Reviewed by: Raa Daddy
Early September usually signifies two things: the end of Summer and the beginning of the new fiscal year. Some work hard to play hard but on this disgustingly humid Saturday morning in Philadelphia it's all about play, playa. The energy surrounding Ben Franklin Parkway is magnetizing. These hallowed grounds, watched over by many dead presidents, will play home to people from all walks of life, and afterlife, who have converged huddling uncomfortably close together in this human sauna to witness history. From Marcy to Madison Square and then some. Jay-Z has nearly done it all. The title ‘Made In America’ is derived from a song off his ‘Watch The Throne’ project with Kanye West and it's a fitting moniker for a festival being held in one of the most patriotic parts of the country. Spanning over two days, ‘Made In America’ is equal parts chaos, charisma, and cutting edge. The caliber of talent is mind-numbing with acts genre hopping Hip-Hop, rock, alternative, electronic, dance, and just fucking straight out weird. From soul music to make babies to (D'Angelo, Jill Scott), beats to break shit to (Skrillex, Afrojack), through to yodeling sheep-herder music (Dirty Projectors), there's something for nearly everyone. Sorry Nashville. You must have forgotten to RSVP. Camera crews swoop past food, merch and restroom lineups recording every second of action for a future documentary spearheaded by Ron Howard. Surveying the cross-section of crazies and cool-hand lukes one can’t help but chuckle at the ladies in designer heels tip-toeing through the unforgiving muck and dust. Flip flops tomorrow? I'm guessing, yes.
Mid Saturday afternoon. 99 degree heat. One familiar sound causes a riot to nearly break out as thousands rush to the Freedom Stage. The speakers scream: "M-m-m-m-m-m-m-maybach music!" The whole family is in Philly and hometown hero Meek Mill sends the decibel meter to Pluto as he runs through his catalog of guest verses and singles. D.C. Boy, Wale and Meek Milly go back and forth waxing poetic for about 15 minutes ‘til the boss straight up bumrushes the stage to join the party. Looking healthy yet hungry, Rick Ross goes through half an hour of hustler anthems without missing a beat. Rozay may not be forgiving, but he sure as hell is thankful to the over 50,000 strong that are shouting every word right back at him.
As the numbers rolling up to the venue increase the line-up to the tent housing Calvin Harris is impossible to navigate through. After a half hour of elbowing, kicking and climbing over people to get in, I decide to listen from 5 feet away. I already know what he looks like. Problem solved. Next up. Find the Liberty Stage and look for a spaceship. Skrillex has landed. The modern marvel of mayhem has made his own lane and shows no signs of slowing down. It was funny listening to some of the older people in the crowd watching this new age nerd ferociously navigate knobs with their arms folded while mean-mugging, wondering how “this electronic crap!” is considered music. Some things never change.
Appetizers suffice for only so long. The anticipation of the main course is excruciatingly painful and the crowd of over 100,000 on this painstakingly hot Summer night are rabid. And hangry. Hungry. Angry. Voracious. After a brief intro by the leader of the free world (yes, Obama) the man of the evening nonchalantly swags on stage and proceeds to give you what you need and the city of brotherly love erupts. Running through classic after classic all the way back to Reasonable Doubt, the Dynasty era (with Bleek and Freeway in tow), the Blueprint bangers, to present day, Jay-Z straight up David Blaines the game. At one point he gets ahead of himself, tells the DJ to bring it back, and with a huge smile says: "Man y'all got me too excited I forgot my own shit!" And we forgive the Godfather of Rap. Jigga plays mercilessly with the crowd and the call and response is deafening. Decked out in his Brooklyn Nets gear, Jay gives much love to Philly and wants to give out a few gifts. All of a sudden the thunderous hook of Cheif Keef’s ‘I Don't Like’ remix rumbles out with Pusha T maniacally rapping the performance of his life. Kanye West jumps on stage next to help out and the place goes ape shit crazy. During ‘Mercy’ you can hear the gloves of the riot police tightening. Big Sean hops on stage to do ‘Ass’ and a few other numbers with 'Ye and it turns into G.O.O.D Music fest for half an hour with Common and 2 Chainz along for the ride. All of a sudden Jay and 'Ye have a little stare down and no one can hear themselves think. There's only time for one more song. Just one. As soon as the first note of ‘Paris’ hits there's no turning back. The two brotherly behemoths of Hip-Hop smash out their monster hit as fireworks ignite the night sky and 100,000 minds are collectively blown. Hova and Yeezy snuffed the city. And we're just getting started...
It's a scene straight out of 'The Walking Dead'. Odd grunts and moans. People are moving slower. In herds. Dragging their feet. Twisting their heads to get all of last nights kinks out. The collective thought process of concert goers on the final day of the ground breaking ‘Made In America’ festival is how can today possibly top yesterday? Thankfully, it's a lot cooler today with more rain ready to wet heads who overheated last night. Due to a scheduling error Swedish bad boys The Hives are on when Jay-Z's new Rihanna clone Rita Ora is supposed to rock the stage. These kids know how to throw a party and the lead singer is pretty damn entertaining. You'd probably recognize a few of their jams from commercials and video games. The legendary DJ Shadow set up shop in the sweat lodge and unfortunately was underwhelming. For a guy with years of music under his belt you'd think he'd be more prepared playing a festival alongside some of today's electronic music giants.
