When Made in America Day 2 began, I thought my only complaint at the end of the day would be the heat. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans for the huge crowd of festival goers in Philadelphia on Sunday. But more on that later. First the good.
Or in the case of Misterwives, the really good. Misterwives kicked things off for us on day two over on the Skate Park Stage. Fronted by vocalist Mandy Lee, the group appeared jubilant as they performed for a fairly large crowd of people who had all arrived early to catch their set. “We were expecting like 10 people,” she gushed. “This is awesome.” She went on to explain that she had come to the festival two years ago as a fan, and now here they were, opening the festival. The group played a new song from their upcoming full-length, which they have been busy recording this summer. And followed that up with their huge hit “Reflections.” But the highlight of the show was when Lee stepped back and let the horns take center stage, proving just how much this new band has to offer.
Over on the Liberty Stage, Philly’s own Vacationer was heating things up. Frontman, Kenny Vasoli rocked his Phillies cap as he told the audience that playing this show was an “absolute pleasure and a dream come true” before going into the final song of their too short set. His “nu-hula” vibes fitting perfecting on the hot summer day.
Immediately following Vacationer was New Jersey band Bleachers who opened up the Rocky Stage with “Wild Heart.” During “Roller Coaster,” frontman (and fun. guitarist) Jack Antonoff switched up the words a bit singing “Philly, you’re such a roller coaster.” This band seems to love playing in Philly. They recently performed at a Radio 104.5 Block Party and have an upcoming show at The TLA in November. The rest of their set was filled with the best songs from their debut album, Strange Desire. But the moment everyone was waiting for was clearly their closing song, and debut single “I Wanna Get Better.” You’d think they’d get tired of playing this song by now, but Antonoff appears just as enthusiastic about performing it as he did at their very first live performance.
The rain first appeared during Danny Brown’s set. But at that point, it was a welcome relief from the heat. He took the stage about 15 minutes late, but his DJ had been busy hyping the crowd up and getting them to dance, that some seemed not to notice the delay. Throughout his set, Brown was busy jumping around on stage sporting his now famous gap-toothed smile. He’s quirky. But it works for him. Probably because he knows how silly he is, and embraces it wholeheartedly. Thanking the crowd at one point for “coming out in the rain and listening to my goofy ass rap for 30 minutes.” He rounded out his set with fan favorites “25 Bucks” and “Dip” before finally leaving the stage. By the end of Brown’s set, the sun was back out and shining, this time a bit more fiercely than before.
As everyone made their way over to the Rocky Stage, the sounds of “Megalithic Symphony” should be heard echoing across the festival grounds, appropriately announcing that AWOLNATION was to take the stage. They ran through an array of songs from “Guilty Filthy Soul” to “Not Your Fault.” Frontman Aaron Bruno paused many times to interact with the crowd and offer what could only be described as motivational insights. He told the audience that when he wrote “Kill Your Heroes,” he had “envisioned, or hoped, that one day [they’d] play festivals with a sea of people, coming together.” And come together they did. Especially when the band performed their biggest hit, and immediate crowd pleaser, “Sail.”
Grimes was one of the few females present on the otherwise rather diverse Made in America Philly lineup. So it was unfortunate to see the rather small crowed that showed up for her set on the Liberty Stage. It didn’t seem to matter much to her though. Because Claire Boucher (aka Grimes) performs as though she’s in her own little world. With an almost giddy look in her eyes, she effortlessly captivates the crowd. She’s almost otherworldly, wearing what can only be described as moon shoes. During “Oblivion,” her dancers came out looking like they were part of an 80’s workout video. But that all seems to be part of the appeal of the young Canadian singer/producer. She boasted her love for her friend and recent collaborator Blood Orange and performed their great new track “Go.” By the time she finished her set, it felt as though we were all floating in a dream.
