Coldplay, Lil’ Wayne and Much More @ Made in America on the Parkway.
For the 5th year in a row, Jay-Z brought the Made in America Festival to Philly and the Parkway this past weekend. Festival line-ups can vary widely as artists traipse back and forth across the country during summer months to take the stages alongside dozens of other artists on the event bill. The lineup this year in Philly included Jay Electronica (pictured above), DJ Khaled, FKA Twigs, Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Jamie xx, Grimes, Chance the Rapper, Madeon, Desiigner, Gary Clark, Jr., A$AP Ferg, Bibi Bourelly, Lil Yachty, Bryson Tiller, Sza and Levi Carter with Rihanna and Coldplay each headlining on one night of the two-day music fest during Labor Day weekend.
The skies cleared up just in time for the gates to open for the first day of the Made In America festival. Thousands came out to see their favorite acts—Rihanna, Lil Wayne, Jamie XX, and more—across five stages spread along the Ben Franklin Parkway.
Things got rolling early with Philadelphia’s own Lil Uzi Vert. Fans sprinted across the Parkway toward Rocky, the main stage, a full half hour before the rapper was scheduled to perform. Uzi Vert then rewarded the crowd’s enthusiasm by showing up a half hour late. The North Philly native appeared genuinely happy at the massive turnout, smiling through the set and hopping down to greet his fans at the barricade. During his hit song “Money Longer,” Uzi Vert ran off stage, around the perimeter of the crowd and out of view of the cameras. After several minutes of an empty stage, he then appeared on top of the camera platform behind the crowd for the final chorus. After the final song, his mic was unceremoniously cut before he was able to say goodbye and the confused crowd slowly filtered out.
While most come to the festival for the big names, the smaller stages did fill the afternoon up with fantastic acts worthy of attention. Punk rockers Cherry Glazerr thrilled a small crowd at the Skate Stage, ripping through a noisy, grunge-filled set while a cadre of skateboarders took to the side stage ramp.
Will Toledo, frontman of Car Seat Headrest (a favorite of XPN’s), told an enthusiastic crowd of their assigned stage, “The Tidal Stage is the best stage, IMO.” Drummer Andrew Katz thanked the sizable crowd for giving lesser known bands like theirs a chance at the big festival.
Later, R&B rising star Gallant wowed a crowd at the Skate Stage. The singer, whose impossible falsetto is just as crisp live as it is in the studio, commanded the stage with wild dance moves and a well-timed kick to the mic stand, sending it flying across the stage. When he moved to his ultra-smooth number, “Skipping Stones,” he told the crowd, “This next one is sadder. I’m going to need to calm down.” Even the skaters stopped to sit and watch the captivating performance.
Though their names weren’t at the top of the bill, you wouldn’t know it looking at the crowd for the joint set of rappers Lil Wayne and 2Chainz. The duo was billed as their two-piece act, Collegrove, but with only two cuts played off their eponymous collaborative album (one of which doesn’t even feature Lil Wayne), the performance was more of a tradeoff between each rapper’s own cuts with the other playing hypeman.
Though 2Chainz commands his own considerable following, getting the crowd hype with hits like “Birthday Song” and “I’m Different,” it was Lil Wayne the crowd wanted to see. Wayne’s had a rough career as of late–he’s been embroiled in a protracted dispute with his label Cash Money Records, and the morning of the festival even let fly with a tweet that suggested he might be retiring from music altogether—but his legendary status hasn’t been forgotten. He dipped back in to classics like “A Milli,” “Duffel Bag,” and “Mrs. Officer.” It was almost like group karaoke, the crowd rapping along word-for-word. At one point, a beaming Lil Wayne said, “I have to say this before the beat hits. Y’all turnt as fuck!”
As the night came to its final act, some left the main stage to warm up with Jaime XX, or dance at the EDM-centric Freedom Stage to Montreal-based duo Adventure Club. Most stayed to get a good spot for Rihanna.
As the opening chords for “Stay” rang out across the crowd, a giant mirror dropped to the stage as fans strained their necks to see where RiRi might appear. Then her voice came from a raised stage behind the crowd and she stood lit by a spotlight in a baggy hooded robe.
After a few numbers, Rihanna stepped out onto a small plexiglass walkway suspended by cables above the middle of the crowd. As it slowly transported her across the crowd toward the stage, lowering her closer to her fans, she danced and sang her way back and forth across her precarious catwalk.
Once on stage, she thanked the ecstatic crowd for having her at the festival. “This is my first time at Made In America,” she said, remarking that she had never seen a crowd of the same size at her shows before.
Rihanna played classics like “Umbrella” as well as popular cuts off her recent album Anti like hits “Work” and “Needed Me.” Part of the performance was dedicated to a medley of her featured hooks on songs like “All of the Lights” or “Run this Town,” plus her more EDM-flavored hits like Calvin Harris collaboration “We Found Love.”
