Concert Reviews

J Cole, Sampha, Kaskade, Marian Hill, & more at Made In America – Day 1

Photos by Katrina Lat

It rained, it poured, but there were no old men, and a significant lack of snoring. Somehow downtown Philly managed to turn itself into a mud pit with a plethora of angry young teenagers. In the midst of this morass of anarchism a Philladelphia notably absent of sun we found ourselves attending personaly curated festival of Jay-Z: Made In America. Despite the weather’s best efforts we carried out our due diligence finding our way to the smallest stage of the venue, The Skate Stage. First up was a group called Flor. Taking the skate stage at 2:00pm they began their set with gusto. Presenting a light poppy set with plenty of energy that one is to expect from such a youthful group. However as the set wore on their monotonous pop-punk style failed to grow on me, becoming rather bland. Despite this their energy and dedication do them in good stead and hopefully they will continue to flourish and grow as musicians.

After taking in the equivalent of a tall glass of We The Kings Light we made our way over to the Tidal stage at 2:45pm to see Ari Lennox. Ari Lennox is an endless fountain of singing talent backed by a very skilled DJ. However drawing attention from the quality performance was the complete and utter lack of balance between the voice and the electric contributions. Slogging through the rainy afternoon and dodging drunken teenagers like boxers weaving punches we made our way to the Rocky stage for Marian Hill who absolutely killed it. The crowd was the youngest group overall demographic I had seen yet. In contrast to the youth in front of the stage Marian Hill presented a mature and powerful performance. Her voice soared perfectly over the sodden mass of people as if it we’re the silver lining to our rain clouds. The coordination between the singer and her musicians whilst not flawless was on the whole well done. It was a most enjoyable performance, despite the persistent rain and the occasional sax solos reminiscent of large cats mating loudly in a back alley.

Following the Marian Hill experience we took a gander towards the Sampha performance before quickly becoming bored, the excessive use of pre-recorded vocals despite the multiple people on stage for unfathomable reasons and the content-less subject of said work grew asinine. So we fled to the other end of the M.I.A. campus, making our way back to the Tidal stage taking in Smino.   The first real rapper we had the chance to experience who’s vocal creations had both a hard hitting passion and a cuttingly powerful quality that both entertained and energized the crowd.

Moving offside to the Skate stage we found ourselves a group called Sandy. Sandy’s performance left much to be desired despite their energy their front man was neither brilliant nor convincing. The most standout musician of their group being their bassist who was both talented and charismatic. Needing a break from the torrential downpour and excessive social aggression we foraged through the mud and rain and took a break to enjoy some of the more urban aspects of a downtown American city.

At 7:45 we returned to the erstwhile disappointing Skate stage to take in the rapper known as Ugly God.   The quality of the name was misleading in relation to the quality of the musician. The performance was most disappointing. Mr. Ugly God seemed confused at best, rapping along to tracks that seemed not to be his own and attempting to rap along to verses that seamed to be written for others, perhaps of greater talent. The pour balance was of no aid to this and the artist seemed caught between being a hype man and a musician and unable to tell the difference or walk the line.

The evening took a turn for the better though, following the ugly God performance we found ourselves being musicly enervated by Solange. She took the Rocky stage like a champion boxer, showing; gusto, talent and energy. Backed by a group with both impressive choreography and powerful lyrics. It was a relief to enjoy such a powerful performance despite the weather’s best efforts. Following Solange we made our way to the Freedom stage for Cash Cash, who’s heavy beats both enthralled and re-enervated the flagging audience.

The Second last act for the evening was Kaskade, who not only performed to expectations but also exceeded them. He began his set with a slow build gently caressing our ears with his more melodic ideas, entrancing the audience. His melodies effortlessly weaved a complex pattern through our minds and each other. As the set progressed the power of the bass thrummed through the night, the pounding rain lashing the stage, whipping the audience as Kaskade’s music lashed us into a trans like frenzy. Manipulating the crowd with master efficiency he left the stage to cheers, and screams of adulation.

Following Kaskade we crawled and scrabbled our way through the morass of mud and people towards the rocky stage exhausted but enervated for the final performance of the night. Gone from the stage were the normal accouterments, the dj booths, the drum sets and the synths. All that could be seen was a façade of bars, as one would find in a county jail. With a thunderous crash the door opens and Jay Cole strides out plants both feet onstage and launches into a blistering set. The bone rattling bass shaking the audience to their cores over top of which Jay Cole raps lyrically spitting some of his current and greatest hits to both the delight and enchantment of the audience. And so ended the first night of Made In America.