Words by Christian Bischoff, Photos by Al Mannarino
Burgers, Budweiser, sweet tunes and sweltering heat filled Philadelphia this weekend for the 5th annual Made in America festival. For five years, the Made In America festival has marked the unofficial end of the summer festival season. The fest has quickly grown to be the most diverse festivals on the East Coast. Over just five years, Jay Z has helped cultivate one of the country’s strongest festivals, boasting an incredible depth of talent and a wide range of genres, from Hip-hop and Alternative to EDM and Pop-punk. The threat of superstorm on Sunday passed without incident, and festival goers enjoyed two days of sun, music, and unabashed nationalism.
While this year’s attendance of around 46,000 didn’t quite match the pull of Beyoncé’s 70,000 fans last year, the festival remained a success. The Tidal Stage showcased some of the industry’s hottest up an comers, handpicked by Hova himself. Newcomers like Honduras and Sophie Beem made their first major festival debut alongside indie pop-punk darlings like Car Seat Headrest (pictured above), who played several track from their critically acclaimed release “Teens of Denial.”
The hip-hop heavy set on Saturday was marked by moments of triumph, namely Manolo Rose’s (pictured above) on stage realization that he’d truly made it. “I shouldn’t even be here!” Brooklyn based rapper Rose pounded the stage, weeping on his knees at the end of his set. “They told me I’d be dead by 21!”
Saturday welcomed Jay Electronica (pictured above) to the Liberty Stage, who played the first portion of his short, conspiracy theory infused set in the crowd. “This ain’t no turn up music,” he declared, before starting his set (which included a break to relate to the crowd that “US Army Engineers blew up levees [in New Orleans] like they blew up those towers in 2001 and I ain’t afraid to say it”). When he finally returned to the stage, he called for fans to join him and ignore security. Within moments, hundreds of fans flooded the stage. Jay’s mic was cut off, and his set ended four songs in.
Lil Wayne’s impending retirement drew massive crowds to the ColleGrove (pictured above) set, which featured individual hits from both 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne as well as tracks from their collaboration album. British DJ Jamie xx delighted the crowds with disco-wave funk tracks live mixed with actual vinyls. The entire crowd happily bopped along to live mixed versions of “Obvs” and his smash hit “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times).”
Rihanna ended the night with effortlessly, starting slow with “Stay” and “Love the Way You Lie” before progressing onto an elevated catwalk high above the crowd, where she sang singles “Woo” and “Sex with Me” from her latest release, Anti. The 27 song set showcased her incredible back catalog of hits, and ended the first night on an incredible high note.
The Main Stage was opened by alternative synth-pop act St. Lucia (pictured above). Frontman Jean-Philip Grobler ventured into the crowd for his first two songs, a precursor to a trend that was to take the Main Stage by storm that day. Supergroup Banks & Steelz (comprised of Paul Banks of Interpol and RZA of Wu-Tang Clan) followed up, playing their unique mix of guitar driven cold alt-punk and gritty hip hop to perfection. They drew exclusively from their recently released “Anything But Words,” and finished out with their hard hitting lead single “Giant.” (Band pictured below).
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes (pictured below) put on a masterclass of performance, and had the crowd eating out of their hands for the duration of their set. Lead singer Alexander Ebert, arms akimbo with blunt and microphone in hand, charmed his way through his seven-song set, soliciting stories and freestyle raps from members of the crowd. The group covered John Lennon’s “Instant Karma!” and had two fans accompany them onstage for “Janglin.’” Before playing their final song, “Wake Up the Sun,” (Which proclaims “I’m tired of Jesus/I tried to serve/No religion, my religion is love”) Ebert declared the virtues of secularism, and called for the government to remember its secular nature.
DJ Khaled (pictured below) followed, spouting variations of the nonsensical platitudes that have made him snapchat famous. Much to the chagrin of the crowd, he often failed to play full songs, or cut songs off before the drop. He brought out unexpected guests Freeway and Young Gunz, but neither were enough to save Khalid’s set. He both entered and exited with “All I Do Is Win” and while he succeeded at exciting the crowd, his half-played songs proved to be more of a tease than a true crowd pleaser. Meanwhile, FKA twigs took on the Liberty Stage, bringing her eclectic mix of electronica and alternative. Unlike the rest of the performers at Made in America, twigs’s set was a spectacle to behold, with a strange semi narrative aspect that included androgynous background dancers, seemingly occult symbolism(?), and a large orange crystal. She offered a performance that was stunning both sonically and visually.
Chance the Rapper (pictured below) took the stage with a buzz of anticipation, with chants of his name erupting as early as fifteen minutes before his set was scheduled to go on. His 17 song set was easily the best of the entire festival. He opened with Acid Rap favorites “Everybody’s Something,” “Smoke Again,” and “Pusha Man,” before stopping to sing Happy Birthday to Beyoncé, who he affectionally addressed as “Auntie Yoncé.” Much to the delight of the crowd, the song was coupled with stills from his recent video interview that had been interrupted by Beyoncé. He moved into “Ultralight Beam” and a cover of “Father Stretch My Hands (Pt. 1), and then played songs from his latest mixtape, “Coloring Book.” He ended his set with an encore of “Sunday Candy,” a single from the Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment album “Surf” he contributed to in 2015.
Coldplay (pictured below) closed out the show in high style, opening with a dub of Charlie Chaplin’s speech from “The Great Dictator” before moving into “A Head Full of Dreams” and “Yellow.” Multicolored fireworks lit the sky, and the packed crowed was treated to the unabashed exuberant joy that has come to characterize Coldplay’s live shows. The set was extremely tight, moving from one song to another near seamlessly. Frontman Chris Martin took full part in the festival’s celebration of America, with the Brit going so far as to display an American flag in his back pocket, Morrisey-style. The show closed with “Up & Up,” and the festival ended in a brilliant display of color and sound, the perfect ending to a spectacular weekend.