Jay-Z wrapped up his debut Made in America festival 5 days ago, however, it has taken us nearly a week to fully wrap our minds around the phenomenal event that took place over Labor Day Weekend. Before Jay-Z took his special interest in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia may have very well been the only major city in the U.S. without its own major music festival. Philadelphians were left to travel far and wide to New York, California, Chicago, or Tennessee if they wanted a taste of the summer music festival scene. Of course this is not to say that Philadelphia is not home to a mass multi-genre music culture or a host of summer music events, rather she had not yet gotten a taste of what a large scale music venue could offer her city.
And then came Made in America. The festival, born from the efforts of Jay-Z and Philadephia’s Mayor Nutter, blew away all previous notions of what Philadelphians knew a large scale concert to be. Needless to say, Illadelphia is now rightfully stamped on everyone’s music map.
The event started on September 1st, bringing approximately 80,000 music lovers to the foot of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Aside from the diversity of artists represented on the list of performers, the most impressive feature of the event had to be the gargantuan size of the festival grounds. Made In America situated itself along the west end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, taking up about half of Philadelphia’s Champs-Élysées. It was easy to get lost trying to navigate between the two main stages and the main DJ tent; however, that seemed to be no problem for the hoard of attendees who were greeted with heavy bass no matter where they turned.
Essentially the festival could be broken up into three sections, each represented by three performance stages (making it almost impossible to see every act in the lineup). House and Electronic Music found their home at the Freedom Tent, where AfroJack, Calvin Harris, DJ Shadow, Michael Woods and Alesso spun everything from classic electro-hits to urban trap-house fusions. While it could be said that the tent was dominated by frat boys eager to rub against anyone dressed in neon, the high-powered bass and dance tracks definitely maintained an authentic Chicago house feel.
The Liberty and Rocky Stages supported the rest of the lineup, showcasing Rock n’ Roll, R&B, Soul, Funk, Reggaeton and of course Hip-Hop. Some highlights from the Liberty Stage included The Hives, who gave a very theatrical, highly interactive performance, as well as Gary Clark Jr. who seemed to be channeling a super soulful version of a Jimmy Hendrix-Tracy Chapman hybrid throughout his show (minus the dreads, mass destruction or fire). Jay Electronica performed before dubstep pioneer, Skrillex whose light show nearly blotted out the Philadelphia skyline. Definitely the most exciting performers to grace the Liberty Stage were Odd Future, who triggered not one, not two, not three, but four mosh pits as a well as a fist fight–all this before Earl Sweatshirt came on stage. Of course the crowd went bonkers when the Wolfgang hero made one of his first reappearances on stage since his exile in Samoa. In other words, security was not ready for the Liberty Stage crowd.
Yet, despite the hype that captured Liberty, the smaller stage was only made to play second fiddle to the iconic steps of the Pennsylvania Museum of Art. The soulful sirens Janelle Monae, Rita Ora, and Jill Scott (who brought out Eve), along with Santigold, D’Angelo, and Mike Snow lit up the stage and attracted crowds of more than 41,000 viewers. Some crowning moments from the left wing included Maybach Music Group who got the fans hyped up and turnt out in their early saturday morning set. Of course Run DMC, who reunited for the City of Brotherly Love, reminded fans what hip-hop truly meant as they blasted classic hits like “Tricky,” “Mary Mary,” and “Walk This Way.” Drake naturally went all in, representing for Atlanta as he brought out 2 Chainz to be his onstage costar.
The centerpiece for the two-day event received two hour-long sets. After almost blinding the crowd with his diamond chains, Jay-Z took advantage of his time alongside a bevy of surprise special guests. Memphis Bleek, Freeway, all of G.O.O.D Music and even Barack Obama (via webcast) took time to join the fun. Beyoncé was notably absent, but still not bad either way. Jay also blessed the stage again on Sunday as well, in order to perform a closing duet with Sunday’s Headliner Pearl Jam. A rock rendition of “99 Problems” sealed the deal for Made in America, but the Festival’s debut journey may not be over. According to the New York Post, Jay-Z plans to collaborate with Oscar award-winning director Ron Howard and producer Brai Gazer to recreate the festival on the big screen. Regardless of how the film is handled, it remains clear that it will be a daunting task to capture accurately. Grazer told the Post that the film, “is going to be born through Jay-Z’s perspective . . . how he puts the event together. Jay stayed the king for a very long time . . . I can’t even begin to explain how he is capable of remaining relevant. He is a phenom, like a musical Michael Jordan.” Mayor Nutter couldn’t a agree more. He expects that Made in America will be returning next year for another jam-packed weekend with even better performers, artists and special guests. See ya next year, Illadelphia!
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