Then Spoon took the stage at six. They got through the first song of their set, “Rent I Pay.” Lead singer, Britt Daniel made a comment about the beautiful weather, but quickly changed his mind as he noticed the ominous looking clouds headed our way. They started their second song, and suddenly an announcement was broadcast across the festival screens. Urging attendees to calmly, but quickly leave the festival grounds and seek shelter due to a severe weather alert. We were promised that the festival would reopen when the weather conditions improved. And with that, hoards of music fans donning their red, white, and blue headed out in the rain to find shelter in Fairmount.
About an hour later, we got the okay to head back into the festival. Kudos to festival organizers and the Made in America staff because the whole thing seemed to go off without a hitch. They rescheduled the acts, pushing everything back a bit and shortening a few sets. When Spoon reemerged on the Rocky Stage at 7:45pm, they announced to the crowd that the city had extended the curfew until midnight to accommodate for the festival. Singing “The Way I Get By” the lyrics “we go out in stormy weather” seemed even more appropriate this time around. And Britt Daniel seemed thrilled that the crowd stayed committed to seeing his show as the rain started up again, but this time it was almost torrential. But that just meant the crowd had to party just a little bit harder, proving themselves to be “true music fans.”
Pharrell would take the Rocky Stage next, but first was Girl Talk across the way on the Liberty Stage. Providing one of the only surprise guest appearances of the weekend, Girl Talk brought out Philadelphia rapper Freeway. Even fans waiting out the rain at the Rocky Stage were thrilled that Freeway had taken the stage. “That’s a big moment right there,” someone noted.
While Girl Talk impressed the crowd with his guest appearance, Pharrell disappointed with his lack thereof. For a man who has become known for his guest appearances at recent festival shows, it was almost expected that he would use the Made in America platform to showcase some of his famous friends. What better place than a festival curated by one of those famous friends, Jay Z. But despite bringing out all of the hits, Pharrell’s show remained entirely about him. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, Pharrell’s performance was great, which is to be expected. He treated us to snippets of his production hits like “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” Hot in Herre” and “Hollaback Girl.” And then he took us back to the N.E.R.D days, treating fans to some of their favorites like “Rock Star” and “She Wants to Move.” And then there were the newer tracks, songs off of his current album G I R L: “Marilyn Monroe,” “Hunter” and “Come Get it Bae.” He also played through those Daft Punk hits, opening with “Lose Yourself to Dance” and finding room for “Get Lucky” at the end of his set. He kept the talking brief, so as not to take away from his set, but mentioned on numerous occasions just how much he loves Philadelphia, stating that “the best musicians in the world come from Philly. From Philly International, to The Roots, to my band.” And as he said, every single member of his band has Philly blood. He closed the show with one of his catchiest tunes, and also one of his most inescapable, asking the crowd to show everyone just how “Happy” they were.
And finally, Kings of Leon would take the stage at 10:45 to close the night. Lead singer, Caleb Followhill made a slight jab at Pharrell early in their set when he said, “We don’t have that many hits. But the ones we do have, we play all the way til the end.” And that’s exactly what they did. While they didn’t get to play a full set, due to the rain delay, they certainly performed with heart. Especially considering drummer Nathan Followhill was playing with two broken ribs. They opened the show with “Supersoaker,” which also seemed like an appropriate way to describe the night. They followed that up with “Taper Jean Girl” and “Family Tree.” At the end of their set, they played “Don’t Matter” and “Pyro” and you could hear the love from the crowd. Many times, Caleb Followhill thanked the fans for sticking it out. They finished with “Use Somebody,” but the crowd wanted more. And with his earlier promise of playing all of their hits, everyone was sure they’d be out for an encore. They played “Crawl” as the red, white, and blue flashed across the screens. Images of the American flag fitting perfectly with the weekend’s theme. Then it was time for “Black Thumbnail,” and finally show closer “Sex on Fire.”
Despite the weather, day two ended on a hugely positive note, thanks to the cooperation of fans, the timely and organized response from the city and the festival staff, and the enthusiasm and unforgettable performances from all of the day’s acts.