My First (Real) Concert: Made In America

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In 2012, my younger brother and I had never been to a concert before. Embarrassing, I know, because I was 18 years old and was about to show up on a college campus with a million “Brads” who would tell girls at parties about how “this one time I tripped acid at Gov. Ball and proposed to Taylor Swift’s hotter cousin.” I didn’t need to match Brad’s story, but I needed some kind of concert experience to talk about.

I’m one of the fortunate people in this world who actually loves his younger brother, and what better place to look for a bonding concert experience than the City of Brotherly Love? With my mom’s permission, we set out to take on the fifth annual Root’s Picnic at Festival Pier.

By now you’re probably wondering why I hadn’t gone to a concert until I was 18. The truth is, I had been to concerts…if you count high school talent shows, which I myself performed in. Listen, I was a Class-A studyholic at an independent Quaker school, raised in the suburbs, at church every Sunday. I had no business being downtown at shows past 2 a.m., and trying to convince my parents why I did wasn’t even worth the fight. But with a little bit of pizzazz, my brother and I convinced them that this all-day Philly music festival was a great idea.

My parents pulled up to Penn’s Landing to drop us off, and my dad made his classic “tuck and roll, boys,” joke. Almost immediately, I knew my brother and I did not belong there. We closed the door fast enough for the weed smoke to bounce off the windows and not alarm our parents, who rode off in the distance with a nervous smile, wondering how they would spend a delightful afternoon together in the city. Little did they know, they would have to swing back around not more than 40 minutes later to pick us back up.

roots picnic
Poster from 5th Annual Roots Picnic

Essentially, we’d stumbled upon a scene we were unfamiliar with — junkies, hipsters, jipsters, you name it; this place was full of ’em. And we, being sheltered goodie-goodies, had no idea what planet we had just landed on. We stuck around long enough to hear ambitious Philly emcee Chill Moody and Major Lazer perform…and get some sort of contact high. But soon, a thunderstorm ripped through the ominous clouds and relieved us of the awkward question I was dying to ask my brother, “Do we even want to be here?”

The truth was, we didn’t. And my parents didn’t want us there either. So they pulled up, my dad made another dad joke, and we rolled back on home to our boring township. A year later — literally an entire year, because my freshman year of college was one blurry haze of mistakes and life lessons that didn’t leave much room for other endeavors — I found myself yearning for another live music experience. My brother and I set our sights on JAY-Z’s Budweiser Made in America festival on the Ben Franklin Parkway.

This time, though, we came mentally prepared for the circus. We weren’t veterans by any means, but after the Roots fiasco, we knew what we were getting ourselves into. We shimmied through the crowd to get to Stage A where some no-name band was about to perform at noon. I may have seen an ex or two slither through the masses and give me the finger — but like I said, I came mentally prepared. Nothing was about to mess up my second-first concert extravaganza.

Sooner or later, the band came out. And boy did they come out good. This was WALK THE MOON, a four-man act from Cincinnati I’d never heard of but became an instant fan of. Their performance was a strange mix of Disney-movie energy and big city intoxication. My brother and I had finally found a live show we loved. We proceeded to look up every song by this up-and-coming band that is now famous for its Top 100 pop-rock singles.

I must have tumbled out of a plane/ ’Cause I free-fell all year — “Quesadilla” x WALK THE MOON

Next on stage was A$AP Rocky. In his classic IDGAF fashion, Rocky showed up at least an hour late. But man, it was worth the wait. “I thought I’d probably die in prison!” he rapped when he finally burst on stage. The crowd went absolutely insane. Seeing him there in all of his swagger and Harlem glory, our hip-hop dreams came true. The stage production matched Rocky’s gritty word play, as the stage lights bounced off the provocative imagery behind him.

Unsure of what to do next, my brother and I walked around until we found something promising — a 2 Chainz performance! The six-foot-five trap-rapper from the ATL stood on a stage far away, but the former Division I basketball player still looked massive to us. We quickly came to realize that 2 Chainz didn’t really have too many standout tracks of his own, but from 2011 to 2013 had made guest appearances on an impressive list of tracks since leaving his group, Playaz Circle. It’s actually kind of ridiculous how many features he’s had.

Mr. Chainz’ performance was full of “Skrrrtttt” and “2 Chaiinzzzz!” ad-libs, leaving the crowd no choice but to shout along with him into the hot summer air. He would perform no more than two minutes of each song before the DJ would cut to his next popular feature. So while his presence was epic, 2 Chainz’ performance was not. It left us wondering how long we would have to wait before Beyoncé’s much-anticipated festival closing performance. The answer: too long. We left the crowd of the 2 Chainz performance and wandered aimlessly as people spread more Budweiser cans and gathered around the Porta-Potties. What transpired next was a scene from hell.

A woman, presumably on some mind-altering substance, was shouting and flailing her arms at another inebriated soul, a man about twice her size and strength. Seeing that this could go south at any second, I told my brother we should make our way to a different stage. But, before we could take another step, the man grabbed the woman by the shoulders and moon-kicked her straight in the chest.

But, before we could take another step, the man grabbed the woman by the shoulders and moon-kicked her straight in the chest.

It was a sight unlike anything I’d ever seen, and before I could make a decision on whether to defend the woman or not, a pack of ravenous concertgoers swarmed the moon-kicker until he was pinned to the rock-hard ground. I said, “Let’s get the eff outta here,” to my brother, and we hastily made our way to the gates.

No, we didn’t stay to see Beyoncé. No, we didn’t see if JAY-Z would make an appearance, (which he wouldn’t do until this year’s MIA festival, which he headlined). But we did have the experience of a lifetime, one that would lead us to many more concerts — my brother returned to MIA the following year. My story might not match Brad’s story, but it was a story nonetheless. And let’s be real, how many people can say they witnessed a hefty moon-kick?

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