Photos: Victoria Ford/Sneakshot
In its second year, Budweiser’s Made In America festival once again took downtown Philadelphia over to provide to thousands of people cheap tasting (but not cheap costing) beer, good times, and of course live music. American flags were plastered everywhere from bandanas, t-shirts, and booty shorts. Curated by the current tastemaker/rapper du-jour/businessman/brand Jay Z it was a mixture of R&B, hip-hop, rock, and dance music.
If the lineup was a contest then the first day was clearly won by his wife, Beyoncé. That’s not from lack of trying: the band Cloud Nothings launched a blast that showed even short one guitarist they absolutely fuck shit up live. Empire Of The Sun brought their best mix of dance and rock music rounded out with coked out Broadway theatrics. Phoenix showed that they were festival ready with a great lightshow and a lineup of infinitely hummable tracks even if their stage swagger was more akin to accountants then rock stars.
It was still Mrs. Carter’s day with the main stage filling up hours ahead of time of fans trying to to catch a glimpse of shimmying across stage. The consummate entertainer she didn’t disappoint, wowing the crowd nine hours into drinking with her a seemingly infinite amount of hits.
Day two had the star power spread out a bit better. Her little sister Solange stepped out to an enthusiastic crowd that had similar fashion sensibilities with big hair, bohemian looks and meticulously chosen jewelry. Miguel was superb as usual, having the whole crowd singing along without having to threaten them with a leg drop.
Probably the most disappointing set was Kendrick Lamar. The members of his hip-hop collective, Black Hippy all performed short solo sets to warm up for Lamar. This ate into his frighteningly short 45 minute run time and his set felt like a dollar menu snack then anything approaching to what the other big name performers brought. Speaking of food hometown hero Wiz Kahlifa came out afterwards and won the crowd over playing a much meatier set despite the fact he looked like he could use a sandwich.
One of the biggest successes though was the Dance stage: the glow stick and fist pump crowd raged consistently both days; at times it felt as if they were in an entirely different festival. The headliner, Calvin Harris, in between tweaked knobs and head nods gave those thirsty neo-ravers the bass dropped they craved. I got the sneaking suspicion a large amount of the stage’s attendees never left its comforting synthesized sounds and 4/4 bass hits during all 20 hours of the festival. Hell, even Jay-z was seen fist pumping to masked Deadmau5.
On the main stage day two ended on a rock note. First up was Queens of the Stone Age with bandleader Josh Homme forgoing his blast of heavy riffs into slower more psychedelic territory. Recently resurrected Nine Inch Nails played last starting their set right on time. So much so they built the stage setup process into their set; the first song had bandleader Trent Reznor pounding into his drum machine and singing alone. By the time they began the third song hit the full band was on stage with the crowd experiencing the best lightshow of the festival along with vicious guitars and sinister sounding electronics.
The attendees left were a mixture of die hard rock fans and the more adventurous types who found ways to twerk to Nine Inch Nails ode to self-loathing sexual attraction, “Closer”. Which kind of helps to sum of the festival in general; the attendees were there for a variety of reasons, mainly music, partying and drinking. But no matter who was on stage or what was happening around them they found ways to make it their own and make it their version of fun.