Made in America, Day 1:
In its sixth consecutive year, the Budweiser Made in America Festival landed on the Ben Franklin Parkway in Philly this past Labor Day Weekend. The two-day festival once again featured huge headlining acts like ‘J Cole’, ‘The Chainsmokers’, and the man himself, ‘Jay Z’. The festival featured five stages of music with performances beginning at 1:15 PM each day and lasting until 11 PM each night. The main stage, as always, was located in front of the Art Museum and appropriately named the Rocky Stage. The second primary stage was the Liberty Stage and while this stage featured a lot of EDM acts, The Freedom Stage was exclusively for DJ acts. The Tidal Stage saw more up and comers, and the Skate Stage featured more eclectic acts with a mix of DJs, punk bands, and lesser known performers.
We can’t talk about Day 1 without talking about the weather. A storm was predicted for later in the day but seemed to arrive just in time for the first act of the day. Rain fell throughout the day, sometimes lightly, and at other times in a full downpour. The music, however, would not be stopped. The crowd turnout was as expected, with a smaller crowd at the beginning, and building throughout the day as the bigger name acts started to appear. By the time the evening ended, the mud soaked crowd was easily north of 70,000 people. Getting around the venue was fairly easy despite the large numbers. It was clear at times though that an act was more popular than expected and the stage area couldn’t hold the crowd that turned up to see them perform.
We started our Day 1 with a DJ set from ‘Devault’ on the Freedom stage. The crowd started out at just a few hundred people but within a few songs, he had the attention of almost everyone in the venue. As expected the 16-26 aged crowd was out to dance and crushed the stage area to bounce along with the bass. We quickly made our way to the Rocky Stage for the 3 PM show by local band ‘Marian Hill’. Despite being on the massive main stage, this two piece act filled it up. Lead singer Samantha Gongol was working the front of the stage from the first verse of their hit songs, down until the last notes of their set. The crowd responded well to this local duo and definitely let them know they were home here in Philly. A quick trip back to the Freedom Stage for ‘Kap Slap’ was well worth it. By now the dance crowd was thick and had found the place they wanted to camp out for a while. Kap Slap had a stellar stage presence and light show and even had a guest rapper for the last few songs. The crowd was drenched by the rain by this point but they didn’t mind one bit. We stuck around for the next act here as well, catching ‘London on Da Track’: a DJ/rapper combo. London on Da Track was awesome. The beats were exactly what the crowd wanted and London had no problem bouncing around the stage, getting down with the crowd, and making sure they were having a good time. His set featured songs like ‘Sneakin’ featuring Drake and 21 Savage, and ‘XO Tour Life’ by Lil Uzi Vert. Up next was a quick swing by the Tidal stage where we caught a bit of up-and-coming rapper ‘Kodie Shane’. She was definitely having fun on the stage, dancing and flashing her gold tooth smile, despite the rain. Her reggae flavored rap style drew a sizable crowd for a newer artist. By now the festival grounds were in full swing and the grass areas were becoming slippery mud fields. Crowds started pulling back to the paved areas and then trying to move back through the mud when it was time for the next act.
‘Migos’ was up next with another bass pounding, hit-laden set on the Rocky Stage. The trio has produced major hits like ‘Culture’, ‘Bad and Boogie’, ‘Slippery’, and ‘What’s the Price’ and the crowd went absolutely crazy for Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff. Back on the Liberty Stage, ‘Vic Mensa’, who gave us a strong set off his new album, ‘The Autobiography’, performing hits ‘Wezar’ and ‘Rolling like a Stoner’. We then fought the huge crowd at the Liberty Stage for a chance to see an EDM set by ‘Kaskade’. Kaskade was the runner up for the star of the night, going on right before ‘J Cole to end Day 1. Kaskade had everyone going insane, and that is the only way to describe it. Backed by mega lasers and video walls, there was never a dull moment in his set. Kaskade was a great energy shot to set everyone up for J Cole’s spectacular performance. The star of the night, Jermaine Cole (J Cole), stepped out of a (fake) jail cell in an orange jumpsuit, ready to sing the starchy vocals we all have come to love. He started the show with ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ and as he blasted out the opening lyrics, “I see the rain pouring down,” the rain actually started to pour down again to hit the Rocky Stage and all of the people mesmerized by J Cole and his wonderful story telling. Cole played popular tracks ‘Neighbors’, ‘She’s Mine’, ‘Wet Dreamz’, ‘Ville Mentality’, and even throw backs like ‘Lights Please’, ‘Power Trip’. His most famous album, 2014’s ‘Forest Hills Drive’, brought thrills to the saturated crowd when J Cole played hits like, ‘Tale of Two Cities’ and his closing track, ‘No Role Modelz’.
