Currenty running for its third year in Philadelphia, Made in America seems to have finally figured this whole thing out. With a stage setup mimicking that of last year’s fest, Made in America seems to be learning from past mistakes and improving on its setup each year. (And this year they didn’t run out of water!)
Things got under way a little earlier this year to accommodate the impressive lineup. Young & Sick kicked things off on the Liberty Stage, performing to a small but eager crowd. Most of the young fans in attendance seemed to be hearing Nick Van Hofwegen’s “chill vibes” for the first time. But by the time he performed “Heartache Fetish” he had clearly won himself some new admirers.
Over on the Rocky Stage, Cherub was having a little more trouble getting the crowd to feel their quirky energy. That could be due to the huge amount of people already there camping out for Kanye. But nonetheless, the duo broke into a cover of Calvin Harris’s “Feel So Close” and had the crowd on their feet and ready to party the night away. Cherub urged the audience to get rid of their “2 PM blues,” to “shake it out. All that weird shit you did last night. Get rid of it. And get ready for more tonight.”
By the time The Neighborhood took the stage, the crowd had multiplied. Jesse Rutherford strutted on stage in his signature tight pants and leather jacket sporting a huge grin from ear to ear. He was in his element. Amid the black and white video feed, the band performed fan favorites like “Afraid,” “Let it Go” and “Female Robbery.” Oh yea, and “that sweater song,” which Rutherford so lovingly referred to it. They also treated fans to songs both old and new, with newer tracks “Jealou$y,” “Lurk” and “Dangerous” fitting nicely among their older tracks “Wires” and “Baby Came Home.”
Across the festival grounds, Mayer Hawthorne was starting his own dancing party, bringing a much needed dose of soul to Made in America. But the crowd really came alive when he covered Bell Biv Devoe’s “Poison.” And then there was that little track he wrote with his friend Kendrick Lamar. Hawthorne and his band definitely take the prize for best dressed this year. After “Crime,” he lead the audience in a rain dance for “I Wish It Would Rain.” Ater a quick photo break, the audience was treated to another cover. This time it was “Walk This Way,” which not surprisingly was the lead in for his most popular track “The Walk.”
Things seemed to be going well over at the Freedom Stage. In its second year as a full stage, rather than a sweaty tent like in year one, the Freedom Stage has become the go to location for EDM lovers. The stage would feature sets from Holy Ghost!, Destructo, Cut Snake, Baauer and R3HAB throughout the day.
Hip-hop legend Big Daddy Kane was on hand to bring the crowd back, proving he’s definitely still got it. And that man can move! He was dancing around the stage and even went into a full split, which drew wild cheers from a fan standing nearby.
At 7:30, it was time for J. Cole to take over the Liberty Stage. He blew through hits like “Blow Up,” “Work Out” and “She Knows.” In the middle of his set, he brought his friend labelmate Ba, to perform tbe track “Lit.” This was an expected moment, as Bas was performing his own set on the Skate Park Stage earlier in the day. But despite its predictability, it was welcome collaboration to see the two share the stage. Bas is currently signed to J. Cole’s Dreamville Records.He released his album, Last Winteron the label this past April.
Taking over the Rocky Stage at 8:30 were rock heavyweights The National, who to some seemed a bit out of place on the pop/EDM heavy lineup. But they certainly proved themselves on night one of Made in America. They provided the perfect calm before the storm. Kicking off their set with “Don’t Swallow the Cap,” and captivating the audience through hits like “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” “Sea of Love” and “I Need My Girl,” The National were able to successfully inject a heavy dose of rock into the day. The capped it all off with “Mr. November” and “Terrible Love.”
Before Kanye would take the stage, Steve Aoki would keep the party going over on the Liberty Stage, with one very special guest in attendance. Fans spotted festival curator Jay Z enjoying himself in the pit, even taking time to bounce a beach ball around with the rest of the crowd.
And finally, at 10:30, it was time for the man of the hour. Kanye West, who took the stage along with the tribal drums of “Black Skinhead.” Donning his Yeezus mask, Mr. West was definitely in the building. He played through much of his vast catalogue, drawing the biggest cheers when he took the crowd back to one of his old favorites like “Jesus Walks” or “All Falls Down,” both songs off of his groundbreaking College Dropout.
Midway through his high energy set, Yeezus took a minute to offer the crowd one of his now infamous “Kanye rants.” But unlike at other recent festivals, this monologue seemed much tamer; he talked about Kim. “For me to be in a very publicized interracial relationship is not a joke. It’s something that should be treated with respect because we’re all in this together.” And that’s something that the City of Brotherly Love could definitely respect. He even called out Jay Pharoah’s recent spoof of him at the VMAs, telling the audience that he called Pharaoh after the awards show to explain to him how he struggled to get to the position he’s in.
Towards the end of his set, he performed “Touch the Sky,” “All of the Lights,” “Good Life” and “Bound 2,” before telling everyone that he would in fact be finishing up on time, so Jay Z wouldn’t get into any trouble over the city’s curfew. Coming out for a reprise of “Blood on the Leaves,” Kanye finished the night in spectacular form. Proving himself to be ever the professional, he left the city with a great parting note, saying, “So when y’all leave tonight, I want you to leave with love.” And we definitely did.