The biggest question heading into the Budweiser Made in America Festival was, will it work? By the end of the weekend the city of Philadelphia had its answer. Yes.
Labor day weekend has long been a notoriously slow weekend for the city of Philadelphia. Philadelphians, as well as New Yorkers and residents of New Jersey, head to the beach for one last experience at the shore. But with a two day music festival, featuring one of the most diverse line ups in recent memory, taking place in our very own backyard, Labor Day weekend was anything but routine for the City of Philadelphia. Instead of vacating the city, music fans flocked TO the city in droves to experience the first ever ticketed concert on the Ben Franklin parkway.
The music kicked off at 2pm on Saturday and from the start there was a decent sized crowd.
Texas native Gary Clark Jr. opened up the festival on the main stage, aka the Rocky stage, playing from 2:00-2:45. If you are unfamiliar with Gary Clark Jr, the best way to describe him is a mix between Jimi Hendrix and the Black keys (which can only be taken as a compliment). His soulful, jazzy, blues inspired music is something that tends to get lost in today’s modern, computer infused world of EDM music that has taken over the radio. The festival even said that Clark did so well on his first day that they invited him back for day 2 on the Liberty stage from 5-5:45 (a scheduling conflict with Chris Cornell that had him removed from the lineup at the last minute, also certainly had to have something to do with it).
Meanwhile, Philly native Dubsef opened up the festival in the Freedom Tent. It may have been his faithful following of Philadelphians or just concert goers ready to dance the day away, but Dubsef had a good sized crowd to play to, especially considering the fact that he was opening the festival. And in typical Dubsef fashion, he did a great job engaging the crowd and pumping up the crowd. Dubsef ended his set by yelling into a mic, asking Philly if they were ready for Savoy. Philly was indeed ready.
The Freedom tent had an impressive lineup coming its way, with Savoy, OTTO knows, Michael Woods, Funkagenda, and finally Calvin Harris closing the day out.
While Savoy kept the energy level high in the dance tent, Prince Royce took over the Liberty stage.
We had little knowledge of who the young, leather jacket wearing, Bruno mars haircut sporting guy was on stage, but the ladies obviously did. Prince Royce performed, often times speaking fluent Spanish into the mic, from 2:45-3:30. While not exactly our cup of tea, his performance epitomized the diversity of the lineup at the festival. While we may not be pumping out his tunes on our iPods any time soon, he probably converted plenty of teenage girls. Prince Royce really got the crowd singing with his rendition of “Stand By Me”.
Janelle Monae took over the Liberty stage after Prince Royce. Monae, a soulful, funky performer who is signed to Bad Boy Records, performed with a big band, and performed very well, so well that it could have easily been a Rocky stage performance. She also managed to get the crowd engaged in some sort of electric slide, which was made up of a diverse array of people doing their best to dance in sync with one another.
At 330pm the Maybach Music Group took over the main stage, and did they ever take over. Featuring artists such as Wale, Rick Ross, and Philly local Meek Mills, the energetic performance had the crowd going crazy. With all members sporting the Maybach Music Group customized gold chains with Maybach music logo, the group did a great job pumping up the crowd. Having listened to Meek Mills since his very first mix-tapes appeared online, and following him all the way up to his signing with Maybach Music Group, it was a once in a lifetime experience seeing the up and coming Philly Rapper run out on stage. “Ima Boss” was just, well, so Boss – his swag was on full display, because, this is HIS town.
Over in the dance tent, Savoy, Otto Knows, and Michael Woods all put on great sets that were really hard to rate to rank (one over the other). However, Michael Woods did the best job interacting with the crowd, throwing sunglasses out to the fans and whipping a towel over his head.
Passion Pit was a nice intermission to the extreme hype that Maybach Music brought and to the excitement that the final two performers, Miike Snow and Jay Z, were going to bring to the main stage. By the time Passion Pit ended their performance, it was time to head back to the DJ tent to catch Funkagenda from 5:40-6:40. Having seen Funkagenda at LiT Ultra Bar just a few weeks ago, we were looking forward to seeing him play again. He did not disappoint, putting on a great set that had the crowd screaming for more in typical Funkagenda fashion.
Funkagenda then handed the night over to Calvin Harris, who would close out the day in the Freedom tent. I guess a memo was sent out to every guy wearing bright colors and sleeveless shirts, because they all swarmed to the tent to witness the bro-step, poppy music of Calvin Harris. We left Calvin Harris early, mainly because all of his music is overplayed on Wired 96.5 and Q102, but also because MIIKE SNOW was due to perform at 7:45 on the main stage.
