On July 4, 2013, The Philly Fourth of July Jam made history, again, as the “Largest Free Concert in America.” Each year, to celebrate America’s Independence, the streets of Philadelphia are transformed into a gigantic party, culminating in a live-broadcast concert, featuring some of the most exciting musical acts in the world. The concert, which culminates the Wawa Welcome America, festival brings local and national attention, drawing tourists from all over the country to celebrate on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. There is no better place to celebrate Independence Day than Philadelphia, the birthplace of the nation.
Executive Producers Scott Mirkin and Shawn Gee have worked tirelessly to make this show into the production that it is today. In previous years, it was broadcast on local ABC affiliate, WPVI. July, 2013 marked the first time that the July Jam was aired live on a national network. It aired on VH1 and Palladia, and live streamed on vh1.com. The broadcast was watched by 3.4 million viewers.
The concert had attendance of nearly 750,000 people, living up to its status as the Largest Free Concert in America. The crowd extended through the heart of the city for several blocks. There were video screens and audio all along the Parkway to accommodate the large crowds.
The concert was hosted by comedian, actor and Philadelphia native, Kevin Hart. The Roots headlined the event as house band, with Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson serving as musical director. The star-studded lineup featured Grammy winners John Mayer, Ne-Yo, and Jill Scott, as well as J. Cole, Grace Potter, and Hunter Hayes.
One of the show's challenges is balancing the needs of the live and television audiences. The beautiful stage site, opposite the Philadelphia Museum of Art and its famed "Rocky" stairs provided both opportunities and threats for the show. The open scenic design of the stage highlighted the Museum, a national landmark. Lighting levels on stage must be balanced to the lighting of the museum. In addition, the show began in daylight and ended after dark, with the sun setting behind the museum, requiring lighting levels to be managed against a dramatically changing ambient light. Another obstacle is that there is no on-camera rehearsal. When the artists walk on stage for the live performance, this is the first time they are on camera. Live versions of the music only come together in rehearsals the day before the show. Ultimately, all challenges were overcome, resulting in a remarkable show, which can only get better each year.
ESM Productions, the production team for this event, works very closely with the City of Philadelphia and has been in a partnership with the City since 2008. For an attraction this large, public safety is always a concern, which is why it is important to work closely with the City and the Philadelphia Managing Director’s Office to ensure a safe environment. The Philly Fourth of July Jam has successfully worked with local residents, the City of Philadelphia, and nationally acclaimed artists to put together a successful event that is beneficial for all.
(4) Lycian 1293 FOH Follow Spots
(28) VL 3500 wash fx
(22) VL3000 spot
(24) Alpha Spot 700
(37) Par 46 fixtures
(4) VN Pars 740 Watt Source 4
(22) 72” Chroma-Q Color Force LED Batten Color Blade
(16) Altman Spectra Cyc 200
(22) 6 Lamp Par 64 bars w/ Gel Correction
(2) Full Size GMA ONE lighting consoles
(48) four Pars on Six Lamp Bars (Rosco 104 Silk)
(18) Arri HMI Sun Pars
(8) 2K Arri Tungsten Fresnels
Scott Mirkin, Executive Producer & Scenic Design
Rene Lagler, Production Designer & Scenic Design
Abigal Rosen-Holmes, Lighting Design
Ron Reeves, Sound Design & Live Mix for Broadcast