This past weekend, Philadelphia celebrated Labor Day weekend as 100,000 people flocked to the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum and Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the first ever Made in America music festival.
The festival, which was the collaborative project of artist and entrepreneur Jay-Z and sponsored by Budweiser, was a tremendous success, and a resounding tribute to Philadelphia and its contributions to the music scene over the years. Featuring headlining acts by Jay-Z himself as well as the infamous 90s rock band Pearl Jam, the festival catered to a range of musical tastes and boasted such artists as Drake, Janelle Monae, Skrillex, Chris Cornell, Santigold, the Mike Snow, Jill Scott and many more.
When asked why he chose the city of Philadelphia to host the Made in America festival, Jay-Z replied that besides having “a long love affair with Philly,” he felt, “It’s such an iconic city.” Aside from the blatant patriotism displayed in Budweiser advertisements all over the grounds, there was something truly inspiring about the festival’s ability to bring together an entire city as diverse as Philadelphia, reminding concert goers of the ideals upon which this country was once founded, right here in Philadelphia.
As Jay-Z took the stage Saturday night, his vision for this festival, a vision conveying the role that music has played in both formulating and critiquing, and therefore making, America, could not have been clearer.
A message from President Obama to the 50,000 viewers watching Jay-Z’s performance encouraged artistic innovation like Jay-Z’s, self-expression through art and entrepreneurship and, most importantly, the need for Americans to claim their voices this election in the voting booth. The idea that the strength of America comes from its diversity of voices was carried through as Jay-Z welcomed Kanye West, 2 Chainz and Common to share the stage during his performance.
The many performances over the weekend were extremely well choreographed and designed, perhaps because they were being filmed by director Ron Howard, who is making a documentary about the festival’s host, Jay-Z. Janelle Monae and her band’s 1960’s inspired costumes (she even wore a cape like that worn by James Brown) were fantastic, as were her covers of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” and Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back”. Female performances were proudly representing over the weekend, as Philadelphia’s own Jill Scott welcomed guest artist Eve on stage to perform.
From male and female performers alike, there was a great deal of sharing and collaboration, which made the festival truly exceptional. Though summer music festivals seem to be emerging in just every city these days, the Made in America festival cannot be rivaled in its sense of purpose. The weekend was truly about bringing America together through music and, for that, it was truly a pleasure to be a part of.