MIIKE SNOW’s performance was reminiscent of the a Justice show; they both involve a heavily orchestrated, futuristic light show that stems from a robotic looking stage.
Andrew Wyatt ran all around stage, singing into a mic and occasionally sitting down at a piano to play along with his vocals. Up until this point the performance of the night had to go to MIIKE SNOW…but the night was not over yet.
We left MIIKE SNOW a tad early, so that we could get a good angle for Skrillex, who was on at 8:30, closing out the Liberty Stage. While we didn’t witness a single fight all day, the crowd for Skrillex was not exactly loving in nature. A mixture of the younger, EDM focused, dub-step crazed kids mixed with the older, “I’ve always wanted to see what Skrillex is like” folks and clashed for seats. Some fans in the crowd were not exactly friendly, choosing to mosh and push each other (like typical Skrillex fans do when he plays), but this was met with confusion by the “OMG is that the sound of dial up internet?” patrons. Aside from the crowd, Skrillex was great, playing in a futuristic spaceship that raised roughly 25 feet off the ground and shot out lasers beams. Everyone went bonkers when he dropped a remix of “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”.
After Skrillex, the entire crowd flocked to the Rocky stage to see the performance that EVERYONE was talking about, Jay Z. Would he bring out Beyonce? Would he bring out Kanye? Will he play Public Service announcement? Answers would soon be forthcoming.
With the stage lights turned off, Jay-Z marched onto stage in dramatic fashion. Starting at the top of the art museum steps, HOVA walked straight down the steps and straight onto stage, grabbing the MIC, and screaming “Allow me to reintroduce myself, my name is….”. After playing Public Service announcement, Jay greeted the City of Philadelphia, but that’s wasn’t all, a message from President Obama was played, explaining the importance of getting out to vote. Obama also explained that Jay Z is a perfect example of a rags to riches story, and that in America, it’s possible for anyone to achieve the American Dream that Jay epitomizes. After Obama’s speech wrapped up, it was back to Jay Z. Jay played classic after classic, including HOVA, Bonnie and Clyde, Big Pimpin, and Jigga What.
While Jay Z performed Bonnie and Clyde, the camera focused on Beyonce, which was met with a roar of applause. Beyonce was indeed in Philly, but she did not perform. Jay continued to perform classics, and artists such as Memphis Bleek, and Chris & Neff came out to help out with more songs. Jay-Z then asked the crowd what percent they were at, 60%?, 70? 80?… this was a lead in to his hit song, 99 problems.
Then, one of the biggest questions of the night was answered: What about Kanye?
Jay would leave the stage, and the audience, left guessing at what was coming next, soon found out. Kanye West emerged from the shadows and performed “Cant Tell Me Nothing”. After Kanye, Pusha T, Big Sean, and other members of Kanye’s “GOOD Music” label emerged from stage, even Common came out to perform.
The night was in no short supply of swagger. If Jay Z hadn’t supplied enough on his own, Kanye, Common, Big Sean, and the others certainly helped. To end the night, Jay Z and Kanye performed “Ni**as in Paris”. Cue the fireworks, cue the stage fading to dark, and cue the end of a great night in Philadelphia history.
Day 1 proved many things but mostly that the parkway is a viable option for a (ticketed) concert venue. If there was one complaint we had, it would have to be the placement of the Rocky stage. Everyone was wondering how the setup would occur, how will they keep people without tickets out, noise level, etc. While it was widely assumed that a main stage would be near, in front of, or incorporated with the art museum, the way it actually was done was a letdown. The art museum is one of the most beautiful buildings in the City – you can see the steps all the way from City Hall. Modeled after the Champs-Elysee in Paris, the art museum is meant to be seen from far away on the parkway. But what did the festival do? They erected a stage so massive that you couldn’t even see the museum! Making the museum steps a center piece, would have been a nice touch, because while the mammoth main stage was a technical wonder, no stage in the world is more beautiful than the Philadelphia art museum steps.
What would Day 2 of Budweiser’s Made in America festival hold?
[Day 1 photo credits: Steve Garfinkel Photography Be sure to “like” his page on Facebook!]
You can view a full photo gallery of Budweiser Made in America Festival (Day 1) below (click thumbnails to enlarge):