Made in America, Day 2:
Day 2 gave us a break from the rain as the sun returned to the sky. Unfortunately, the muddy fields of Day 1 couldn’t be repaired so quickly. The grass areas near the stages were in rough shape but it didn’t deter the crowds. Day 2 saw a much thicker crowd as people turned out to see the biggest star, Jay Z, headline the second day. To start off the second day of Made In America, a Philly local and quickly rising star, ‘PnB Rock’, opened up the Rocky Stage with everyone dancing, going crazy, and singing hits like ‘Selfish’ at the top of their lungs. We then made a stop over at the Liberty Stage to see New Zealand based, ‘Broods’ who drew a good sized crowd. A quick stop by the Freedom stage for some more DJ work by ‘Burns’ showed us that once again the young dance crowd was in the mood for a heavy bass beat. Back at the Skate Stage, we caught ‘Rob $tone’. His performance was our least favorite of the whole two days.
We got back to the Liberty Stage almost 30 minutes before ’21 Savage’ was scheduled to perform to make sure we had a dry spot on the pavement. In the next 20 minutes, the crowd swelled so large that it was almost impossible to move or even raise your arms. You definitely got to know your neighbor. By the time 21 Savage hit the stage it was easily the biggest crowd we had seen at one stage (other than for J Cole). These guys should have been on the main stage instead of ‘Little Dragon’. 21 Savage came out with huge beats booming into the crowd off the album, ‘Savage Mode’, dropping hits like, ‘No Heart’, ‘X’, ‘Mad High’, and even throwing in ‘Sneakin’ ft Drake. 21 also played songs like, ‘Bank Account’, off his new album called ‘Issa Album’. We stayed right where we were because immediately after 21 Savage was finished, the Liberty Stage kept rocking with ‘Run The Jewels’. RTJ produced one of the best sets of the entire two days. Between ‘Killer Mike’ flexing, ‘EL-P’ cracking jokes at Killer Mike, or the two combining to play another fast paced hit, they never gave the crowd a chance to breathe. We took a quick trip out to the Freedom Stage to see the last performer, ‘R3hab’, play the sundown set. R3hab came out to a full crowd getting hyped up for his crisp drops to remixes like ‘Trouble’ and ‘Hold Me’. After 15 minutes of R3hab, the crowd rushed back to the Rocky Stage to catch ‘The Chainsmokers’. The Chainsmokers have come a long way from their first hit, ‘Selfie’, to the new singles like ‘Closer’, ‘Paris’, and ‘Don’t Let me Down’. Andrew Taggart was lively on stage jumping all around, full of energy. With fire and smoke shooting from the front of the stage and a well-designed video production on the screen behind them, these two had the crowd hooked. The hits never seemed to end during The Chainsmokers performance and the show never got routine. Taggart and Alex Pall have a polished professional set which gives their audience exactly what they want: big hits with a stunning visual show. The pace is fast and everything went off right on cue. The crowd around us was singing along and having a great time during the entire set.
We managed to get back to the Liberty Stage just in time for the penultimate act of the festival, ‘Marshmello’. The EDM crowd was charged up for this performance. Clearly, this was an act that they had come to see. Marshmello easily had the best stage performance of the EDM acts when you combined the lights, shooting flames, and smoke, as well as the great beats. His hour long set was filled with energy and the crowd couldn’t get enough. Late in the set, he was joined by Khalid for their collaboration, ‘Silence’.
At long last, the time had come for Jay Z to take the main stage. Simply put, his performance was professional. Jay Z is a master of his game, with over two decades of experience, and it shows in all he does. His stage presence was outstanding and his crowd interaction was smooth and polished. Most importantly though, Jay Z had hit after hit, which he performed perfectly, to keep the crowd going. From ‘Public Service Announcement’ to ‘New York’, to his newest material from the ‘4:44’ album, the crowd was singing along and enjoying the show throughout. He took time to acknowledge the situation in Houston with Hurrican Harvey, the recent death of his friend Chester Bennington (Linkin Park), and even to sing happy birthday to his wife, Beyonce. The show was packed with great music which covered his entire catalog. He even had appearances from Philly native Meek Mill, and reggae star Damian Marley on stage which had the crowd going crazy.
All in all, it was a great set to cap off a weekend of music that was only slightly dampened by the weather. The show delivered all that we have come to expect from Budweiser Made in America: great music from big artists on the last holiday weekend of Summer.
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[Photos by Michael Green]
[Article by Kieran Green]
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