Made in America 2013 Recap and Photos: Day One


After a long journey, culminating in circumnavigating the road closures and mental traffic logjams in downtown Philadelphia, I finally reached the endgame. I was back for a second dose of Jay-Z’s now annual Labor Day weekend festival, Made In America.

In its expected return to the festival scene, Made In America’s 2013 lineup featured an eclectic lineup of pop, rock, EDM, hip-hop and everything in between.


2:20PM – Haim

Having already having won over critics at Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza this has been a big year for the pale-skinned rocker sisters that make up Haim. They took to the Liberty stage, looking underwhelmed but quickly dispelled of that perception with a set that combined raw, 70’s-infused jamming with poppy hooks to captivate a surprisingly large early afternoon crowd.

The low tone pop crooning of singer/guitarist Danielle during “The Wire” had the girls screaming and the bros grooving.

“I took my sunglasses off. I didn’t want there to be glass between me and the babes,” shouted bassist Este, which gave way to a hair-flailing jam session intensified by her silly and suggestive facial expressions.

The sticky, humid air was already clinging to the skin. The first casualty of the heat passed out in front of me before 3PM.

They concluded their 30-minute set with a rhythmic drum session, each with their own tom-tom, which would have made the Blue Man Group proud.


3:30PM – A$AP Rocky

A$AP Rocky showed up at the Rocky Stage 25 minutes late, which resulted in a very abbreviated mid-day set. “Can I get an A$AP”, he screamed as the the swelling, sweating audience acquiesed.

He laid into “Nunchucks” with fervour, but the sound was a mess; the bass-heavy beats distorting and cracking. I departed as he Rapped over the Skrillex remix of Birdy Nam Nam’s “Goin’ In”. He acknowledged the time restraints by limiting stage banter, but ended up delivering a forgettable four-song set.

By midday, the tributaries of people flowing into the food-tent river at the centre of the grounds were nearly impassable. The pungent omni-present odour of burning swine was clinging to the air as I slowly meandered through the flow of increasing intoxicated patrons.


4:40PM – Public Enemy

Accompanied by their camo-panted cohorts, Public Enemy‘s Chuck D and Flavor Flav brought juxtaposing brand of low-fi 90’s energy rap to an audience already ravaged by the sun. The energy was palpable as the two took turns bouncing, posing and running to the far reaches of the main stage. Chuck D’s traditionally stoic stage persona was replaced by that of a playful hype man, on par with his partner of 30 years.

Much of Public Enemy’s show is silly fun. Between aggressively conveyed political rap tracks and statements about subjugation and suppression the audience is treated to Flav’s inane but benign ramblings about his reality television career, his talent show-esque slapping of the bass, and his fascination with letting everyone know how Twitter-savvy he and the guys are.

With that said, tracks like “Bring The Noise” and “Fight The Power” were as ravaging and amusing as ever.

After shouts of “stop building prisons and build some fucking schools,” they then introduced a Philadelphia based charity campaigner in support of local schools, and pledged $10,000 while encouraging festival royalty Jay-Z and Beyonce to donate as well.

The whole thing was predictably spastic and confusing. Very Public Enemy.

Made In America appears to have undergone a few changes. The hip collaborative psuedo-art projects that once lined the Southern gates have been replaced by flashy LED’s and a new EDM stage. There are more people and there is more advertising. Budweiser is everywhere. If the stumbling, confrontational drunks and growing influx of people arriving on stretchers or being physically subdued by security and police are an indicator…the advertising is working.

Made In America also brings out the red, white, and blue. Fans were donning their patriotic colors all over the grounds.


6:30PM – Cloud Nothings

The late addition of the Skatepark stage brought with it the surprise inclusion of Cleveland-based noise-rockers Cloud Nothings.

Their dusk set, which closed out the main stage, was a perplexing fit to a festival devoid of the kind of challenging and occasionally dissonant sounds of whichever rock sub-genre singer/guitarist Dylan Baldi and his band belong to.

Their fans, of which there were few, were at times creating an incensed ruckus in the small crowd of onlookers which comprised mostly of passers by and people waiting in the unfathomable lengthy food tent lines.

Baldi, looking uninterested and at times forlorn, led the group through the catchy riffage of “Fall In”, his strained screaming at times enthralling and at other times piercing. The Skatepark stage backed on to a six-foot ramp with boarders occasionally cheering on the band between runs.

Before commencing on their closing track, Baldi broke the B-string of his Gibson SG. The band then ripped into their nine-minute epic, “Wasted Days”, a song which intentionally breaks down to a state of near formless music lacking time structure and co-ordination. The missing string would go-on to cause problems during the solos that followed. 


8:20PM – Phoenix

The French quintet who found themselves propped up to the level of headliners at both Coachella and Lollapalooza this year, were sent back (fittingly perhaps), to the sub-headliner position at Made In America.

They commenced with the splendid, synth-infused sounds of “Entertainment” off of their latest offering, Bankrupt!.

“We are Phoenix, from Paris, France” lead singer Thomas Mars shouted. “Are you with us or what?”

This gave way to the dance-pop musings of “Trying To Be Cool”. The main-stage fans, many of whom had waited all day through the draining and relentless heat for Beyonce, appeared to be simultaneously exhausted and excited.

Mars then laid down on the stage, foreshadowing the introduction of their riveting instrumental track “Love Like A Sunset Part 1”, a song crushingly augmented by a guitar riff mixed much louder than it was on record.

Then it was time for “1901”. Mars stood on the front-row barriers propped up by security as cameras and phones popped out of every orifice of the embracing audience. He then took to the sea of fans, singing as he swam across their heads until he popped up at the soundboard rafters and made his way back.

It was time to run.


9:20PM – Deadmau5

The Liberty stage was packed when the Canadian EDM pioneer popped his giant mouse ears above the stealth bomber shaped LED riser. Bass was dropped. MacBook space bars were pushed.

But seriously, the fans were electric; not a one standing still.

He started into “You There” sampling Daft Punk as two robot propelled mouse heads swerved and contorted, as if alive. The stealth bomber began to display cartoon images of far away cities and pac-man ghosts.

Jay-Z looked on, seating himself on a road case beside the front row as a cigarette smoking, and now human-headed Deadmau5 dropped “Ghosts N’ Stuff”. Not an ass remained unshook.


10:30 – Beyonce

The swell peaked at the Rocky Stage pre-Beyonce, making it all but impossible to even catch a glimpse. Her choreographed jolting thrusts and near flawless vocals were evidence of an obsessive cardio regiment.

“Right now, y’all are watching the Mrs. Carter show”, she informed.

Fan or not, one can appreciate the talent on spectacle when Beyonce takes the stage. “Naughty Girl” was sultry. An acoustic rendering of “Irreplaceable” had the booties shakin’. She put that vocal prowess on display during the climbing high screeches of “Love On Top”.

It was what it was. A brilliant Beyonce set…if you are in to that sort of thing. The guy I walked by standing next to his ecstatic girlfriend (assuming) with a disinterested facial expression and headphones inserted kind of represented my opinion on the performance.

I stuck it out for nearly an hour, and then called it a night. Bring on Day 2!


All photos by Rory Biller