by Meaghan Paulosky
Every year, Philadelphia clears out for Labor Day Weekend. From South Philly to the suburbs, homes empty as everyone heads to the Jersey Shore to celebrate the end of summer. Last year, Jay-Z challenged this tradition. This year, he did it again.
Over the course of two days, an estimated 120,000 people showed up at the Ben Franklin Parkway, ditching shore points for stages but keeping a firm grip on their booze. The festival, sponsored by Budweiser, boasted four stages, food trucks, nearly fifty artists, an amusement park ride, lounges, bars, and restaurant tents. Oh, and Flava Flav.
The stages, aptly named The Rocky Stage, The Liberty Stage, the Freedom Stage…and the Skate Park Stage, played home to a sundry list of A-List acts. From rap to dubstep, rock to hip-hop, there was something for everyone.
Saturday opened with Walk the Moon and soon gave way to Phoenix, Imagine Dragons, A$AP Rocky, Wolfgang Gartner, Emeli Sande, Haim, 2 Chainz, Balance & Compsure, and many, many others. For diverse crowds of innumerable size, a medley of curious sounds filled the Parkway. There aren’t too many places you can hear a soulful, “When all I need’s a hand to stop the tears from falling…” before a less melodic, “Middle finger up to my competition…”
Then, the clock struck 10:30 PM.
And Queen B took the stage.
Beyonce Knowles-Carter, the one-and-only wife of festival curator Jay-Z and unofficial creator of the term “Bootylicious”, treated Philadelphia to ninety minutes of pure diva bliss. Sporting her signature body-hugging leotards, sneaking in clips from her recent world tour, and belting out Whitney’s “I Will Always Love You,” Mrs. Carter alone was worth the cost of a ticket. Surely every one of the tens of thousands of fans felt the lack of a Mr. and Mrs. Carter duet, but, alas, they soldiered on to Sunday.
Sunday was greeted by a slightly tired, but still excited crowd. Miguel, Solange (Mrs. Carter-in-law), Fitz & the Tantrums, the Gaslight Anthem, Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, Calvin Harris, Macklemore, Queens of the Stone Age, and still others held the fervent crowds until the second headliner took over.
Well, they tried to. With promises of Capri Suns and rides in a Cadillac, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis inspired hysteria at their wrongfully assigned side stage. Somehow 9:30 came around without a mob, and the second annual Made in America festival was poised to close.
Beyonce is no easy act to follow, but Nine Inch Nails lived up to expectations and held their own. Trent Reznor led his new cast of band mates on a sweaty, thrashing rampage. Crowds struggling to remain standing after a two-day music bender in stifling heat while the glistening Trent rose to Beyonce’s challenge. Mixing new material with classics like “Closer” and “Head Like a Hole,” NIN then came back to give a proper goodbye with the always welcome “Hurt”.
Jay-Z is a man of many talents. Rapper, businessman, father, husband, all-around cool guy, and now founder. Last year’s Made in America set the bar pretty high with acts like Kanye West and Pearl Jam, making Jay’s own shoes pretty big to fill. But, he did it. Not a single attendee missed the crowded beaches and sunburned shoobies.
Philadelphia just might have a new Labor Day tradition.