Made In America Festival – Benjamin Franklin Parkway – Philadelphia, PA – August 30 & 31, 2014
Budweiser’s Made In America Philly music festival was certainly the place to be this Labor Day weekend. For the first time taking place in not only in Philly, but LA too, the festival invited a diverse crowd from all different states to end their summer with a memorable celebration. Jay Z, being the founder, handpicked an extensive list of performers from a myriad of genres.
The variety of performances genuinely offered something for everyone. From rock to EDM, no matter what was playing people were dancing in the streets. Artists such as Kanye West, Steve Aoki, Pharrell Williams, J. Cole, and City and Colour provided the right atmosphere for the City of Brotherly Love to party the day into night. Even artists just finding their spot in the music industry, such as Grimes and Cherub, drew a crowd.
Saturday was kicked off by Young and Sick, a Los Angeles based art and music project from the mind of Nick Van Hofwegen. It had previously just been an art project, doing album covers for the likes of Foster the People and Maroon 5. As if that weren’t enough, he released his first album in April 2014, showcasing a unique sound of psychedelic and electro. He began his set at 1:30 pm and played a variety of songs, going from romantic (“Heartache”) to kinetic (“Glass”). However, there was a bit of a discrepancy. In the middle of their set, Young and Sick got muted when Cherub began to play on a different stage. It was Made In America’s equivalent to being “played off.” Regardless, things got fixed and the crowd continued to dance along as if nothing had ever happened.
Directly after, Liberty Stage welcomed DJ Cassidy; the festival’s first EDM artist. Cassidy Durango Milton Willy Podell from New York, and better known as DJ Cassidy, arrived on the spot with a well-tailored suit and top hat. He looked undeniably spiffy. His set included mixes of songs from all different eras and genres, including tunes like Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Jam” and Robin S.’s “Show Me Love.” Despite having to stay behind a table, DJ Cassidy had a stage presence that made the crowd go absolutely wild.
Things kept thumping over at Freedom stage where Destructo treated the determined-to-rave crowd to some hard bass-lines typically saved for later in the night at most EDM festivals. Featuring remixes of songs from YG, Khia, Juicy J, etc., each beat was inducing a frenzy upon the crowd; people went crazy for it. However, Destructo did not believe the crowd had reached its full potential and told the crowd, between songs, to completely lose it.
Next, Mayer Hawthorne took the stage over at Liberty; and it’s safe to say the crowd was just too party-crazed for the soul singer-songwriter. While his performance anywhere else would had been entertaining, the songs nearly lulled the festival-goers to sleep.
At 5:30, Chromeo took Liberty Stage and absolutely blew people away, drawing the biggest crowd yet. Known for attending most EDM festivals, the Canada-based duo featuring an electro-funk/disco style played a fast-paced, high energy set. Chromeo played classics, such as “Night by Night” and “Bonafied Lovin,” but also played a few current singles, including “Jealous (I Ain’t With It)” and “Come Alive.”
City and Colour (aka Dallas Green) was perhaps one of the lesser-known people to be featured on the Rocky Stage, but his performance was great nonetheless. He managed to keep the crowd engaged, and retained a great majority of people who had just come from Chromeo minutes before. Festival-goers sang along to songs ranging from City and Colour’s beginning to his most recent album, The Hurry and the Harm (2013).
Although the majority of time spent at the festival was care-free, there were a few serious, and heartfelt, moments. One of them being, when J. Cole paid tribute to Mike Brown and other young, innocent black men who have lost their lives to police brutality. A compilation of videos featuring police brutality was played directly before J. Cole graced the stage. Upon arrival, he gave a short speech addressing his opinions towards the videos then began the show. He played various singles, including “Workout” and “She Knows,” which had the crowd screaming every lyric at the top of their lungs despite the serious topics brought up just a few minutes prior.
