Featured photograph courtesy of Derek Brad Photography
When I woke up on Saturday September 3rd, I made the usual preparations when facing two days of overpriced food and drinks, non-stop hustle, blazing sun, and mildly dysfunctional crowds. Despite living in Philadelphia for over four years now, I hadn’t attended the Made In America Music Festival until this year. My only hint as to what was in store came from friends who had previously attended it, friends who I know and trust to have a well-informed opinion. Without getting too specific, none of what I had heard offered much hope f0r a pleasant experience. Still, I had attended a variety of music festivals before and tried to remain open-minded to the possibility of enjoying sets from my favorite acts.
Going into Made In America, I curious to see what separated Made In America from the other major music festivals. Who was this festival geared towards? How would it compare to my other festival experiences? What degree of ridiculousness was I really about to witness?
Around noon, I stepped out from the designated media tent into and immediately found myself in a sea of festival-goers clad in American Flag-theme outfits, white converse, ironic t-shirts, and the occasional “#FreeKodak” scrawled across their arms.
For the record, I’m only 23 years old, but even I was amazed at how young the crowd was at the festival. Each year, the timing of Made In America coincides with the first few weeks of classes at most of the major colleges in the city such as Temple, University of the Arts (which is located right by the festival grounds), Villanova and University of Pennsylvania.
That means a large influx of 18-year old college students freshly liberated from the surly bonds of suburban life who hadn’t been through enough soul-crushing hangovers to avoid such weekend-long benders. The most revealing was getting caught in large groups of dudes who were either loudly proclaiming how much they drank that morning or chanting “R.I.P! R.I.P! DICKS OUT FOR HARAMBE!” while waiting for the show.
This isn’t to say there was a lack of overall diversity in MIA’s audience, but many of the complaints I had stemmed from this particular segment of the crowd. This proved to be a disappointing and persistent nuisance throughout the festival, but it became easy to ignore once the music started playing.
The first of the act I caught at Made In America was Dorothy, an LA Rock artist whose bluesy howl roared from the Liberty Stage with ferocious energy. I hadn’t been exposed to Dorothy before seeing her name listed on the festival lineup, but was certainly impressed as I stepped out of the crowd towards the Rocky Stage to catch Lil Uzi Vert.
There was a lot riding on Philly-native Lil Uzi Vert when he took the Rocky Stage on Saturday afternoon. The Atlanta-based Rapper has been among the most talked about names in Hip-hop throughout 2016, especially following the release of his new mixtape The Perfect Luv at the end of July. This didn’t change the fact that this performance would likely set the tone for the trajectory of his young career. Being given the main stage in the city he grew up in no doubt presented him with a rare opportunity, one that Lil Uzi did not fail to seize with both hands.
Although he arrived 10-15 minutes late, Lil Uzi Vert wasted no time whipping the crowd into an absolute frenzy. As he began the second song of his set, Uzi lept down from the stage and went into a mad sprint out into the crowd, leading a string of eager fans with phones out in hot pursuit. Uzi ran up to the Tidal VIP seating to continue rapping before dashing back down and making a lap through the entire crowd and back to the stage.
Bemused, I did my best to capture the frenzy for the Rock On socials. It was a hilarious, yet fearless display which ignited crowd. While many artists would later deliver similarly electrifying sets from the Rocky Stage, Lil Uzi Vert was the only one who managed to transform the entire area around him into his own personal giant playground. It was a victory lap for what has already been a good year for the talented young star.
I was delighted to see LA Rock Quartet, Cherry Glazerr again after seeing them open for WAVVES and Best Coast at Electric Factory back in February. I had left Lil Uzi a little early and arrived in time to catch the band doing their own soundcheck. As Frontwoman Clementine Creevy repeated sang “butthole” whimsically into the mic, I was briefly entertained by the group of eight or ten skateboarders who were grinding, jumping and, mostly, tumbling their way around the skate park built into the stage.
Once the show started, Cherry Glazerr shredded through an epic set that was criminally under-attended given Creevy & Company’s immense talent. Creevy showed off her remarkable guitar-playing and would often playfully hop and mosh around the skaters on the far end of the stage. After they tore through their A+ cover of Nirvana’s “Territorial Pissings” I checked the time and realized I had to make my way to the Freedom stage.
My close friend, roommate and consummate Basshead has frequently named Australian DJ/Vocalist/Producer Anna Lunoe among his all-time favorites. Indeed, Lunoe earned her place as one of the premiere EDM artists by becoming the first solo female act to headline the main stage at this year’s Electric Daisy Carnival. I spotted Lunoe back behind the Freedom Stage and called out to her as she was about to head up stage (yes, I am that lame). She turned to look and threw me a winning smile before walking up to join Sleepy Tom to close out his set with their collaborative track “Pusher”.
From there, Lunoe brought her usual winning charisma and incredible mastery of all things beat and bass driven, making her one of my favorite performances of the entire festival.
“This is the first festival I’ve performed here in Philly!” Lunoe informed her fans before asking. “How many of you have never seen me before today? 10? Wow..”
It was sad to see such an iconic member of EDM be received so poorly, but, thankfully, it did nothing to diminish Lunoe’s energy.
