The fourth year of Made in Ameriva brought with it a number of changes for the young Jay-Z curated event. Getting back to the basics, festival organizers trimmed the event down to its original one-city location, keeping the show back home in the City of Brotherly Love. They also brought back a number of familiar faces, with repeat headliner Beyoncé, as well as J. Cole (who played just last year), Philly’s Santigold, and EDMers GTA and Burns. Even the man of the hour, Meek Mill, had graced the MIA stage once before.
But despite the repeats, everything about the festival somehow remained fresh. Perhaps it was the addition of a 5th stage, the Tidal Discovery Stage. Or maybe it was the new layout, which spanned even more city blocks along Philly’s beautiful Ben Franklin Parkway. This year, festival gates took over everything from The Art Museum down to The Rodin, filling The Oval with the most impressive food lineup this show has seen yet. But where they impressed people with their attention to a diverse set of meal options, the festival was a surprising failure when it came to beverages. As a Budweiser-sponsored event, it’s certainly no surprise that the brewery is the only option within festival walls. However, serving just one particular option of Bud at most of their stations was a frustrating discovery that people were commenting on all weekend long.
But despite the large number of people who had clearly over-imbibed, 42 taken to area hospitals per one journalists account, it was clear the large majority of fans had come out to see some of their favorite performers take the stage. And Day 1 was all about Queen Bey. But more on her later.
British glam-rockers The Struts got things started on Day 1 with an energetic performance on the Rocky Stage. They treated fans to tracks like “Could Have Been Me” and “Kiss This,” with frontman Luke Spiller leading the crowd in a sing-a-long before transitioning into the latter. But, unfortunately, like all of the acts who would take that stage throughout the day, The Struts were plagued by a common Made in America problem. Diehard Beyoncé fans would remain camped out in front of the stage, often times seated on blankets throughout all of the day’s acts. An issue that would later invoke a response from De La Soul, who encouraged the crowd (on that same stage) to enjoy the music, even if they didn’t know De La Soul. “All of us are here together. Making that one energy. That’s what we’re here for,” he quipped before shouting out Beyoncé, J. Cole, and The Weeknd.
Over on the Skate Stage, local act Hop Along was getting their crowd energized. Lead singer Frances Quinlan, took a moment to ask the question that everyone was thinking when she said, “Let’s all just enjoy imagining where Beyoncé might be right now.” And that’s how one could sum up that extent of Day 1 at Made in America. No matter where you were. Or what you were doing. Or how different the music might be from hers, everyone was eagerly anticipating that moment that the Queen would finally take the stage.
Two of the more energetic acts of the day happened early on. Chicago rapper, Vic Mensa did well for himself performing on the main stage, losing himself at one point to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Which was probably one of the realest moments of the entire day. An artist truly enjoying himself on stage, completely unwilling to pigeonhole himself into his genre like so many of his contemporaries. Vic was also one of the few acts who took advantage of the bizarre main stage setup, which featured a pathway from the stage which separated one side of the audience from the other. He even jumped into the crowd for some brief crowd-surfing, ultimately leaving everyone very impressed with the young performer. This guy is going places.
Over on the Liberty Stage, Nick Jonas was doing his best to shake off his former Disney image. The maturing hearthrob played all of his currents hits, including “Chains” and “Jealous,” as well as several covers, including a snippet of The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face.” But the moment he finally won over the naysayers was during his cover of Outkast’s “Roses,” proving his vocal chops are as impressive as his abs.
By 6:15, it was time to take it down a notch. Tanlines put on an impressive set at the Tidal Stage, despite the small crowd (who presumably were getting themselves settled for DJ Mustard on the Freedom Stage or Meek Mill up at the Rocky Stage). But apparently at least one member of the audience was in the wrong place, insisting repeatedly that he could rap for the group. When no one stepped in to usher the man away, they finally had to shut it down in their own, quietly (though clearly frustrated) telling him that this was their show right now “and that’s the end of that.”
After Tanlines, it was time to turn it back up for Philly’s own Meek Mill, who has had himself one hell of a year, from a standout album to a lengthy tour supporting girlfriend Nicki Minaj. But it was his recent Twitter feud that has most people talking. Having sparked two highly successful rebuttal tracks for Drake, many were wondering if this would be the moment that Meek finally fought back. It wasn’t. Instead Meek chose to have his DJ play tracks from other artists, at one point criticizing him for playing too much Future. At one point, the crowd was treated to a bizarre collection of Nicki Minaj track as the Philly rapper went on about the love of his life. At this point, it seemed inevitable that she would make an appearance, and that she did. Coming out on the stage, purse still draped over her arm, to sing along to the pair’s track “All Eyes On You,” off of Meek’s lasted release. He closed his set early and on a high note with “Dreams and Nightmares,” perhaps knowing that nothing could top that Nicki moment.
Meek’s set was followed by back-to-back rock sets from veterans Death Cab for Cutie and Modest Mouse, with Modest Mouse preceding Beyoncė’s performance on the Rocky Stage. The lineup choices have made sense in the past, when festival organizers were selling single day tickets. But this year felt like a missed opportunity to switch things up. While Modest Mouse put on a solid performance, they probably weren’t the best choice for a lead in to Beyoncé. They opened with “The World at Large” and played some of their older tracks like “Ocean Breathes Salty,” “Missed the Boat,” and of course “Float On.” They also mixed in songs from their newest release, like the infectious “Lampshades on Fire.” But there were a sizable number of people who remained seated, choosing to use Modest Mouse’s set time as an opportunity to nap before Beyoncé’s arrival.
For the crowd who sought out a more upbeat set of performances, Duke Dumont performed a late set on the Freedom Stage, followed by a closing set from Bassnectar over on the Liberty Stage. As usual, EDM fan Jay-Z was in attendance for at least part of the gig before making his way into the crowd for his wife’s headlining slot.
And finally, at 10:30, the Queen had arrived, opting for a minimalist stage setup this year. Beyoncé instead utilized stunning visuals and audios to enhance her performance. She kicked things off with a medley of some of her biggest hits. And by getting it out of the way at the beginning, she let everyone know early on that Jay would not be coming out for “Crazy in Love,” as the pair have been teasing for years.
Of course, in typical Beyoncé fashion their were video montages in between each of her outfit changes. The consummate performer never missed a beat, smiling widely for the cameras at every turn, looking like she was truly enjoying herself. She brought fans back to the Destiny’s Child days, shouting out groupmates and close friends Kelly and Michelle, before wowing the crowd with “Survivor.” A few songs later she would perform a whole medley of their hits. And much like their track “Survivor,” Beyoncé’s entire performance was an ode to female empowerment. The audio in between her outfit changes featured famous words from Maya Angelou and Ronda Rousey. So by the time she was ready for “Run the World (Girls),” everyone was right there with her. Perhaps the only disappointing moment of the night was during “Feeling Myself.” After the third time stopping the song (because the crowd wasn’t loud enough), Beyoncé, clad in a sequined Sixers top, finally continued the song, without the assistance from festival attendees and the song’s main act Nicki Minaj. It was a let down for some, but the Queen reigned supreme in the end, especially with stirring renditions of “Halo,” “XO,” and the most vocally impressive of the night, “1+1.” She ended things with “Single Ladies,” and capped off a hugely successful first night of Made in America 2015.
Beyoncé Full Setlist:
Crazy in Love
Ring the Alarm
Run the World (Girls)
Say My Name
Drunk in Love
Love on Top
End of Time