By Caroline Dorey-Stein, Contributing Writer ||
When Jay-Z launched the blueprint for the Made in America Festival it was obvious it was going to be a success. The founder of clothing brand Rocawear (a hat tip to the old Roc-A-Fella Records), the 40/40 Clubs, and, most recently, his own sports agency, Roc Nation Sports, the rapper and record producer is an even greater
As co-brand director for Budweiser Select, Jay-Z collaborates with the company on strategic marketing programs and creative ad development. In 2012 he and marketing mogul Steve Stoute brainstormed a way to bring music and culture together through a festival in Philadelphia on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway featuring major musicians. In just two days, Sept.1-2, the event grossed $5 million and drew over 80,000 people to the Art Museum Area. City officials reported that the festival generated at least $10 million in economic impact and covered all municipal costs for the event. Philly was thrilled to finally have the Labor Day plans to top its northern neighboring metropolis.
The East Coast sensation captured nationwide attention. In April of this year, Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles, announced the decision to expand Made in America festival to the West Coast. The first big pop concert to take place in Grand Park, Los Angeles generated $144,000 in just rental income that will be used for increasing regular programming in the downtown park. Most of the events the Music Center presents to the park are free, but the profit made from Labor Day weekend’s festival enable a wider range of possibilities for future Summer series in Grand Park.
And let’s not breeze over the performances. As a Philly frequenter, it was exhilarating to see so many people gathered around the parkway and to know that yes, Kanye was going to appear on the Rocky Stage before midnight.
The site had three stages of live music: Rocky, Liberty, and Freedom Stages. The latter two were on opposing sides after the entrance. The Rocky Stage was unsurprisingly at the foot of the Philadelphia Art Museum steps. It was the main stage, where the headliners performed in the evening.
Entering the festival was far less stressful than most other concerts I’ve attended. Security was thorough but quick. Obtaining a bracelet for alcohol didn’t require waiting in line; vendors came to you. I could hear Cherub faintly playing as I learned the lay of the land. The sky was clear, and it was just after two in the afternoon. It was going to be a good day.
All of the performances I saw were exceptional. From Holy Ghost! to Chromeo to Kanye. But by far, my favorite was The National. It was just after nine when they opened on The Rocky Stage Saturday night. “Don’t Swallow the Cap” boomed from the speakers, and the crowd went crazy. The Ohio indie rock band is regarded as dark and melancholy, but, on stage, they are alive and dazzling. Matt Berninger, the lead singer, jumped off stage and managed to connect on some level with all his fans, including an arm graze on my back. It was the most magical moment of the festival.
Needless to say, Kanye delivered, as well, opening with “Black Skinhead,” throwing in “Jesus Walks,” and ending with an encore of “Blood on the Leaves.” He can continue to be as narcissistic and temperamental as he wants; he knows how to entertain.
And let’s not gloss over the smaller acts. Vacationer’s lead vocalist Kenny Vasoli and his Dr. Dre muscle tee made my Sunday. A group with songs bridging tropical qualities and electronic pop, it is something most ears are not familiar to hearing but is nonetheless pleasing. When I passed Vasoli on the sidewalk during Grimes he looked totally casual, sipping a water bottle, all by himself. “Hey great job,” I shouted. He looked taken aback at being recognized. Gotta love the modest artist.
Senior Caroline Dorey-Stein is a contributing writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.