me a sandwich”. Needless to say, almost everyone was under the influence of something. Those who were of age (or had fakes) took full advantage of the Budweiser vendors. Hard liquor was not being sold at the venue, but that didn’t stop many, my group of friends included, from sneaking in flasks or soda bottles filled with their spirit of choice. The smell of weed came and went in wafts, as people lit blunts and joints freely, making hardly any effort to conceal their illegal activity. The concert was a two day long extravaganza of drugs, booze, and music.
Made in America was unlike any concert I had ever been to before. Over the 48 hours, roughly six of them were spent sleeping and the rest were spent dancing to DJs like Steve Aoki and the Neighborhood or rapping along to artists like YG and J. Cole. Even the downpour of rain on the second day did not dampen our spirits,only making the event more wild and intense. Kanye West’s performance was by far the craziest, with multiple mosh pits going on simultaneously. The MIA experience opened my eyes up to the world of music festivals, and it was the first of many that I plan on attending.