Art Museum area gets ready for festival with Jay-Z, Pearl Jam

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter along with Philadelphia Police Department and Geoff Gordon, Regional President of Live Nation Philadelphia hold a press conference at Philadelphia City Hall to announce details of upcoming Labor Day weekend concert. Photograph from Tuesday, August 28, 2012. ( ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER )
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter along with Philadelphia Police Department and Geoff Gordon, Regional President of Live Nation Philadelphia hold a press conference at Philadelphia City Hall to announce details of upcoming Labor Day weekend concert. Photograph from Tuesday, August 28, 2012. ( ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ) (Philadelphia Daily News)
Posted: August 29, 2012

If this was the day you were planning to loose your inner Rocky and charge up the steps of the Art Museum, forget it.

The steps are blocked by a massive stage being built for the two-day Made in America concert, while work crews across the Benjamin Franklin Parkway are pounding out their own preshow soundtrack of clanks and bonks.

Eakins Oval parking has disappeared under a fleet of flatbed trucks and forklifts carrying tons of staging materials, and the baseball fields at Von Colln Memorial Park have vanished beneath a giant tentlike structure. To the north and south stand lines of fences and stacks of equipment.

Four days before showtime, the staid monuments and green lawns of the Parkway have become a full-fledged construction zone as workers rush to create a confined, four-stage concert venue on property typically the province of joggers, tourists, families, and art-lovers.

"Wonderful," said Rick Hamilton-Hill, 64, a South Philadelphia native who was out for a walk in the museum area. "If I'm in town, I'm going."

The eclectic, Sept. 1 and 2 fest, headlined by Jay-Z and Pearl Jam and sponsored by Budweiser, will be the first ticketed event on the Parkway. That is made possible by the construction of an outdoor concert venue, at its core a system of parallel eight-foot fences to separate the paying and nonpaying publics.

Made in America offers Philadelphia an opportunity to show itself as a dynamic urban backdrop for major American music stars - and the potential for trouble in the combination of long hours, lines, hot sun, enclosed spaces, and alcohol.

"Philadelphia is open for business, and entertainment, and fun," Mayor Nutter said at a City Hall news conference Tuesday. He called the festival "an opportunity to invest in ourselves" by bringing money and acclaim to Philadelphia. And he provided some new details on the event:

Concertgoers who exit the venue will not be allowed to reenter that day.

People entering the festival grounds will be subject to pat-downs, bag searches, and scans by handheld metal detectors.

No predictions of whether the city is likely to make or lose money on the event will be provided, and postconcert details of costs will not be released until the end of September.

Nutter insisted that the ambitious, multicultural festival "has short, medium, and long-term benefits" for Philadelphia, and will set "a new standard in live entertainment in a big-city setting."

Almost all Parkway museums and institutions plan to be open during the Labor Day weekend event, which is expected to draw up to 50,000 people a day. Music begins at 2 p.m. and ends at 11 p.m. each day.

"I'm worried about losing business," said Terry McNally, owner of the London Grill at 23d Street and Fairmount Avenue. The last days of special Art Museum exhibits - currently "Visions of Arcadia" - guarantee a bump in sales, and it is unclear how Made in America might affect attendance.

The restaurant, like the museum, will be open Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

McNally had hoped concertgoers would be allowed to come and go from the festival grounds so they might visit her establishment for a meal or a drink between shows. In Chicago, at the Lollapalooza music festival, three-day passholders are allowed to enter and exit up to five times a day.

She says she expected that people without tickets will come downtown to try to hear the shows, potentially bringing business.

"We're trying to be positive," she said. "My neighbors are all having a fit. They're all leaving."

Road closures along the Parkway and in sections of the Fairmount neighborhood began Tuesday and will accelerate through the week. At 6:30 p.m. Friday, the entire event area will be closed to traffic and stay that way through the holiday weekend, reopening in time for the Tuesday morning rush hour.

SEPTA is adding service, and Nutter again urged all concertgoers and visitors to use public transportation.

Tickets are still available, though the $99 two-day early-bird passes have sold out. Two-day tickets now cost $135, and when that allotment is gone the price will rise to $150 and then $175. Single-day tickets for Saturday or Sunday are still available at $75, to rise to $85 and then $95 as supplies dwindle.

The mile-long Parkway is probably Philadelphia's most famous street. Walk from LOVE Park toward the Art Museum and you pass tourists in Baltimore Orioles baseball caps. Men in expensive business suits wait for cabs outside the Four Seasons hotel. You pass sprays from the Swann Memorial Fountain in Logan Square, homeless men folding blankets outside the Franklin Institute, and the Tennessee marble of the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Memorial.

Mothers push strollers, and ladies in bright dresses step up and through the columns of the Rodin Museum.

The heart of the Made in America construction zone starts at 22d Street, near Von Colln Memorial Field, named for Fairmount Park Police Sgt. Frank Von Colln, shot to death in 1970. An overhead concert entrance gate stretches across the Parkway.

Loads of tourists were still coming to the Art Museum this week, making their way up a side stairway to reach open levels of the main steps, so famously trod by Sylvester Stallone. The majestic southeast view of the Parkway was hidden by the gray expanse of the stage.

"I'm not going," said Danielle Jones, a 15-year-old student at John W. Hallahan Catholic High School for Girls, who was in the museum area for volleyball practice. She does not want to deal with the crowds, she said.

"I'm going," said her teammate Jackie Brady, also 15. "So many different [performers] are going to be there. All the people I like, too."


Contact Jeff Gammage at 215-854-2415, jgammage@phillynews.com, or Twitter @JeffGammage.

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