See Jay-Z, Kanye, Rick Ross' crew, Passion Pit, Gary Clark Jr. and lots more from Made In America's maiden voyage in our slideshow.
"If you put on a festival full of good music, people will find you". That was advertising executive and Jay-Z inner circle member Steve Stoute's answer to my question regarding the who/what/why of the inaugural Made In America Music Festival taking place in Philadelphia this Labor Day holiday weekend. Adjectives such as "historic" and "one-of-a-kind" were used in the promotion of the event, which boasts a lineup that is both multi-genre and multicultural.
Fans lined up along the Ben Franklin Parkway several hours before the gates opened at noon, hoping to secure a spot near the front barrier. Many donned red, white, and blue attire and face paint, adding to the patriotic undercurrent displayed on every Budweiser bottle, sign, and video screen.
Gary Clark Jr. brought a little bit of Texas heat with him, opening the festival with his blues guitar and emotion-filled voice, cutting through the afternoon heat that beamed down on the early birds. With hard hitting blues riffs and smooth soul beats, Mr. Clark fueled his rising status as the next Stevie Ray or Jimi Hendrix, a no-nonsense and real musician working hard to keep blues alive in the current electronic era of music. He ended his set with "Bright Lights," whose verse "you gonna know my name by the end of the night" never rang truer.
Bronx native and bachata sensation Prince Royce hit the auxiliary stage in front of a surprising number of Dominican and Puerto Rican fans, many who made the short trip from NYC to Philly for the festival.
"I'm in love with him, like gay in love with him. My bitch loves him, too!" proclaimed a nice young man in the front row, causing his friends and a security guard to laugh hysterically (with him, not at him). The baby-faced singer offered his hits "Corazon Sin Cara," "El Amor Que Perdimos" and his bilingual version of Ben E. King's "Stand By Me." The kid can definitely sing, dance and capture an audience.
The Maybach Music Group, led by the bawse Rick Ross, brought their bass-heavy street anthems to the main stage, much to the approval of the large contingent of rap fans gathered in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum steps. D.C. rapper Wale was first up to bat, starting with the bouncy "Chain Music", prompting the crowd to rap along "chain so big can't pop my collar!"
Hometown battle rapper Meek Mill followed, grinning ear to ear, ecstatic to be performing in front of his city. The gospel chords of "Amen" rang out, Meek spit his verses with rapid fire precision. Rozay lumbered to the stage last, stringing hit after catchy, grunt-filled hit, dropping "Hustlin'," "3 Kings," "Stay Schemin'," "BMF" and "Bag of Money" before riding away in his black Mercedes.
The rest of the evening flew by. Perhaps the heat, or lack of sleep, or lack of food caught up to me, although I did follow rule No. 1 for surviving a music festival: Stay hydrated. Many fans did not follow this rule, and had to be carried out by EMS. Sad sight to see, and we hope those fans were okay.
D'Angelo was a pleasant way to calm the pace, bringing with him his smooth falsetto and charisma that could win drop a million panties. He alternated between old and new, funky and subdued, love and heartbreak. And although he is no longer the slim and slender sculpture that we remember from his infamous video, the version of "Untiltled (How Does It Feel)" he presented was rather endearing, nostalgic, and welcome.
Late add-on Jay Electronica offered the festival real hip-hop, and the rapper from New Orleans thanked his fans in Philly for giving him so much love throughout his career. Electro-pop hipster band Passion Pit was a big draw, with fun tunes and uplifting notes adding to yet another style of music to the festival.
EDM DJ Calvin Harris rocked the massive crown in the Freedom Tent, and Skrillex did the same inside of a spaceship on the Liberty Stage. The dancing was fun, even with the sweaty, smelly bodies bumping into you non-stop. Its OK, I guess, because I was sweaty and smelly also.
Did they succeed? Did the large crowds, lured by "good music" show up? They most certainly did. At the end of the night, the number of festivalgoers well exceeded the 50,000 that organizers expected on day one.
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