This Labor Day weekend, a number of festivals took place across the nation. There was the North Coast Music Festival in Chicago, the Bumbershoot in Seattle, and Electric Zoo in New York (which ended a day early due to two fatalities). Then there was the Made In America festival in Philadelphia. The Benjamin Franklin Parkway was closed off in its entirety for this new American festival, which is only in it's second year running. Made In America was started and developed by Jay Z, with help from Budweiser, In its first year, the festival included names like Kanye West, Pearl Jam, Skrillex, The Hives, Afrojack, and Jay Z himself. For their sophomore year, they offered the talents of Beyoncé, Nine Inch Nails, Phoenix, 2 Chainz, Empire of the Sun, and so much more. It was destined to be a great festival because of such a line up, but we would have never thought that it would have left such a lasting impression on us.
The best way to describe what we witnessed this weekend in Philadelphia was a miniature representation of our lovely country, the United States of America. The festival had people of all ages, sizes, nationalities, skin colors, abilities, and classes. It had its ups and downs, it had its scuffles and fights, its hugs and kisses, tall buildings and statues, its overpriced merchandise and beers, and we can't forget the loud noises and bright lights. But at the end of the day, everyone was united for a sole purpose - to enjoy life’s liberties and freedoms on a national holiday... and to hear some damn good live music.
Upon arriving at the entrance, we were frisked, searched, and asked for a ticket of entrance. Once inside the festival for the first time, just as though we were arriving to America for the first time, we struggled to decide what our first adventure would be. There were so many options! The four stages were all hosts to different calibers of artists - from big names to not so big names, from rock to EDM to rap to R&B. It was a challenge to attend every act, but we definitely tried our best to experience it all.
The first act we caught was A$AP Rocky, who was unfortunately 20 or so minutes late to his set (the heat and packed crowd made it feel like 40). Although he killed the four songs he performed, you couldn’t help but be frustrated at the Harlem rapper for making a everyone wait around for him just to play a third of his planned set. And that was when we realized how big the crowd was, and just how easily a big crowd can get angry. That anger definitely lingered on for a while as people walked furiously away from the stage. We even witnessed a couple of fights being broken apart as we traveled from his set over to 2 Chainz’s.
Nonetheless, the party went on. 2 Chainz took the Liberty Stage. He did all his hit songs-- from back in his Tity Boi days, to his newest tracks coming out on his next album B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time. The crowd went wild as did the down south rapper. This chain reaction caused this set to get all the way turned up. 2 Chainz definitely held it down for rap on Saturday, after the earlier hip-hop let down.
The Liberty Stage was also the landing spot for the extraterrestrial type beings who make up Empire of the Sun. With a very distinct sound and a cast of alien dancers, the Liberty Stage smoothly transitioned from an empty platform into a stage that appeared as if they had brought it from another planet. Luke Steele had the audience euphoric with his high pitched vocals and swooning guitar solos, as Nick Littlemore’s drum and keyboard kept everyone’s feet moving. They played their well-known songs like “Walking on A Dream” and “We Are the People” from their debut album, as well as "Alive" and other tracks from their recent release Ice On The Dune.
The Rocky Stage that A$AP so happened to disgrace, was risen from the ashes as Phoenix brought life with the help from legendary hip-hop group Public Enemy. The French alternative rock band got the crowd shaking with their funky guitars and catchy melodies. Singles like “Liztomania”, “1901”, and “Entertainment” were obvious crowd favorites. They definitely restored the peace at the festival and set everyone in a great mood for the next headlining performance, Deadmau5.
The progressive house producer took the stage with his customary mouse-head, and hopped in his cube platform to put on one of the standout sets of the day. Playing all the tracks that never seem to get old, Deadmau5 had the crowd in a complete trance, something only the best DJ’s actually do. You couldn’t help but feel emotions rise as Joel Zimmerman took off his helmet and mixed a very intimate set to cool us down. All the while the curator of the festival, Jay Z, sat backstage with cigar in hand, raising everyone’s hopes that the one and only Hov will eventually grace the stage at his own event.
With the final performance of the day by Beyoncé about to start on the main stage, mobs of people headed over to party with the present-day Queen of R&B. Bey performed her new Mrs. Carter Show to an uncountable amount of heads. Hit after hit was done as she danced her ass off and changed into multiple gorgeous outfits. We hoped that Jay Z would join his wife on stage, but it never happened. But nonetheless it was a spectacular show, plus we still had another full day of performances to look forward to.
Day two began a little smoother than the first day as people, and things, found themselves better adjusted.
We started off our second day at the main stage for the Black Hippy crew--which consists of Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Souland Jay Rock. Each one got their own time slot to perform a number of songs. But it was the Top Dawg Entertainment golden child, Kendrick Lamar, who made the performance as great as it was. Backed by a band, K-Dot performed a bunch of tracks off his future classic Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City with a west-coast-gangster-cool-cat swag that has been absent in the rap game for a while now. Needless to say, he got the crowd crazy hyped as he calmly rapped and grooved out with us.
The heavy sounding beats and trap music influence followed us over to the Freedom Stage, as GTA was already mixing fire tracks. Sounding a lot like fellow producer Diplo, GTA laid down a lot of hard house, dance hall, and hip hop. This was the start of Made In America’s line of EDM acts on Sunday, as Feed Me, Nero, and Calvin Harris went on to have back to back sets after them.
Feed Me’s live DJ set, was a dubstep lover’s fantasy, as the wobbles, drops and bass combined to literally shake up the dance field. This was a surprising set, as we were washed up by the deep dub waves being made by this rising EDM star.
We honestly couldn’t get enough electronic music, so we stayed for Nero as Wiz Khalifa and Macklemore were on the main stages. Another amazing set, filled with bouncing subs and speakers. It all just started to seem like EDM paradise over at the Freedom Stage. But we had to make a move on over to the Liberty Stage, for none other than house-god Calvin Harris.
If you didn’t know - Calvin Harris holds the record for most top 10 hits in the UK, a record once held by Michael Jackson. Just a little Wikipedia fact we had to throw that out there. The guy killed it at Made in America for a second year in a row. The light show and his sing along bangers had everyone in PLUR mode from beginning to end of the set. Just check out the video below to see what we're talking about.
Well then, we finally arrived to the conclusion of the festival - a performance from the soon-to-be rock legend himself, Trent Reznor, and his industrial rock project otherwise known as Nine Inch Nails. . Songs off their new album "Hesitiation Marks" were played miraculously by the band, as Reznor’s voice captivated the crowd. I caught ourselves air-guitaring to almost every song they played. With that being said, I would choose Nine Inch Nails' set as one of my personal favorites of the whole weekend.
With the final scheduled performance coming to a close, hopes for a Jay Z appearance started to rise again. But just like the day before, we were just left with disappointing silence. It was a soothing silence this time around though. After two whole days dancing and singing in the pounding heat, we had finally reached our limits and headed on out with a satisfied smile on our faces.
Amongst everything that happened at the Made In America Festival, there was one thing that stood out to us the most-- the vast amount of people that were there. The park was bordering about 60,000 people in a pretty confined area. Although the amount of people rubbing off you and the constant struggle to walk through the park got frustrating at times, it wasn’t that which struck us. Rather, it was the diversity within all the attendees. While flags waved and people celebrated it truly hit us how beautifully patriotic this event at Benjamin Franklin Park was this Labor Day weekend. Hopefully this is a sight we will get to see more of, at least until next year’s Made In America.