By now it’s 9:30 and people are in full “let’s rage” mode. It’s the last weekend of summer, the first night of the festival, and Kanye is about to go on in just a few hours. People were partying hard. And who else other than Steve Aoki would be appropriate for this exact given moment? No one; and so he arrived. One man, one turntable, a few bottles of champagne, and a few cakes. From start to finish, there was not a single dull moment. Aoki’s choice of music and stage presence was impeccable, and managed to get the crowd to their full potential. You could feel the bass underneath your feet, hear the roar of screams, and see the smiles on everyone’s faces; people felt invincible.
Aoki closed out with throwing cake in some people’s faces, then it was Kanye time. The crowd rushed to Rocky Stage, trying the grab the best spot they could find. It all began with the sound of barking dogs, which signaled Kanye’s entrance. He then emerged from a cloud of smoke wearing his famous diamond-studded Yeezus mask. His song “Black Skinhead” was up first, and was quickly followed by his verse in “Mercy.”
Shortly into his third song, he stopped and took his mask off. Kanye told the camera crew to zoom in on his face, and to turn the colors to black and white. People knew it was rant time, and they loved it. He began a short monologue addressing, and promoting, social consciousness, saying “I’m in a very publicized interracial relationship right now… I just need y’all to know this is the shit. We give our lives to till 3am in the studio, not the media trying to segregate us.”
Kanye then put the mask back on, and continued. “The main reason they say that Kanye is not a good guy… is just I tell the truth, and I tell the truth your whole life. All life. And what makes that Mercedes-Benz better than your Toyota or something is it’s called class. It’s what motivates you to get to a higher job, a better house… my job is to be exactly who I am. I sit at awards shows looking at mothafuckers like, I’m the only n—– here that’s not crazy,” he proclaimed. After a few more words were said, he became time weary and said, “The last thing I want to do is fuck up my curfew for Jay Z, my brother, so don’t worry Hov.”
By around 11:30, the hits were rolling out. Performing songs such as “Heartless” and “All Falls Down” to “All Of The Nights.” Sadly, though, not all good things last. It was just before midnight and Kanye had to wrap it up. He gave special thanks to various people including, keyboardist Mike Dean and his cousin Tony Williams. He brought it home with reprises of “Bound 2” and “Blood On the Leaves.” He left the stage just after 12:00 am, but the screaming didn’t subside until a few minutes after. People didn’t want to accept that the night was over.
Now it’s Sunday, and things really didn’t get started until way later in the afternoon. And despite the substantial decrease in the amount of people compared to Saturday, the crowd was still more than determined to party.
Vacationer, a local five-piece band, started off the day well saying, “Here we go, Chilladelphia… We’ve been waiting all summer for this, Made In America,” said Vasoli of the groovy indie-rock band, as he got ready to kick off the action on the Liberty Stage. They played a well-put-together mix from all of their albums, but seemed to focus on their newest release, Relief.
Following Vacationer was New York band Bleachers, over at Rocky Stage. They were first to grace the stage since Kanye the previous night, which was still being discussed by festival-goers. The band opened with their song “Wild Heart” and continued with songs like “Rollercoaster” and their hit “I Want To Get Better.” Bleachers, the side project of fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff, delivered a rich rock sound that contrasted nicely with Vacationer’s Nu-Hula sound.
Kongos, who played Liberty Stage, is a four piece band made up of brothers from Phoenix. If it weren’t for their biggest single yet “Come With Me” that is currently playing on radios nation wide, Kongos wouldn’t be considered a very well known band. The band’s lead singer also busted out what was possibly the event’s first accordion solo. It was extremely fun and different.
Next on the menu was Danny Brown, who was actually nowhere to be seen. People began to chant “Danny” after becoming quite impatient. Things were back on track about 20 minutes later when Brown, the black-and-blue-haired Detroit rapper, arrived on the scene whilst immediately spitting out lyrics. Known for having a voice somewhat similar to that of Donald Duck, his performance was fast-paced and completely wild. It was then that the clouds began to roll in, and it started to drizzle. However, it apparently had no effect on neither Danny or the crowd, as they began to dance and bounce around with even more enthusiasm.