The buzz surrounding the closing day centers on three acts. But let's be honest, most of the shine is on one legendary machine - Run DMC. The Freedom Stage is draped up with the familiar logo and one phrase along the top of the stage speaks volumes with silenced precision: "Jam Master Jay Forever". Rev Run and DMC are well into pension collecting age but they bring the energy of teenagers ready to rock for the first time. From ‘It's Tricky’ to ‘My Adidas’ and ‘Walk This Way’ all the way up to ‘Down With The King’, Philly is transformed into Hollis Queens for an hour. Kids and their parents sing every word. DMC repeatedly lifts his shirt up to show he's still got what the ladies like and we're also introduced to Jam Master Jay's two sons who are spinning for their famous uncles and lost but not forgotten father. Just as quick as they smashed the stage, the mic smashes the ground as Rev Run tells, "Yeah, I'm a reverend! I can marry you or bury you, nigga!" and the two pioneers of rap music exit stage left as the crowd is still in disbelief as to what just transpired.
Enter Odd Future. The 2012 Wu-Tang Clan. As this motley crew assembles on stage no one really gives too much attention to what's being said until the general of the squad appears wearing a hat his Golfwang faction go nuts over. Half swag, half substance, Tyler The Creator speaks and the minions are hypnotized. It's a pretty cool sight to watch. Only when the Goblin negatively references Jerry Sandusky in the wake of his Penn State scandal does he lose the crowd for a split second before reeling them right back in with his next line. Genius. The crowd is restless and floats in and out of consciousness waiting for recognizable material and Tyler and crew don't disappoint. Although, half the audience has left before the end of their performance to get a sweet spot for the next superstar performer across the way.
All. White. Everything. Wonder if he asked Jigga's permission first? Drake takes flight in all white to a roar reserved for legends. This kid from Canada is seriously a problem in America. Guys dig his style. Ladies want in his pants. So far it's win-win for Mr. OVO. In this day and age, Drake is an anomaly, singing and rapping equally good. It's a big spotlight to rock in front of and you can feel that he isn't about to waste a second. Drake rolls through cuts off ‘Thank Me Later’ and ‘Take Care’ and his vocals are nearly inaudible over the crowd screaming every word. He runs through his Summer smashes bringing out 2 Chainz and French Montana for punctuation. Just when you think maybe this dude is gonna upstage Jay and bring out Lil’ Wayne for a few guest verses on ‘HYFR’ and ‘The Motto’ reality sinks in. Weezy ain't here. It's okay, some guy named Ed and a few of his close friends are waiting patiently backstage to close out this monumental affair.
Just as the headliners are ready to set it off, the sky opens to bless the masses with much needed bursts of liquid salvation. The minor storm casts a fitting prelude to an atmosphere fit for rock kings. Pearl Jam doesn't tour often anymore. They don't need to. Eddie Vedder and company have been doing this music thing for over two decades and counting. Having been a part of one of the first Lollapalooza festivals, these garage rock giants made their mark as one of the marquee groups to come out of the Seattle grunge scene. In the midst of an election year, patriotism blankets the venue everywhere you look. Never one to shy away from politics, Eddie Vedder emerges through the mist with the music as his message. Along with Stone Gossard and company, they bless Philadelphia with volcanic electricity throughout a two hour rockfest filled with memories, sing-a-longs, stage dives, salutes and more. When the classic chords of ‘Jeremy’ begin to ring, the frenzied nature inside the Ben Franklin Parkway hits a climactic high and keeps reaching for that invisible ceiling. Songs like ‘Better Man’ and ‘Even Flow’ send chills up and down the spines of those old enough to remember hearing them for the first time when it was still considered new music. A refreshing sound we simply called...ours. In between flashes of the past and tastes of the present, Eddie Vedders soft "speaking voice" seems at home. At peace. A friend amongst friends. His voice unaltered. His presence ever impressive. You can almost feel the voltage surging through his body as he writhes on stage doing what he loves most for who he loves most. You. Me. Us. Just when you thought it couldn't get any better, Jay-Z appears out of nowhere and has Pearl Jam play backing band on ‘99 Problems’ and at this point, you thinking you must be dreaming.
Made In America. A true success story. Two days. Too many bands to name. Memories to spare. As the dust begins to settle and the clean-up crews begins the tumultuous task ahead of them, the zombies reappear. Discombobulated. Minds blown. Aimlessly roaming. Dragging their feet. Some slumped over. Others twitching. All ravenous. Starving. Searching for their next high. Collectively headed towards wherever that music is coming from...