Returning for its fourth consecutive year, the Budweiser Made in America Festival descended on the Ben Franklin Parkway this past Labor Day Weekend (September 5-6) for another round of top notch music and festivities. Compared to its previous runs, this year’s total capacity saw an enormous increase to a total of 70,000 tickets sold per today, which in turn resulted in an expansion of the entire festival grounds. Unfortunately, the overall layout and organization of the festival once again caused for major traffic, overcrowding and disappointment. The stage layout almost identically resembled the setup for 2014, and needless to say with adding thousands of more people into the mix, mobility throughout the grounds was yet again a serious issue. Myself along with many other friends had to miss multiple sets purely due to a complete lack of space paired with overwhelming surges of concertgoers attempting to maneuver throughout stationary crowds. In addition to the lack of smooth mobility throughout the festival grounds, another major downside was the relentless abundance of dust. Crowds continuously danced on massive expanses of pure dirt ground which kicked up a borderline dangerous amount of dust and dirt throughout the entire weekend. One of my closest friends ended up having an asthma attack during The Weeknd’s closing set, prompting us to leave early (coated in dust ourselves head to toe). Showers were mandatory upon getting home from the festival, as the dirt lines at our ankles resembled crude spray tans and we had dust in places where dust simply should never be. Overall, simply interacting with festival throughout the weekend was inevitably a burden to at least some degree.
Saturday musical highlights ranged far and wide. Earl Sweatshirt kicked off the weekend at the Liberty Stage with blaring 808s that sent vibrations throughout the entire body, and some of the most edgy and lewd lyrics one could fathom. The crowd spent their time bobbing their heads in unison while rapping along to every one of Earl’s tight bars, with the occasional mosh pit to warm things up. Meanwhile over at the Freedom Stage, Jacob Plant spent his hour long set laying down an interesting blend of moombahton, deep house and the occasional electro top 10 hit. Meek Mill threw down one of the more odd sets of the weekend, throwing in the occasional Drake song and bringing out his girlfriend superstar Nicki Minaj. At one point Minaj yelled, “If you got love for my baby daddy, make some noise!”, which sparked a highly interesting rumor that Nicki is pregnant. Like I said, odd set.
The Freedom Stage got its proper doses of techno, electro and house music from the likes of Botnek, Ryan Hemsworth, Cedric Gervais and Duke Dumont, all who threw down magnificent sets that had fans grooving all night long. Many of the dance fans present were spending their time during the day eagerly anticipating the appearance of dubstep god Bassnectar, who has notched himself a borderline religious following with his genre-less freestyle bass music. The man himself Lorin Ashton threw down an intense, sub-heavy hour of absolutely absurd levels of bass, freaky beats and alien-like synths, with headbangers littering the front rail in true spirit of the Bassnectar experience.
Queen Bey, AKA Beyoncé Knowles took the wheel of the entire festival to close out the first night with a flawless, unstoppable performance. Taking the stage to thousands upon thousands of screaming fans, Beyoncé and her backup dancers proceeded to send all 70,000 fans in attendance into a relentless frenzy. Seamlessly blending in her own hits like “Crazy in Love”, “Halo”, and “Blow” with Destiny Child hits such as “Survivor”, “Say My Name” and “Bootylicious”, Beyoncé left even her own husband, Jay Z, starstruck in the crowd, begging for more and more. (Jay Z was dispersed throughout the crowd catching various performances throughout the weekend, and unsurprisingly it was Beyoncé’s set for which he was most emotional and enthusiastic throughout.)
The incredibly diverse Halsey kicked off Day 2 with a short but strikingly impressive set, filled with mature lyrics, poppy melodies and a large crowd of diehard fans singing along. It’s intriguing to note that Halsey is the girlfriend of Norwegian producer Trippy Turtle/Lido. Future continued to heat up the day with an extremely over packed crowd, all ready to wile out. The amount of people at the stage made it impossible for outsiders to make it into the crowd, as the stage was situated directly in the middle of crowd traffic on top of its massive size. However, for those lucky enough to witness the rapper, they were without a doubt left thoroughly pleased. Playing out massive hits such as “Bugatti”, “Move That Dope” and “Honest”, Future earned his title as one of the best hip-hop performances of the weekend.
Once again, the Freedom Stage was dominated by house and techno madmen such as Claude Vonstroke, Aeroplane, GTA and A-Trak. Claude followed by A-Trak to close out the night was as boss as closing a stage gets, with Claude laying down a relentless hour of the most quality tech house that the world has to offer followed by A-Trak scratching straight vinyl to his heart’s content. Dropping a ridiculous amount of tracks off of Fool’s Gold intertwined with a wide array of techno and trap, A-Trak had the Philadelphia crowd in the palm of his hand as he closed out the Freedom Stage for its fourth weekend.
Back over at the Rocky Stage, Big Sean wasted no time destroying his set, playing out fan favorites such as “Dance” and “Play No Games” to a hyped up crowd. Big Sean’s presence on stage was nothing less than captivating, especially when dedicating “One Man Can Change The World” to his late grandmother. His set’s finishing blow came down to the tune of “I Don’t F- With You”, arguably Big Sean’s biggest hit to date. After arriving almost a half an hour late, Flatbush Zombies put on easily one of the best performances of the entire weekend. The alt hip-hop group sent the entire Skate Stage crowd into the gnarliest of mosh pits for the short amount of time that they performed. Regardless of punctuality, Flatbush put on a vigorous performance like simply no other act at Made in Ameria. Props to the homies hailing from Flatbush, NY.
The night continued to heat up as swedish house duo Axwell & Ingrosso nearly set the front row ablaze with their insane fire shows, CO2 cannons and blinding lights. The house duo is two thirds of the incredibly influential and successful Swedish House Mafia, and in honorable fashion, Axwell and Ingrosso played a plethora of Swedish House Mafia songs to the utter bliss and delight of the diehard fans in the audience. Tears were shed, loved ones were hugged tight and Axwell & Ingrosso left their mark on Philadelphia for time to come.
As the dust clouds were reaching a weekend high in severity, The Weeknd took the stage with his wacky hairdo to close out Made in America. Crowds migrated from far and wide to see the solo act sing his heart out to sweet melodies and sensual lyrics, and despite the inability to breathe clean air, Abel Tesfaye put on a quality closing performance, hitting every note that came his way in the most suave and effortless manner one could muster.
All in all, Made in America was filled with quality performances from a quality lineup, an extremely packed and hyped up crowd (which worked both as a pro and con) and a genuine and unified appreciation for music and culture. Despite some major logistical issues that put a hinderance on the experience for many fans, Made in America 2015 was one of the better years of its existence without a doubt. We are more than stoked to see what the future for this festival holds, how the festival will improve in its years to come, and what tricks Jay Z has his sleeves up for fans of music, both from Philadelphia and from other cities far and wide.
[Photo credit: Dead Philly]
[Article by Dylan Long]
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