Compton rapper YG was perhaps the most vulgar artist to perform, and it became increasingly obvious that it wasn’t going to be a clean act when he was hailed onto stage by his hype man, Slim 400, with words like “fucker” and “n—–.” While taking swigs from hard liquor, he spat lyrics to recent singles including “I Just Wanna Party” and “Don’t Tell Em.’’ He also took a few minutes out of his, what would be ten-minute-short set, to insist that girls in the audience bare their chest. Yeah, it certainly wasn’t a concert for the youngins. Nonetheless, it was still a good time.
Now was time for Grimes (aka Claire Boucher) up at the Liberty Stage. Grimes was the only girl to perform on the Rocky and Liberty stages, but she showed no indifference and proved exactly why she was meant to be there. The petite blue-haired girl skipped onto the stage with a smile from ear to ear. Besides two female dancers accompanying her, it was a one-woman show; and with a swooping baby voice she mesmerized the audience by looping herself and manipulating beats in real time on tracks like “Oblivion” and “Genesis.” Her music’s atypical combination of vocal elements, as well as a wide array of influences, ranging from electronica to pop, hip hop, R&B, and even noise rock encouraged the crowd to reach its full potential.
Shortly after Grimes, and into Spoon’s first song, festival-goers were told to evacuate and seek shelter due to an arriving thunderstorm. Permission to reenter was granted about an hour later, though, and the shower went on right where it left off. Spoon was back up on Rocky Stage at a quarter to 8.
The indie rock band reopened with “Small Stakes” from 2002’s Kill The Moonlight. They also had some news for the festival’s attendees: The festival’s curfew had been pushed back an hour, to midnight, allowing the rest of the scheduled artists to perform. The band seemed to deeply appreciate the dedication of fans gathered before them, and may or may not have added “The Way I Get By” to the set list, giving Daniel the opportunity to sing the line “we go out in stormy weather.”
Regardless of delayed schedules, Pharrell Williams (and his hat) hit the stage at 9 o’clock. Pharrell opened with “Lose Yourself To Dance,” one of his many vocal contributions to Daft Punk’s 2013 album Random Access Memories. It effortlessly set the tone for a performance that got the still-frisky crowd’s groove on with an array of pop-funk tunes, including his current hit “Come and Get It Bae.”
He also took the time address, and flaunt, Philadelphia musicians. “The best musicians in the word come from Philadelphia,” he said. “From Philadelphia International Records all the way up to the Roots to everyone in the band up here tonight, they all have Philly ties,” he said.
Last up were Dutch-DJ Tiesto and rock band Kings Of Leon. Tiesto completely owned the stage, to say the least. With remixes of popular radio hits, he completely let loose and let the crowd know that he was there to make himself known. A flashy light show synced with his music was a lovely touch on his performance, not to say it’d be the same without it.
Lastly, there was Kings Of Leon. They arrived on the scene at 10:45, nearly an hour and a half later than originally scheduled. However, this did not put a damper on the Nashville quartet. Rather it encouraged them to make it a memorable show, with the lead singer Caleb Followill saying, “You guys are awesome for sticking around. We don’t get to play a whole set, but we’re going to give you everything we got.” And that, they did.
First up was “Supersoaker,” then one of their more rugged songs, ”Family Tree.” They made sure to pack in all of their classics due to the shortened time. Kings Of Leon put on an amazing show, filled with great stage presence and passion.
But, once again, the clock struck midnight and the festival, in its entirety, was brought to an unfortunate closing.
So through hours of standing, walking, singing, dancing, and even rain, it was guaranteed that every single one of the 80,000+ people in attendance walked away with memories that are sure to last. The only thing left to do is eagerly wait for next year, just to do it all over again.
Copyright ©2014 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 5, 2014.
Photos copyright ©2014 Gabby Simonis and Shana Bergmann.