Other than Chance The Rapper, Ferg was by far the most exciting Rap artist performing this year’s festival. The A$AP Mob member was greeted with a throng of hyped up fans with complete ease and proceeded to deliver a performance so hard-hitting it could only be described as “blunt force trauma”. He raged through fan favorites “Shabba” and “New Level”, inspiring one fan to climb to the very top of one of the lamp posts that lined the street. It was during Ferg’s set that I finally realized what was so frustrating about Made In America.
No matter who was playing, I constantly had to strain to hear the music over an always present buzz of conversation from oblvious fans. Ferg finally noticed the idiot as he reached the top of the lamp post and pointed to him as he shouted something that was completely indiscernible over the noise from the crowd.
That didn’t take away from how supremely dominate Ferg was onstage. He gave a shoutout to Jay-Z for inviting him to perform Made In America before proclaiming, “And next year, Imma take over that main stage!!”
No doubt, Ferg. No doubt.
One surprise led to another following Ferg’s epic performance. I was waiting in front of Liberty Stage for Grimes to take over when, with no prior warning or announcement, New Orleans Rapper, Jay Electronica took over instead!
“This stage is too far away! Imma come down and chill with y’all!” Jay shouted out as he hopped down to stand up at the fence that separated the crowd from the press pit. Held up by eager fans, he went right into it and quickly changed my disappointment over Grimes’ no-show into sheer excitement. He eventually hopped up and over the fence to join the crowd, making a well-appreciated shout out to the late-J.Dilla.
After a few spirited tracks, Jay climbed his way back up on stage. He turned to face the crowd again and, disappointed to be so far away again, called for his fans to storm the stage and join him!
“I don’t care what this guy says [referring to the stagehand shaking his head]! If you ain’t scared come up and join me up here!” He called out! Before I could decide what I wanted to do, the crowd surged forward as people began storming the stage. I don’t think that Jay Electronica had anticipated the kind of fire he was playing with and, sure enough, the mob that had overwhelmed the stage and ceased paying any attention to the Rapper’s pleas for attention.
Jay’s mic was cut as a voice came over the stage’s loudspeaker demanding people leave the stage. The mob responded by chanting “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes, leaving security no choice but to begin blasting a high-pitched riot horn to make people leave.
Jay Electronica’s surprise set went for all of 20 minutes before getting cut short by a chaotic crowd, making him the first casualty of Made In America.
There was a lot of conversation flying around before Collegrove took over the Rocky stage. In the early hours of that morning, Lil Wayne sent out a tweet that seemed to suggest that he was contemplating retirement following length disputes with his label over Tha Carter V and frequent BS run-ins with the police.
I AM NOW DEFENSELESS AND mentally DEFEATED & I leave gracefully and thankful I luh my fanz but I'm dun
— Lil Wayne WEEZY F (@LilTunechi) September 3, 2016
As it turns out, it didn’t at all. Weezy was as bubbly and goofy as ever as he and 2 Chainz tore through their set, which featured run-throughs of their own songs as well as ones the duo had collaborated on together, such as A$AP Rocky’s “Fuckin’ Problems” and 2016 Summer Hit “No Problem” off Chance The Rapper’s new LP Coloring Book.
Even dealing with the usual assortment of Made In America douchebags, I managed to have a surprising amount of fun watching the two highly respected Rappers go at it together. It gave me a second wind as I walked over to the Liberty Stage to camp out for Jamie xx.
This was the set I had been waiting for all day. I’ve made no attempt at hiding just how much I loved Jamie xx’s sublime debut, In Colour, which dropped last summer. I waited patiently at the fence in front of the stage, even enduring some drunk or, otherwise, mentally incapacitated woman behind me who accused me of “stroking her hair”. Keep in mind, I had never turned to face her until she decided to jerk me around and, after ignoring her threats of “taking this shit to twitter” had to repress a laugh when I heard her friend say “I think I was the one playing with your hair…”
Thankfully, my patience paid off and soon enough Jamie xx made his humble entrance to the center of the stage. He opened with a rearranged version of “Gosh” that also blended in Frank Ocean’s “Nikes” into the song. The musical mashups didn’t end there as Jamie xx also performed a remix version of his hit “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” that featured verses from Grime Rapper, Skepta.
What surprised me was how Jamie xx didn’t dedicate his set to performing In Colour. He only performed three songs from the LP properly (i.e. not cut up and mixed with other tracks): “Loud Places”, a second, faithful performance of “Gosh” later in the set, and, my favorite song from In Colour, “The Rest Is Noise”. At times, the volume was so loud I felt as though I were adrift in an ocean of bass, lost everything else in the world other than this set.
It was a performance that I’ll never forget.
Attention: No photo/video for Rihanna
This bulletin was written up on a white board in the press tent, though journalists and photographers were too busy feverishly uploading photos and covering the festival to show much concern. I was considerably exhausted having arrived a full hour earlier than I needed to and really was not up for a full hour of Rihanna. Knees throbbing and verging on collapse, I trundled my way back home in University City. I relished in the opportunity to buy a slice of pizza and a drink for less than $10, fell into bed and mentally prepared myself for what was to come on Day 2.
What were some of your memorable experiences from the first day at Made In America? Share your stories in the comment section below!