All photography credit: Liana Marie Photography
(PCM) The fourth-annual Mixtape Festival, presented by Live Nation, made a sweet return to Hershey Park Stadium with an all-star lineup of pop icons. We were beyond thrilled to attend this year’s festival and witness some truly mind-blowing performances, especially the legendary Paula Abdul’s return to the stage after nearly 25 years and of course the always phenomenal New Kids On The Block who brought their A-game to their Mixtape Festival performance once again. Mixtape alums 98 Degrees and Boyz II Men as well as festival newcomers O-Town, Ryan Cabrera and Dream rounded out Mixtape Festival’s stellar lineup of pop superstars and legacy acts.
Dream kicked Mixtape Festival into high gear right away, making note that they had performed at Hershey Park fifteen years ago. It was a truly touching moment when they performed the very same song they had performed at Hershey Park so many years ago and truly showcases the incredible trajectory of Dream’s overall career. The crowd was dancing and singing along throughout their entire set!
Next up was O-Town and let’s just say the crowd went absolutely wild. They jokingly commented that they were “taking Hershey Park back to 2005”. This group of four stellar vocalists had amazing stage presence and their “old school” stage costuming consisted of tie-dye, overalls and ripped skin tight jeans was certainly raising the heat factor inside the stadium. O-Town even threw a few covers of recent hits into their set, such as a wonderful remix of The Weeknd’s “I Can’t Feel My Face”. The group had amazing energy and kept the crowd both energized and engaged throughout their performance from beginning to end.
We have to say that everyone was on their feet and at full attention when 98 Degrees made their way on stage, deliciously sporting black and white camouflage pants and all black vests. They looked smoking, taking us back to when we had our bedroom walls covered in posters of these boys from floor to ceiling. The group incorporated some amazing stage techniques including fog and strobe lighting and the background video screen featured videos of 98 Degrees from back in 1998. Such a trip down memory lane! Several times the guys came down and performed at the front of the stage and our favorite moment was hearing their rendition of “This is How We Do It”, playfully changing the lyrics to give a shout-out to Hershey Park. It is truly amazing to watch these guys stay in completely rhythm with one another during the dancing and singing, proving that they are the true masters of the boy band formation.
98 Degrees also reminded the crowd that they had last performed in Hershey four years ago during their comeback tour. In addition to all of their hit, they also covered a slew of 90’s songs for artists such as Britney Spears, NSYNC, The Spice Girls and Blink 182. They gave a huge shout-out and thank you to all of the fans in attendance. At one point during their set, vocalist Nick Lachey got down on one knee and purposed to a fan while singing “I Do (Cherish You)”, all members were down on one knee by the end of song … it was quite an adorable moment.
After 98 Degrees the heat was brought up another notch when Boyz II Men graced the stage looking incredibly dapper in their all white attire. Boyz II Men had a wonderful time interacting with the audience and began their set by playing various bits and pieces of all their songs. There was a ton of dancing and they exuded a great amount of energy while on-stage. They had the audience in the palm of their hand from their very first song. One of the funniest moments of their set was when the group made an attempt at singing Lynryd Skynrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” but only made it through a verse of two before laughing and admitting they didn’t know anymore words. They did however perform an amazing cover of the The Guess Who’s “American Woman”.
Boyz II Men are a group that is highly involved with their fans while on-stage. They were laughing and joking around and even got down on their knees and sang directly to the fans in the front row. They did a fantastic job of taking fans back to 1991, to a time, as they said on stage “when life was good”. For the group’s last song they even brought their own children out to the stage to dance with them to close out a fantastic set.
We were super excited for Paula Abdul’s huge comeback to the stage. The entire stadium was blacked out and the anticipation was high as Paula gracefully took to the stage. It was incredible to witness Paula’s first time back on stage after 25 years and she was just amazing. Using a large projector screen as an interactive background, Paula’s set had it all from an amazing group of back-up dancers to some absolutely amazing lighting effects and costume changes between every set. She looked and sounded utterly fantastic, almost as if no time had gone by at all.
Paula was very gracious with the fans and thanked the audience for all her years of success. She was very talkative with the crowd and adorably dedicated “Forever Your Girl” to her father saying she will “always be his girl”.
Yet again the entire stadium was blacked out prior to New Kids On The Block taking the stage to close out Mixtape Festival 2016. The group played a video for the crowd which showcased their extensive career and after the video all five members of New Kids On The Black came out on stage wearing all blue, black and white. Talk about boundless energy! These guys were all over the place on stage and the audience was loving every moment. Red and white confetti and huge streamers rained down upon the crowd and at one point during the set New Kids On The Block was super imposed on a Hershey Bar wrapper on the projection screen. Multiple times during their set the group came down into the audience to interact and sing with the fans.
Vocalist Donnie Wahlberg even at one point fell backwards on the stage while doing hip thrusts (which in our opinion, he could do all night) and the group played a clip for the infamous 80’s film “Dirty Dancing” before launching into their song by the same name. The group was incredibly involved with the audience and New Kids On The Block have certainly proven that they still have the “Right Stuff” to put on a fantastic performance.
New Kids On the Block’s Donnie Wahlberg had the following comments about this year’s Mixtape Festival saying, “This year’s Mixtape Festival was the best yet! The enthusiasm of both the artists and the audience was at an all-time high- and the return of Paula Abdul was the ultimate cherry on top!”
Boasting the title of “biggest pop music festival in the US” and hailed by MTV as having “something for every music lover,” festival goers were once again treated to Mixtape’s lineup of performers that won’t be found anywhere else this summer. The festival has brought rising pop stars and legacy acts alike to the world famous Hershey Park Stadium in Hershey, PA for the past three years, with previous performances including a reunion of female hip hop pioneers TLC for the first time in 11 years and a show-stopping performance by super-group NKOTBSB (New Kids on The Block with Backstreet Boys).