Philadelphia’s mojo, The City of Brotherly Love, is a term that often gets thrown around in mockery today. As the catchphrase of the city, it’s looked at as something ironic more often than ever before. Is it something that’s been lost?
Despite what anyone might tell you, brotherly love is alive and well. If you’re looking for it, just go to Made In America festival.
Though it was cloudy walking through Philadelphia this past Labor Day weekend, you could feel that there was a fresh, new brand of energy in the air. As each block in the direction of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway became more populated, as the bass from the distance got louder and louder, the signature Philadelphia festival energy was back, and in full swing.
Though this is my third year attending Made In America festival, the energy made it feel as if it were the first time. There wasn’t much time between the moment I entered the festival and the moment the rain began, but it almost felt like it was just another part of the festival. After all, there’s nothing like watching Jay-Z and friends perform on the rocky steps in the middle of your city.
The festival took place in the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, with the main stages at the Eakins Oval just beneath the historic Philadelphia Museum of Art. The main stage, visible from pretty much the whole city and appropriately titled the Rocky Stage, was set just beneath those very steps made famous from the 1976 movie of the same name. Hosting Jay-Z, J. Cole, The Chainsmokers, Migos, Solange and more, the sets of this stage alternated with the Liberty stage, placed just across the street. This stage hosted a variety of acts, from Cardi B and 21 Savage to Run the Jewels, and closed each night with EDM headliners like Kaskade and Marshmello.
Though Kaskade and Marshmello are both seasoned performers, these specific sets had a sort of magic to them. As a crossover music festival with acts of all sorts in attendance, a large portion of the audience is inevitably going to experience something that they’re unfamiliar with. Of course, this was the case. Some people in the crowd were attending with a passion for electronic music, some were coming because they were pulled into it. Some were attending because they know all of the songs by each act, and some were coming because, well, why not?
With such a diverse crowd, there’s a magic in knowing that a considerable amount of people were hearing tracks as magical as Kaskade’s “Something Something Champs,” or Marshmello’s Bon Jovi mash-up for the first time.
Personally, as a purveyor of all things electronic music, I spent most of my time at the Freedom Stage. As one of the first stages passed when entering the festival, this was a haven for fans of house, trap, and general DJ-oriented music. Situated in an area of grass just next to the main street concourse, many joined the crowd out of pure curiosity.
On day one, Kap Slap’s mid-day set had accumulated a huge crowd, as visionary mash-ups drew people from all realms. London On Da Track played a crowd-pleasing set of straight fire next, despite happening in pouring rain. Dirty South and Migos were playing at the same time, so I tried to catch parts of each set. Migos’ performance started late, but once it started, oh it started. The crowd was absolutely perfect for Migos, as reflected in the through-the-roof energy. Going into Dirty South’s set, I was excited to hear the progressive euphoria of tracks like “Unbreakable,” “Rift,” or “Find A Way,” but instead found myself listening to a far more tame style of progressive house than I had expected. Maybe there was a different vibe in mind, maybe it was the rain, maybe I’m stuck in the past, but either way, none of the music that I expected to hear from Dirty South was played.
As the sun set, I had the chance to talk to Cash Cash (interview coming soon) before they headlined the Freedom Stage in a hugely-powerful way. Even though part of their set conflicted with Kaskade’s, the guys came through with a home-show performance that left fans in attendance with quite a beautiful memory. Kaskade’s set, not even being absurd, felt like a religious experience. Though a lot of the crowd, at least in the area I was in, was not familiar with Kaskade’s music, it was as if I could sense people falling in love with the juxtaposition of dreamy ambient sounds and huge EDM. In particular, it was quite a memorable sight to watch a man nearby shed a tear during the last few minutes, when a mash-up of Kaskade’s “Eyes” and Sebastian Ingrosso’s “Reload” concluded the set. As far as I can tell, it was a tear of beauty.
On day two, the sun finally came out, and thank god it did. Medasin started the day off right, vibing the crowd to some compellingly innovative sounds. We sat down just an hour after the set ended, and we talked about everything from production, Splice, UFOs, and more. Midway through, a special appearance from Getter took place, and the conversation which ensued was, well, very memorable to say the least. (Full interview coming soon)
Later in the day, The Chainsmokers played a sunset set at the Rocky Stage, and did quite the job in showing off all they have to offer. I really didn’t know what to expect going into this performance. Would this be a DJ set, or something more along the lines of a live band set? This question was answered with a performance of, well, both. The set was a balance between the two: Taggart sang/mixed on the CDJs/played guitar, Pall controlled a Porter Robinson-esque rig of MIDI controllers, and a third member played live drums. Playing both new and old music, it was so cool to see the duo switch from playing guitar and drums to blasting bass drops and pyrotechnics. Regardless of one’s taste for the Chainsmokers’ music, their performance exuded a sense of optimism for what the future of live performance can hold.
It’s Sunday night, and Marshmello just finished his set, which featured Khalid and blew away pretty much everyone in attendance. Next, the man, the myth, the legend himself – Jay Z – took to the main stage at 9:30 p.m. As the man behind the festival, the anticipation for this set was something of next-level hype. A mix between new and old, the legendary rapper and entrepreneur finished off the weekend in the best possible way. At one point, Jay-Z stopped the show to sing happy birthday to Beyoncé, who was sitting all the way across the crowd in the elevated VIP bleachers. Just a few minutes after the end of his set, as the festival was supposed to end, sounds started playing at the Liberty Stage. Philadelphia native Meek Mill began a surprise set, and Jay-Z joined him on stage. Unfortunately, I tried to beat the rush in leaving the festival and in doing so I missed this performance. I’ve been kicking myself ever since.
At music festivals like Made In America, there’s something to be said for just taking everything in. It’s easy to get caught up in the music, obviously, but great festivals have something extra to offer. Though this phrase gets thrown around a lot, it’s a sense of unity in the case of Made In America Festival. As the Ron Howard documentary about the music festival explains, this is pretty much the exact reason the festival was made in the first place. All types of music, and all types of people (mostly dressed in USA colors) come together at Made In America. Not only does this truly bring us together in the name of music, but it ultimately bolsters an authentic sense of American pride and patriotism that we so desperately need today.
At Made In America, you really feel like you’re a part of something. Even though at the end of the day it might just be a music festival smack-dab in the middle of Philly, there’s a kind of love in the air at Made In America that you don’t quite feel anywhere else.
If you’re looking for an example of what brotherly love means, Made In America is a great place to find it.
See all of our photos from Made In America 2017 here.