Fans of any era of Rihanna were not disappointed in the wide-ranging set, which closed on a few softer songs and a heartfelt thank-you from the beloved singer.
Made in America’s second day was star-studded both on-stage and off, if you knew the right places to look. Stages were filled from early in the afternoon to the late evening with heavy-hitters like Travi$ Scott, Chance the Rapper and headliners Coldplay.
Bill Clinton was also spotted wandering around the festival grounds, apparently supporting the campaign to get people registered to vote (for Hillary). Several artists also gave thanks to festival curators and celebrity uber-couple Jay-Z and Beyonce, who were present but far out of sight from prying eyes.
The afternoon got off to a predictably rocky start, with folks waiting for an hour or more outside the festival in lines that barely moved.
Once inside, fans were treated to a jam-packed afternoon. Gary Clark Jr. took the Liberty Stage at 3:30. The guitar virtuoso took fans on a ride through cuts off his recent album The Story of Sonny Boy Slim and first effort Blak And Blu. The singer/songwriter expanded many tunes into adventurous long-form jams, especially the bluesy “When My Train Pulls In,” which had the crowd howling for more.
In contrast to most of the afternoon, the Skate Stage featured acts like the oft tongue-in-cheek emo-punk of Kevin Devine and the Damn Band, who between songs joked and bantered directly with fans in the crowd. Before starting his last few songs, Devine quipped, “Be sure to check out Coldplay later. We’ll be doing stuff with them.”
Soon after, the area around the Liberty Stage was choked with fans of Travi$ Scott (above), the Texas-born rapper and producer known for his punk-rock antics. The stage was decked out with Terminator-style set pieces, and Scott wasted no time getting the crowd off their feet with complex, bombastic music that is almost tailor-made for stadiums. A rowdy Scott kicked the festival cameramen off the stage saying, “The crowd is the only cameras we need.” Toward the end of his set, Scott pushed through the crowd to climb a tree and rap verses from hits “3500” and “Antidote” and nearly brought the tree down with him.
Around the same time, crowds for the up-and-comer Lil Yachty barely fit in the area around the Tidal Stage where he performed. The rapper, who brought a number of his friends on stage to play hypeman, demanded “at least five moshpits” and ended up with ten from his enthusiastic crowd.
Whispering R&B singer FKA Twigs dominated the Liberty Stage with a beautifully choreographed performance of music and interpretive dance, with a live band playing the glitchy, heavily electronic music behind her haunting voice. Rapper Desiigner, who had a massive moment with his hit “Panda,” took the Tidal Stage in the afternoon as well.
The most unique concert experience had to be Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros. The lead singer, Alex Elbert, spent the majority of his set jumping into the crowd bringing the excitement right to the people. Shaking hands and sharing hugs all the way through. Elbert shared the stage with fans bringing two young ladies who held a sign asking to play a tambourine with the band. The highlight of crowd participation had to be the anonymous freestyle rapper who put on quite a show. The band showed no star syndrome whatsoever, performing for the crowd and not themselves.
The night kicked into high gear with Chance the Rapper. The young Chicago rapper, who came from nowhere in 2013 with his hugely popular Acid Rap mixtape and released follow-up Coloring Book this year, gave fans a taste of both old and new. With members of his band, The Social Experiment, backing him up on a colorfully lit stage, Chance moved the crowd with bouncy cuts like “Pusha Man,” “Favorite Song,” and “Smoke Again.”
Chance paused to give the fans a heartfelt thank you and also sing happy birthday to Beyonce, before taking the crowd to church in the second half with Coloring Book cuts like “Blessings” and “All We Got.” Lil Yachty even got to move up to the main stage and join Chance for “Mixtape.”
After Chance, the stage was covered in flowers in preparation for the evening’s headliners, Coldplay.
The hour-and-a-half set was full of sweeping, crowd-pleasing numbers from the band’s deep discography. Fans swayed to old ballads “The Scientist” and “Clocks,” jumped up and down for “Viva La Vida,” then moved their hips to newer hits like “Adventure of a Lifetime.”
A magnificent light show accompanied the performance, including wrist-lights given to everyone who entered the gate that morning. Throughout the set, and at it’s culmination, fireworks soared over the parkway, signaling the end of this year’s festival.
The festival itself was just as much of a mess as years previous, but the strength of the lineup made it hard to miss.
Something about Made In America seems to attract only the drunkest of teenagers, fresh off the train from the suburbs and ready to vomit in the bushes through their red, white and blue kerchiefs. Maybe it’s the all-ages festival saturated with beer advertisements? This time, the EMT buggies got busy carting off passed-out underage patrons to the medical tent before 2:30 had even rolled around on the first day.
The good news is, for those actually of age looking to ease their headache with a drink, the festival is sponsored by Budweiser, so all of the beer was served at a discount.
It still cost $9.50 for a Bud Light pounder.
If you could stand the litter, the constantly bottlenecking foot traffic, steep ticket prices and the obnoxious crowds, you probably had a hell of a time.