By: Pete Troshak
Made In America rocks Philly for a second year in row.
Budweiser’s Made In America Festival returned to Philadelphia for it’s second year. The two day festival which was organized by Jay-Z is held on Labor Day weekend on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, an area that features the iconic Philadelphia Art Museum and the Rocky Statue. Last year’s show featured performances by Skrillex, Jay-Z, Pearl Jam, a reunited Run-DMC and a set each day from explosive blues guitarist Gary Clark Jr. In this reviewer’s eyes it was the most efficiently run and safe festival I have experienced in twenty plus years of shows. The only problem both years was long lines to get food far away from the stages, you would have to give up well over an hour of your time to get anything to eat and sacrifice seeing some great performances or go without food. (yo Jay-Z, fix this please! :P)This year the festival featured two main stages, a tree filled grove where EDM events were held and a small stage with a skateboard park next to it. The lineup was just as stacked this year, highlighted by a Saturday show closing performance by Beyonce and a Sunday festival closing performance by Trent Reznor’s resurrected Nine Inch Nails.
Sister group Haim proved they were worthy of all the hype surrounding them with an impressive set of their 80’s influenced percussive rock early on day one. Their first album drops September 30th and might end up being on a lot of best of lists by the end of the year, check out their song “The Wire.”
Emeli Sande delivered her emotional R & B including a beautiful “Heaven” and the hit “Next To Me.”
Public Enemy delivered a powerful, politically charged set backed by a tight rock band. Flava Flav and Chuck D. announced that they were donating their pay for the show to the financially struggling School District of Philadelphia and encouraged other artists on the bill to do the same.
Imagine Dragons played a set of their hits from their debut album, the highlight being a throbbing, crowd moving set-closing “Radioactive.” French popsters Phoenix delivered a tight, crowd pleasing set of their hits as night fell on day one. New songs like “Entertainment” fit well into their set alongside such classics as “1901” and “Lisztomania,” and their set ended as it generally does with singer Thomas Mars taking a trip deep into the crowd.
Wearing his usual giant Mouse head, DJ Deadmau5 spun an impressive web of bass heavy dance music from the top of an upside down psychedelic-ly lit pyramid. Jay-Z’s queen current queen of pop Beyonce wowed the crowd and closed out day one with a high energy glamorous performance featuring multiple costume changes, a breathtaking performance of “Halo” and a “Crazy In Love” with enough energy to light up the whole city.
Slick retro soulsters FItz and the Tantrums opened day two, getting the crowd moving and grooving under the hot summer sun.
Wavves followed them, opening up the second stage with a blast of their sharp, summery Punk pop.
Jersey rockers and Springsteen disciples Gaslight Anthem drew a large crowd to the main stage and played a long set of their blue collar anthems featuring powerful versions of “Handwritten” and “American Slang.”
Beyonce’s sister Solange performed an impressive set of her dark retro pop, highlighted by “Losing You” and “Lovers in The Parking Lot.” Contrasting sets by two rappers energized the afternoon crowd.
Macklemore (dressed in an old school maroon Philadelphia Phillies Jersey) and partner Ryan Lewis delivered a frantic, electrifying performance that drew the largest crowd of the festival, featuring a moving “Same Love” and a “Can’t Hold Us” that might’ve received the loudest cheers of the whole weekend. As night moved in on day two, international superstar DJ Calvin Harris spun a body rocking set from the top of a huge video wall as an amazing purple, green, blue and white light show swirled around him.
The most awaited for performance was that of electronic industrial rock legends Nine Inch Nails. Leader Trent Reznor announced that the group was over in 2009 and moved onto other projects like How To Destroy Angels and making award winning film scores for The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Earlier this year while working on a couple of songs for a proposed greatest hits package, Reznor decided that it was time to bring Nine Inch Nails back to life with a well received new album and world tour. Reznor arrived alone on the sparsely decorated stage at Made In America, and kicked things off with the stuttering beats of new song “Copy of A” on a small synth at center stage. As the song built he was joined one at a time by the other four members of his band. They followed the new song with a loud, echo-drenched “Sanctified” then another new song, the impressive, classic sounding “Came Back Haunted.” Behind them four walls rotated, moved in and out and changed appearance throughout their set. They shifted from industrial looking grids to LED screens to video screens.The band delivered the highlight of the weekend with a thundering white and blue light soaked “Wish” that rocked the foundations of the three hundred thirty year old city. Other highlights included the bass bombing “Only” and Pretty Hate Machine’s anthemic “Head Like A Hole.” Reznor closed with a slow meditative “Hurt,” after which the crowd filed out past a man with a megaphone ranting about the wages of sin and the path to redemption, not realizing the crowd had just learned everything they needed to know about those subjects after spending an hour and a half with Nine Inch Nails.