Here it is. The unofficial final week of summer in Philadelphia.
Even though summer doesn’t technically end until Sept. 23, for anyone that’s lived in this city long enough, Labor Day weekend is Philly’s farewell party. It could be as large as that final pilgrimage to Jersey shore towns with the rest of the Greater Philadelphia Region or as small as that final Summer Friday at the office to make it truly hit home that, ostensibly, it’s a wrap on summer 2019.
For me, one big event that serves as a timely reminder is the clusterfuck on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway that is the annual Made in America festival. This marks the eighth year that rapper Jay-Z and Live Nation have brought this caravan and its gang of musical acts to Philly. So far, according to Jay-Z in an opinion piece penned just last year, the event has brought in a reported $120.8 million to the city. HOV pointed this out when it was believed Mayor Jim Kenney was going to pull the strings on the Parkway serving as host.
The economic boost and seasonal work MIA brings is without question as much a positive as many of the names on its bill over the course of the two-day affair. But if there is a con for me, it has to be the clientele.
In short, fans of Made in America have made it an event not worth going to if you’re of a certain age. Let me preface this by saying that I’m not old here. I understand the nature of large-scale concerts and that at some point, it's inevitable to expect some level of shitshow. I’ve even been to two Made in America weekends before, with my last in 2016 when I saw Lil Uzi Vert and Travis Scott for the first time — on side stages — the latter of who is Sunday’s headliner. I thousands of people box in together like canned meat to hear Coldplay belt out their signature songs.
I stood in line to buy an overpriced t-shirt. It was a great time.
But I also saw underage kids puke right in front of me, suburban kids hop fences and cut lines and end up in near fist fights, in addition to unbearable traffic to navigate — even if you were on foot. But the creme de la creme for me was listening to two people getting it on in a port-a-potty. The level of alcohol, drugs and hormones you have to be on to commit to having sex in a portable bathroom is something I’m still unable to wrap my mind around.
Frankly, MIA is something you experience once — OK, maybe twice — and then you’re good. Trust me. Unless, of course, you live in Fairmount and are able to watch from afar from your roof deck or listen from a window, but that might only be because you have little choice if you don’t get the hell out of there way ahead of Saturday’s first act.
I know I can’t be alone in feeling like this, so it’s why this week we thought it necessary to make a guide — for the rest of us who won’t be in attendance but aren’t hightailing it out of the city. We’re music lovers who don’t want to deal with all of that just to see a live show. There’s a number of acts headed to venues all over the city that may not be on the current level of the artists at MIA but are still worthy of my dollars (and yours). Old school hip-hop fans, did you know Big Daddy Kane is in town? For the metalheads out there, are you aware Slipknot is on a world tour and making a pit stop in Camden on Saturday night? Like a good DJ battle? How about one while taking a midnight cruise down the Delaware River?
There’s something about realizing some events just aren’t worth attending anymore. Despite all of the positives it purportedly delivers, MIA for me is just one of those been there, done that, no thanks events. I guess it comes with age, even if I’m not yet wanting to admit it.
I don’t know. It’s similar to debating if sitting in dense shore traffic for one final weekend is worth it.
Once you get there, sure. But while you’re in the car frustrated at the long lines of traffic, you’re constantly pondering the better things to do — closer to home.
Enjoy the long weekend, Philadelphia. Oh, keep your eyes peeled for the labor of love within our editorial department that is Philadelphia Weekly’s annual Fringe Festival Guide dropping across the city on Sept. 5.
For me, it has always been the issue that kicks off fall just right.