At late 80s, early 90s, you bought a cassette and said, “Yeah… Best songs are in Side A” Now, here’s a Mixtape that you’re going to want to let it play on a loop.
On very August, since 2012, the Hershey Park Stadium becomes the set of a festival where the best old-school pop artits and bands, gather together to make you feel the goosebumps you once felt when you were a teenager. This year, the event included the performances by Boyz II Men, Paula Abdul and New Kids On The Block.
Train ride to Hershey (PA): Quite an experience
One of the must-to-do things if you’re in New York, is to take a train to somewhere else, and Hershey was my ‘some place else’ last august 5, when I attend a Block Nation Event and then, a Mixtape Festival that pays tribute to its name.
On what it was my first train ride ever, and as soon as New Jersey was becoming an horizont over the tracks, I started feeling I was entering into an old school tale. Endless green fields and big blue lakes along the way; a men and a child – probably father and son – fishing under a bridge while they were standing in the middle of the water… On every other station, grandparents with great excitement in their eyes, waiting for their grandchildren to jump off the train with their moms, opening their arms widely to receive them with the most loving hugs… Houses from another era, white fences, no bars in the windows…
You get off the train at Harrisburg – because Hershey (which is located 15 miles away) doesn’t have trains or planes – and you find yourself in a black and white film, trying to pull your suitcases over the old stones to reach the stairs… Stairs that you can avoid if you pay attention and see there’s actually an elevator behind it… (Can you guess who didn’t see it? 😛 ) … This is one of the things I love the most about these kinds of places in the U.S.A.: one moment you’re in the 1900, and then you turn around and a machine is telling you to ‘wait!’ before you cross the street in NYC’s Financial District.
You get out the station and you see three taxis… There’s no one else… You look at your Ubber app, and there’s two –maybe three- cars in your surroundings. For a city girl, this is literally the middle of nowhere… and she loves it 😉
On a taxi ride from Harrisburg to Hershey, more fields … and a story told about the city you’re going to: there was a man called Milton Hershey, who chose to build his chocolate factory in the area where he was born. The area became a home for his employees, and his philanthropy work helped to build the city we now know as ‘Hershey’.
Hershey, this quiet and peaceful place in Pennsylvania – where you can smell the grass even when the morning dew is gone – was the scenario for this other kind of ride: a trip to the past, with a mixtape of the songs you’ve heard when you got your first kiss, sounding from a cassette player plugged to your heart, to your own energy … A cassette player with the form of a stage with living and breathing idols from your youth, from your gorgeous teenage years… I’m talking about the Hershey Park Stadium stage, where the coolest – and yet hottest – summer festival, was born in 2012: The Mixtape Festival.
The line up
This year’s festival, included the performances by Ryan Cabrera, Dream and O-Town; and then it had the most expected dose of the pop-bands from the late 90s with 98 Degrees, the charming R&B from Boyz II Men, a highly expected comeback to the stage – after 15 years – with the appearance of the talented Paula Abdul… and the princes of night: the New Kids On The Block, that pop band that opened the path for all the rest to come.
Boyz II Men: Ripping the package apart
First there were five; then there were four, and now we have three… And that’s more than enough chocolate to make my hearted belly filled with joy. Shawn Stockman, Nathan Morris and Wanya Morris, are the Boyz II Men who still rip our hearts from our chests with their voices, their rhythm and blues, and indescribable charisma. In 2013, they were part – along with the New Kids On The Block and 98 Degrees – of the “Package Tour”; they rocked arenas all over the United States and Canada, but this time they went a little further.
They showed up on stage, while the sun was still high and burning over the Hershey Park Stadium, singing ‘Mowtown Philly’ and ‘On Bended Knee’…And I was about to get on bended knee when they decided they would give us something we’ve never seen before; Shawn and Nathan grabbed a couple of guitars, and with Wanya in the leading voice, they ripped the package performing: Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Ten Spirits’ (yes, you’ve read it right), Ed Sheeran’s ‘Thinking Out Loud’, Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’, Lenny Kravitz’s ‘American Woman’, and finally, they closed this amazing set with The Beatles’ ‘Come together’.
Of course they gave us the goosebumps with their classics Open Arms, Water Run Dry, End Of The Road; but when they started singing I’ll make love to you while giving roses away, I bet that more than a few hundreds pair of legs began shaking like spaghetti on boiling water.
Paula Abdul: forever our girl
Rush, Rush… That’s all I could think of when I got my ticket, and also when the night fell down over the Hershey Park Stadium and the lights went off to let this star shine. ‘Will she sing it? How would she recreate that video that’s printed in my heart? How would she sing it?’ … Beautifully, gracefully, with a contemporary dance and a magical background set.
She exceeded all of my expectations, and even though I was also waiting for Cold Hearted, The Way That You Love Me and Straight Up, I couldn’t stop thinking ‘She still got it… and OMG that body! … and she melted my heart when she dedicated Forever Your Girl to her dad.
She still got it… And we got her back! Her choreographies were impeccable, her dancing was stunning, and those background sets – playing behind her on a big screen – were the perfect and delicate wrapping paper for that ‘package’ she got into.
‘Don’t Rush’, however, is what I thought when I got the chance to meet her… Yes! I met Paula Abdul! … And I have no words to describe what she irradiates… this tiny sweet and feminine ballerina. She is everything and more you see, when you watch her on your TV… I hope you get an idea with my smile … and hers…
She’s such an inspiration of strength … I would say ‘I hope to see her again’, but I can’t… because I know I will 😉 While she was thanking the crowd, she actually said: ‘I’m gonna see you next year, in tour, with the New Kids On The Block!’ …
New Kids On The Block
I said Boyz II Men make my legs shake like spaghetti boiling on water; the New Kids On The Block… Well… With them, I feel the chef throws my whole body to the wall to see if I stick to it … And I do it…
When I was at the Madison Square Garden last year, with my elbows on the stage and my hands holding my chin, watching them in the middle of a crowd whose screaming resonated in my body – literally- I thought I’d seen it all in terms of NKTOB rocking a huge arena. However, the New Kids On The Block at the Mixtape Festival, was like being lost in a sea of people – lost and found – with stars on a stage reaching the dark –and yet bright – sky of the night.
They played (mostly) Coney Islands’ set, so Donnie was right: Brooklyn was like a warm up for the Festival. Rob Lewis was there, the Chicago’s Children Choir was also there, and Joey McIntyre gave us a gift we’ll never forget, when he sang ‘Stay The Same’ from his first solo album.
If I tell you more about them at this night, I’ll be a Blockhead showing off… To see them, floating stunningly over that sea of people… Yeah… they went #epic, again.
Unlike the previous festivals, none of the artists shared the stage this year, but every set of performances felt carefully planned, living no room for extra and major emotions. So I can say: ‘I’m ok with that, more than Ok’ (but, hey, do it next year, ok? ok…)
Did you miss it? Don’t do it again
That August 6 at Hershey Park, I met people from everywhere; most of them told me they save that August week every year, because they can’t simply get enough of it! The Mixtape Festival has clearly a loyal audience, and if these artists were the soundtrack of your teenager years, you have to join the party next summer.
So go to your attic, dig into the back of your wardrobe, find that box with your old t-shirt tours, enjoy the goosebumps! and get ready to have the time of your life. Eating chocolate at Hershey is not the only sweet experience once could have in Hershey Park: The Mixtape Festival is definitely the sweetest.