The Budweiser Made In America Festival benefiting The United Way rolled into Philadelphia for the second year over the Labor Day Weekend, bringing with it nearly 60,000 fans, 44 musical performances, a carnival atmosphere and lots of happy people. Although I thought last year’s festival was great and well organized, with only one reported incident, this year’s installment went one step further in really laying out a much better festival landscape. Everywhere you turned there were things to do and see.
When I first arrived at the festival, it was easy for me to run around to each of the sections to get a sense of what going on. That changed as the day went on, especially when it came to catching any act on the Freedom Stage (featuring electronic dance music) because as the crowds grew, it became difficult to navigate. It was easier at the other stages as the crowds would shift back and forth between stages when the acts changed. See Red Light below.
Below, Public Enemy‘s Chuck D, Flavor Fav and DJ Lord brought their brand of old-school hip-hop and political commentary with their usual flair for controversy, unfurling a banner that said “Free Mumia,” making references to Trayvon Martin and inviting laid-off school counselor Heather Marcus to the stage to ask the artists performing to donate money to the schools. At the end of the set, Flavor Flav brought out his grandson Eric, and Chuck D vowed to donate $10,000 to public schools in the area.
Emeli Sandé, below, the 26-year-old Scottish musician rocked a flattering cream and red polka dot jumpsuit with chucks, as she took to the Liberty Stage on Saturday. She has the most soothing voice, and had a great rapport with the audience. Remember her name, she’s going to be big.
I found artist Aaron Cichowski (below) in Bud Park where he was commissioned by the festival to create a guitar that represented Philadelphia. The guitar will go on display in the Anheuser-Busch museum in St. Louis, Mo., with other guitars painted from around the country. How did he get the job? He replied to an advertisement on Craigslist which asked “Can you paint in public with people looking on” with no mention of who it would be for or where. He sent his portfolio in and they liked what they saw.
Below, from left: Skype’s Johnny Hines interviews guitarist Christian Mazzalai and frontman Thomas Mars of French alt-rock outfit Phoenix. (There was no sign of Mars’ wife, Sofia Coppola). Phoenix performed at 8:30 with an hour-long set that included a stunning light show and some of the band’s most popular hits, ending with Mars crowd surfing.
Last year the Made in America Festival was fantastic, and this year it was even better. First and foremost, no problems were reported. I met many returning festival goers who told me this was their favorite festival,that everyone seemed to be chill and friendly. I met several people who traveled to Philly just to attend the festival, including a group from the Bahamas, two girls from Ireland and a guy from Paraguay. Plus there was so much to do and see. This year I noted three exciting attractions: One was Bud Park with its picnic tables and many charity organizations; there was a skate park and a stage with rotating entertainment; and then their was the Bud Swing, a popular ride which gave festival goers a bird’s-eye view of the festival as well as the Philadelphia skyline.
In the evening after watching the DeadMau5 set, Jay Z (below) walked through the crowd to his VIP seat in front of the stage for Beyonce‘s 10:30 p.m. show. The duo arrived on Friday and checked into the Four Season’s hotel. That afternoon, Jay Z went to Wegman’s on Route 70 with his old buddy, World Wide Wes, a sports power broker.
Below, Beyonce—Mrs. Carter to you—closed out the first day of her husband Jay Z’s music fest with an exciting 90-minute live show, singing 10 of her biggest hits, and changing outfits six times. The only disappointment: JayZ didn’t take the stage as anticipated, even during the tune “Crazy in Love” on which he duets. In fact, Jay Z didn’t take anyone’s stage, I guess preferring to be the man behind the scenes.
Wiz Khalifa (below) hit the Rocky Stage full force Sunday afternoon, wearing a black-and-white top from the fall/winter 2013 collection Kokon to Zai. Wiz played some of his biggest hits, “Work Hard, Play Hard,” “The Plan” and “Black & Yellow,” welcoming his old fans, and celebrating with his new fans.
Below, Wiz Khalifa serenades South Philly girl—now his wife—Amber Rose with “Roll Up.” The previous week, Amber was in town to attend a family reunion in her South Philly neighborhood while Wiz was in NYC laying tracks for a new song.
Sunday afternoon, Beyonce was in the audience and caught her sister Solange performing her hits on the Liberty Stage (below). More laid back and connected with her fans, Solange covered a lot of her latest hits, and sang a few older ones, but not my favorite one, “I Decided.” Later, the sisters were seen in the Iroquios VIP section munching on Shake Shack fries and burgers.
Miguel (below) set the afternoon on fire with a sultry set in his all-white outfit. Later in the evening, JayZ would take in Scottish DJ Calvin Harris’s show on the same stage, and shower the audience with $2 bills after each satisfying set. Harris recently made chart history by becoming the first artist to release nine top-10 singles from one album. (Harris’s girlfriend is Rita Ora who performed on the Liberty Stage at last year’s MIA Festival.)
Macklemore (below) wearing a vintage Mitchell & Ness John Kruk No. 19 Phillies jersey told the crowd that it was secondhand, before singing his breakout song, “Thrift Shop.” He later called Philadelphia one of his favorite cities in the world thanks to its culture, skyline and cheese steaks. He likes the ones from Ishkabibble on South Street. Magician David Blaine took in the show, and even did a few magic tricks for the fans while they were waiting for it to start.
I also ran into a few Philly celebs. Below: Top Chef contestant Jason Cichonski and Tara Kulesza. Top Chef season 11 will premiere Wed., Oct. 2, on Bravo. Word on the street is that Cichonski does fairly well on the show; although he wouldn’t confirm it, he does look like he’s dressing a bit more stylishly, doesn’t he?
Over in the VIP, tent I found (below, from left) Chris Konopka, goalie for the Philadelphia Union, Maria Papadakis, of Philly.com and Comcast SportsNet, and Amobi Okugo, a midfielder for the Union.
Below, from left: Derek Settlemyre, head equipment manager for the Flyers, Marisa Magnatta of WMMR’s Preston and Steve Show, rapper Ryan Banks and Bryan Hardenbergh, director of team services for the Flyers.
Closing out the festival Sunday night was Trent Reznor (below) and Nine Inch Nails who performed on the Rocky Stage. Note the “skirt” he is wearing, like the one Kanye West wore at the 12-12-12 Hurricane Sandy Benefit Concert and then caused such a brouhaha about when he tried to get all the photo outlets to take the images down. This time the clothes didn’t overshadow the performance of the artist, as NIN put on a fantastic set, showcasing some of their biggest songs to close out the two-day festival. I’m looking forward to next year’s Made in America Festival, as I heard someone saying backstage that Jay Z and company recently extended their contract for a total of five years.