Made In America Festival in Philly – Recap
In the third year of the Budweiser & Jay Z curated Labor Day Weekend festival, Made In America once again headlined their four stages with big names. New to the lineup in 2014 was another venue, Los Angeles. While the west coast location certainly stole a few acts, Philadelphia was buzzing with anticipation after surprise appearances from G.O.O.D Music and Jay Z in 2012/2013 respectively.
Who stole the show this year? Unfortunately, it was Mother Nature. After a beautiful day on Saturday, the floodgates opened and provided a few hours of torrential downpours on day two. At one point, security closed the festival for an hour and asked everyone to return to their cars/hotels (smart move, Budweiser). If you weathered the storm, new times were set for headliners Pharrell, Girl Talk and Tiësto late Sunday night. All of the artists certainly made a point to give a nod to the fans who braved the elements and got their money’s worth.
The 212 crew drove down to the City of Brotherly Love early Saturday morning to beat the traffic and get a fast start to our second festival media journey. As soon as we arrived at our hotel in City Square, girls, jerseys and Air Jordans started populating the sidewalks. After getting settled and choosing our outfits for day one, we took a quick cab to the grounds to get this party started.
Made In America had four stages, designed and placed in locations that did not overlap. The Rocky Stage acted as the mainstage, sitting in front of the Art Museum and the famous steps that Balboa climbs during his movie. The Liberty Stage was positioned southeast of mainstage, right next to the media entrance. This area had a large road running through the viewing section, making it a combination of concrete and grass. Towering over a small skate park, the Skate Stage provided some alternative music during both days. A unique twist on the festival made it seem like there was always something different going on. Last but not least, the Freedom Stage held most of the electronic acts in a cozy stage surrounded by trees that gave it a powerful energy.
Our crew popped around to see early tunes from Destructo, The Neighbourhood and the NYC based Holy Ghost!. Rap pioneer Big Daddy Kane took the Rocky Stage by storm early on with a few of his classics like “Ain’t no Half Steppin”, this dude has been making music since ’88! Before camping out to shoot Chromeo in the pit, Cut Snake lit up the Freedom Stage with fiery EDM beats to get us in the mood. Year after year, Chromeo continues to impress music critics with their diverse sounds. It may help when your brother is A-Trak, regardless, Funklordz Dave 1 and P-Thugg throw down live sets that range from baby-making music to funky disco medleys. It works on me and it works on the girls, check out some of the shots I got up close and personal below!
Despite the weather that ensued on Sunday, the food was one of the biggest let downs of the festival. Even the Moonrise Festival in Baltimore provided a wider selection of #eeeeeeats, really Philly? Pretzels in a bag? After refueling, we jumped back to the Freedom Stage to watch Baauer absolutely crush a trapped out set where he balanced hardcore rap and a few well-known EDM tracks to turn up the crowd. J.Cole did his usual hip-hop thing but was not that impressive and gave way to more high energy BPMs from R3HAB and Steve Aoki before the act of the night.
Now for the main attraction, Kanye West. With a new Adidas contract and multiple songs being used in commercials/leaking, one would think he would replicate his 2013 Governor’s Ball performance and drop a grip of new tunes. Nope. Instead, he let a virtual waterfall roar for over two minutes as an interlude between his usual songs. Sure there was crazy energy for “Blood on the Leaves” and “All of the Lights” but that is nothing new for Yeezy hypebeasts. Maybe an appearance from big brother Jay-Z? Nope. Kanye always shows out and gives all his energy (rant included), but most concertgoers were disappointed by the lack of new content aside from his summer run tour production.
What started out as a sunny and steamy day quickly turned into a test of individuals’ dedication and commitment to the music we all (well some of us) paid to see. The bouncy jam band Vactationer got the vibes started early with a summery set at the Liberty stage during the afternoon. The “Future Trill” trap artist Mimosa, hailing from SF/LA, prepared the crowd for the likes of YG and Danny Brown later in the afternoon. Local PHI band CRUISR had the skate crowd bumping before we headed over to the main stage for some more rap.
YG has arguably been the face of West Coast rap/hip-hop all Spring and Summer with jams like “Who Do You Love?”, “Left Right” and “My N****”. After entering the photo pit a few minutes before he went on, the crowd was jammed against the railings screaming in unison, “YG FOUR-HUNNID!”. J Cole and Kanye have been around the block a few years and it was refreshing to witness the love and anticipation for the new guy YG to throw down his gangsta tracks. After heading back to the Liberty Stage to listen to the high-pitched Danny Brown, AWOLNATION literally got the skies going crazy. A monsoon full of thunder and lightning hovered over the festival grounds for a good hour, forcing an EDM filled 3LAU set to be cut short and the festival/security to push people out of the grounds.
The Made in America social media team did a great job of keeping concertgoers updated with the gates status and within an hour, we were let back in. Set times were pushed later; however, the sky only cooperated for a short period before soaking everyone that returned all over again. The issue is, this was all before Pharrell, Tiësto and Kings of Leon! There was a sizable drop in attendance after the second storm which paved the way for more space and more opportunities to dance all over the muddy grounds.
Not only has Pharrell officially become an international superstar with “Happy”, but he solidified his greatness with multiple award show performances this season. He was great in Philadelphia and the ladies certainly responded positively to his vibes. Tommy Trash threw down a juicy set right before Pharrell and Tiësto follow that set up with a ridiculous hour of psy-trance and high-energy techno. Kings of Leon closed the weekend out with a chilled out collections of songs and a three-track encore that had fans blaring the words to “Sex on Fire”, “Use Somebody” and “Pyro”. This performance was also notable because it was the first show that their drummer was back behind the set after injuring his ribs the week before on the tour bus.
All-in-all, the festival was a success. Made In America is certainly more of a legit production than the Moonrise Festival and the security reflected that. Only specific artists were available to all photogs and even so, it was usually the first 3 songs or 15 minutes that we all could shoot. Although those times are standard across the music game, the structure of the festival did not allow for optimal transitions between acts. Furthermore, the multiple location aspect of this years’ Made In America certainly made it lose its’ luster a bit. On the contrary, they did stream some of the LA performances in between sets in PHI. The hype for new Kanye music was indeed real and left a lot of media hungry for new content to spread like a virus. The most surprising act in my eyes was Freeway coming out during Girl Talk’s obnoxiously turnt up set where he let the CO2 run for a good minute in his finale.
Until next time, #the212.
Photos by Booksy Collins