In 2012, rapper, record producer, and business mogul, Jay Z, decided that there had to be a better way to integrate music and culture. He founded the Made in America (MIA) music festival, which has been held in Philadelphia every year since. MIA has a conglomeration of different types of music, ranging from Hip-Hop, Rock, R&B, EDM, Pop, and Rap. The purpose of the festival is to break the boundaries that genres and labeling can create, and to form a culture where all styles of music are appreciated. Among many organizations, such as Anheuser-Busch and Live Nation, Budweiser spearheads the sponsorship to help promote and enable this great cause.
On Labor Day weekend, the summer of 2016, I had the opportunity to go and check out this exciting festival for myself. For starters, the line-up is incredible – featuring artists such as Rihanna, Coldplay, DJ Khaled, Chance the Rapper, Martin Garrix, and Madeon, to name a few. Furthermore, the location was ideal for a festival of this magnitude; it was held in Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia.
The first day of MIA was Saturday the 3rd, 2016. The weather was glorious, the atmosphere was buzzing, and thousands of attendees prepared to embark on their exhilarating MIA adventure.
Traveling to the event can be challenging, especially if you are based outside of Philadelphia, so make sure you prepare in advance. Trains can be exponentially more expensive than buses, so it’s imperative to look into all forms of transport. Furthermore, many of the buses sell out, and some stop running by 11pm; this means that you may need to leave the festival early to avoid getting stranded in Philly. If you want to ensure you are able to stay for the entire festival, consider booking a cheap hotel or hostel for the weekend.
When you arrive at Benjamin Franklin Parkway, you will go through security, where they check your bags: liquids and illegal substances are strictly prohibited. I recommend getting to the festival within two hours of when the gates open. As security is very thorough, and thousands of people attend the event, lines to security can get extremely long. The earlier you show up, the shorter the line, and the more time you have to enjoy your day.
There are numerous amenities at the festival to fulfill your every need. There are tables by the Skate Stage, where you can sit, and rest your feet. Toilets were also plentiful; not once did I have to line up, which is very impressive for such a big event. For entertainment beyond the music, there are carnival games, rides, and karaoke. If you get hungry or thirsty during the festival, there are countless vendors – including a McDonalds – ready and waiting to provide your stomach what it wants, for surprisingly reasonable prices.
Budweiser is prominently featured at MIA, and if you want a bit of alcohol in your system, their beers are the best option. With 25oz cans of Bud costing only $13, you can easily get a buzz for far less money than other festivals cost you. For those over 21 years old at MIA, a little bit of liquid courage may be needed.
This is where Budweiser comes in. The more drinks you have, the less you care about those around you. If you get slightly inebriated, you are able to tune out the crowd, purely focus on the experience of the festival, and take in the incredible music that MIA has to offer.
At the festival there were five stages: the Tidal Stage, Skate Stage, Freedom Stage, Liberty Stage, and the Rocky Stage. The Skate Stage is aptly named, as there is a skating ramp right next to the stage, where skaters can show off their tricks. There were also a couple of trees either side of the Skate Stage, where audience members would climb up to get a better view.
We spent a majority of our time at the Liberty and Freedom stages, as they had great acts, and didn’t get too packed with audience members for a majority of the day. This made it comfortable to lounge out around those stages for long periods of time. Early on in the day, many people sat on the ground to rest their feet. A whole day of standing can very strenuous, so I would absolutely recommend doing this, but bring a coat or towel to sit on, as the ground can get quite muddy.
The Rocky Stage was the main stage, where the biggest acts performed. Consequently it got almost unbearably packed sometimes, so we only went there when there were acts we particularly wanted to see.
An element of all festivals that I have grown accustomed to is the unbelievable graphic displays. Each act had graphics that catered specifically to their set, and the Freedom Stage even had graphics on the wall to the side of the audience. The graphics were all especially genre based, for example, Chris Malinchak’s graphics had a chill vibe to match his music, whereas NVOY’s were much more flashy.
Although every act was incredible, there were a few standout artists from Day 1. NVOY, a DJ duo from England, were extremely good, with seamless transitions, and popping music. DJ Mustard was also incredible; he played all the party club anthems, and old classics, that the audience was craving to hear, such as ‘All I Do Is Win’, some Chris Brown tunes, and so many more.
Jay Electronica had a particularly interesting performance. At first, he went into the crowd, and was held up by them. He then walked into the audience on ground level, emphasizing that he wanted to be closer to his fans, and the crowd went crazy. This stunt was evidently unplanned, as the cameraman struggled to follow him, and keep Jay on the enlarged projected screen, which enabled viewers further back to see what was going on. Shortly after the integrated crowd stunt, Jay Electronica encouraged the audience members to get up on stage, and people stampeded to the front, hoping that they would make it to the elevated platform. The stage became so packed to the brim with audience members, that eventually the police had to intervene, and get everybody off stage. Jay Electronica’s set certainly ended with a bang.
The headliner of the night was Rihanna, and as one would expect, her performance was out of this world. The show was quite the spectacle. Rihanna started singing backstage, she went into an elevated box lit up by neon lights, and then she soared over the crowd to the stage while singing her first few songs. Rihanna’s vocals were so on point, she is a stellar performer, and incredibly interactive with the audience as well. She informed everybody that it was her first time performing in Philadelphia, and asked if anybody else had been there before. The crowd roared their response, and once she had the audience on her side, they never left it. Her set was a fantastic end to the amazing day, and we all left rearing and ready for Day 2.