Words by Al Mannarino, Pictures by Jesse Murch
Back in 2012, Budweiser and Jay-Z joined forces and announced the Made in America Music Festival. HOV’s goal was to create an amazing Labor Day weekend festival that combined all genres of music and have it all go down in one of the nations most beloved cities, Philadelphia. It’s inaugural year contained an amazing lineup that included Passion Pit, Skrillex, Run-DMC, and even Pearl Jam. I was about to enter my senior year of college, and I thought what better way to end my last summer as a student then by attending this once in a lifetime event. Then I found out my friend was getting married that weekend. Needless to say I had to celebrate my friends joyous occasion and miss Made In America.
The following year I happened to start working at a new job right around the time of the second year of the festival. Again I was unable to attend the fest and missed another incredible lineup that included Beyoncé and Nine Inch Nails. It wasn’t until this year that I was finally able to drive over the Ben Franklin Bridge and experience Made in America. Of course there was another wedding that weekend and I was only able to make it on Sunday, missing Kanye West headline Saturday in the process. With four hours of sleep and about 40 oz of caffeine under my belt I was ready to end the summer with a nonstop day of music.
Made in America was a massive fest that contained four stages sprawled out over the entirety of Ben Franklin Park. I made my way over to the Skate Stage to get as close as possible to MisterWives. I had been obsessing over this band for months and was finally going to see them live for the first time. The Skate Stage had a decent sized skate park located directly in front of the stage. I was surprised at the amount of skaters doing tricks throughout the morning because of how hot it was. The Skate Stage was the smallest stage at Made in America and contained no shade whatsoever. The decent size crowd was baking in the hot sun waiting for Misterwives to begin their set. When they finally took the stage the heat did not seem to phase the crowd any longer. They were now being swept away by energetic lead singer Mandy Lee. The five piece band includes a trumpet and saxophone player, which helps set themselves apart from every other female led alternative act. They played the entirety of their Reflections EP as well as a new song from their debut album set for release next year. Misterwives played a fantastic set that was not only a great way to start Sunday, but also one of the highlights of the day.
The entire crowd left the Skate Stage and started making there way to the Rocky Stage to see fun. guitarist and New Jersey native, Jack Antonoff and his latest project Bleachers. I was able to see them at The Governors Ball in June, but after the release of their debut album I was even more excited to see them play again, this time with a bigger crowd and longer set. Playing a majority of the album including the break out hit, “I Wanna Get Better,” and latest single “Rollercoaster,” Antonoff shower off his years of musical experience by getting the crowd involved and having them sing along. The only thing that could have made his set even better would have been if he brought Grimes on stage. She is featured on the song “Take Me Away” and was also performing on another stage later in the day. The exclusion of Grimes didn’t take anything away from Bleachers and their solid set.
Another great part of the festival was how much extra things were added to entertain the attendants. A few radio stations were there playing games for prizes and there were a ton of food options including Philly favorite, Chickie’s and Pete’s. They also set up water refill and misting stations around the festival for people to stay cool and hydrated.
I was able to catch the end of Kongos set at the Liberty Stage. The band is currently experiencing chart topping success with their hit song “Come With Me Now.” They impressed the crowd with other songs from their debut album, Lunatic. After Kongos, I traveled back to the Skate Stage to see Bear Hands for the first time. I recently interviewed the band and was eager to them play live. They took the stage at the assigned time, but it took them awhile to go through sound check. The crowd didn’t give them a hard time, in fact they behaved very well and waited patiently for the band to get ready. Once they were they got right in the swing of things playing a variety of songs from their latest album Distraction. I left their set early to get close to Grimes back at the Liberty stage.
Grimes is a Canadian electronic artist who has gathered a huge following since her debut in 2010. I was excited to see her for the first time until the music began to play. Now I’m a big fan of electronic music, especially when it includes female vocals, but the bass was too overwhelming. Each song that was played the bass would increase and at one point I thought my ears were going to start bleeding. I’m sure Grimes is a very talented musician and I was able to see she had great stage presence, but when you see people holding their ears and screaming “enough with the bass!” that is usually a sign to stop singing and fix the music.
I left Grimes to get closer to the band I was most eager to see on Sunday, Spoon. I figured since a lot of people were going to watch Tiesto later in the day, I would just watch the final three acts playing at the Rocky Stage. Spoon began their set with one of their new songs, “Rent I Pay” then went into one of their hits, “Don’t You Evah.” Then all of a sudden lead singer, Britt Daniel, announces that they are making them get off the stage because of the oncoming storm that was headed straight for the festival. The crowd began chanting “rain or shine!” They told us to exit the park and keep our tickets so we could renter when the storm passed. A majority of the crowd left the park and tried to find a place close by to keep them dry and away from the storm. The storm would pass after forty five minutes and then they allowed us back in. I went back to the Rocky stage to get ready for Pharrell, thinking that Spoon’s set had now been cut. Fortunately they came back on stage a finished their excellent set during another downpour. They played songs from almost all of their album performing a wide range of hits and tracks from their new album, They Want My Soul. Overall Spoon was without a doubt my favorite act of the festival thus far.
There was a big break between music after Spoon. Between these breaks they would broadcast the performances from either another stage or the show in Los Angeles. Pharrell came on stage about an hour later and performed pretty much every song he has ever been featured in. From “Frontin” to “Get Lucky,” Pharrell played through the majority of his catalog including songs from his days as N.E.R.D. and his latest album, Girl. After missing out on Kanye the night before, I was glad I was able to see Pharrell and his enormous hat rock Philadelphia.
While a good portion of the festival was watching Tiesto close out his show, the rest of us were waiting patiently for Kings of Leon to start their headlining set. A few weeks ago, drummer Jarred Followill injured his ribs and the band was forced to cancel some shows of their Mechanical Bull tour. This was going to be the first time the band played in front of a crowd in over a month. They received a huge ovation from the crowd when they walked on stage. The began their set with “Supersoaker” and played songs from most of their albums including “Notion,” “Radioactive,” and “Pyro.” The closed with “Use Somebody,” and came back on stage for a three song encore that ended with the song that put them on the map, “Sex On Fire.” They were the perfect way to close out the last day of Made In America and more importantly the last day of summer.