In past years at Made in America, it seemed as though only the diehard fans made it out to see the first acts hit the stage. Typically, the crowd would begin making their way through the festival gates by around 4pm. But something changed this year. Perhaps it was the festival’s shift to a more hip-hop heavy lineup, or maybe they’ve just gotten better at scheduling the event, making sure to put popular artists at the start of the day. Whatever the case, Made in America Day 2 was already packed by the time Halsey took the main stage at 2pm. She followed a short but energizing set from Los Angeles band Saint Motel over on the Liberty stage.
Halsey, straight out of nearby Newark, New Jersey, has a huge following for an artist who dropped her debut album just a week ago. Her set was endearing; with her parents in the crowd, the 20 year-old accidentally dropped her mic at one point explaining, “That’s what happens when you lose yourself to the fucking music.” She repeatedly told the audience just how nice it was to be performing so close to home, and she knew that being from Jersey meant she’d either be met with cheers or boos. In typically Philly fashion, it was a bit of both. But no one could disagree with her when she noted that “people from New York, Philly, and Jersey have a certain tenacity about them that no one else understands.” She clearly has a way of connecting with her audience. But she’s also a vocal powerhouse with some great songs that showcase a refreshing sound.
The local flavor continued on the Liberty Stage, where a huge crowd had gathered to see rapper Fabolous. Despite being from Brooklyn, he somehow managed to have the most “Philly” set of the entire two-day event. For starters, Fab had a video intro from Philly’s favorite comedian, Kevin Hart, who was on hand to provide some tips to the New York rapper for winning over a Philly crowd. Tips like eating pretzels and cooking up cheesesteaks on stage were the obvious route to go. But the unexpected came when Fabolous brought out members of legendary Philly rap ensemble, State Property. First Young Chris and Neef Buck took the stage, followed by Freeway making his 3rd surprise appearance at the festival. It’s safe to say that Fabolous absolutely won over the Philadelphia crowd, even without the cheese steaks.
After a healthy dose of Philly hip-hop, the crowd filtered over to the smaller stages, some opting to catch another Philly act, Marian Hill. Marian Hill have come a long way since their show at Boot & Saddle just a year ago and it’s great to see them finally getting the recognition they deserve. They’re another fantastic Philly talent among other great acts that also played this weekend (like Strand of Oaks and Ground Up). Right behind the Skate Stage was a rapidly growing crowd for last-minute lineup addition and Wondaland signee Jidenna, whose “Classic Man” became the smash hit of the summer. He saved the track for last, as expected, and the huge crowd was not disappointed.
From there, everyone scattered into a million different directions, with the one point in the day that truly felt directionless. The options were abundant: Santigold, Lolawolf, Bully, and Burns were all playing similarly timed sets. Bully kicked off her set with “Trying,” which provided a welcome respite from the pop heavy music of the day up until that point.
Canada’s Metric would play the main stage next (they played Made In America in Los Angeles last year). As the festival grows, so does the lineup. And with more stages and more acts, Made in America finally feels like the kind of music festival where you truly have to make a decision about what acts you’re going to have to miss. And that was especially evident on Sunday, where the choice to catch Metric on the main stage meant missing smaller acts like Twin Peaks and Post Malone playing the Tidal and Skate stages respectively. And while the festival boasted an impressive undercard this year, it was also focused on very popular radio-friendly acts as the higher tiered artists. And for much of the festival, it was clear that the younger crowd was only familiar with the radio tunes. Especially noted during Metric’s stellar set. It seemed like everyone was gathered around to get a good spot for Big Sean. Metric’s shining moment was “Gold Guns Girls” that erupted in a full on dance party, as even the more skeptical members of the audience seemed captivated by Emily Haines’ stage presence.
Hippo Campus was surrounded by a much smaller crowd over on the Tifal Stage. But as one audience member (who checked the band out in between EDM sets because he liked their name) noted, “There’s maybe like 100 people here. But they’re really bringing the energy! I’m impressed.”
The rest of the festival-goers were busy catching Future’s set on the Liberty Stage, and they literally ran to the Rocky Stage to catch Big Sean. For good reason, as the man has an impressive collection of hits. And it seemed like he performed every single one, from collaborations like “Mercy” and “Clique,” to more recent successes “Blessings,” “One Man Can Change the World” and of course “IDFWU.” He performed one of the more memorable sets of the day, with nonstop entertainment.
At that point, some of the crowd filtered out to see Banks perform her seductive Goddess tracks, but most of the people opted to stick around for the return of J. Cole. Some were initially skeptically as Cole just played the MIA Stage a year ago, but releasing a hugely successful, critically-acclaimed album in the meantime was exactly the fuel he needed to light up this year’s set. And perhaps thanks to a year of touring, Cole was more engaging and energized performer this go around, churning out hit after hit. Someone in the crowd noting “I forgot about this one,” when it seemed that maybe the Fayetteville, North Carolina rapper had run out of songs. With hits like “Wet Dreamz,” “Work Out,” “Lights Please” and “Crooked Smile,” the man isn’t running out of hits anytime soon.
Axwell & Ingrosso put a visually stunning closing set to cap things off at the Liberty Stage. Combining a powerful light show with pyrotechnics that were even impressive from across the festival grounds, it was a show that everyone waiting at the main stage was disappointed to have missed. On top of the visual component, the pair sounded great, ending their set hand in hand.
By 9:30 it seemed that being out in the hot Philly sun for two days straight was finally starting to hit everyone. The crowd was noticeably exhausted. But this year Made in America chose to close out day two with The Weeknd, a Canadian crooner whose unique style of R&B contrasts heavily with the usual rock acts that have filled this slot in prior years (think Pearl Jam and Nine Inch Nails). Nonetheless, Abel Tesfaye (aka The Weeknd) proved exactly why he’s having his best year ever. As he kicked his set off with “High For This,” it seemed that’s exactly what the crowd had in mind as almost everyone began to light up, the clouds of smoke filling the air. Then it was “Losers” and “Tell Your Friends” off his newly released album that preceded a slew of tracks he is featured on, such as Drake’s “Crew Love” and Wiz Khalifa’s “Remember You.” Made in America attendees got to hear “Drunk in Love” twice, as The Weeknd performed his impressive cover of Beyoncé ‘s hit (which was performed by Queen Bey herself the night before). But “Can’t Feel My Face” and “The Hills,” were obviously the songs that everyone was eagerly awaiting, and Abel was smart to keep them for the end. But things felt too short; after he left the stage no one quite knew what to make of it. Was that really the end? Thankfully, The Weeknd came out for one more song and absolutely nailed it with “Wicked Games.” And with that, the fourth year of Made in America came to a close. All in all, the lineup proved to be a huge success, with the festival selling out for the first time since its formation back in 2012.
The Weeknd Full Setlist:
High For This
Tell Your Friends
House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls
Drunk in Love
Love Me Harder
Can’t Feel My Face