Photos by Katrina Lat
On the second day of Made in America Festival, we decided to wait out the savage weather and make our way over to the festival a little later, first taking in some of the neighborhoods of Philadelphia, the most notable being Fish-town, a delightful little area that is in essence a combination of the Annex, Kensington and Cabbage town with it’s own special flavor. As the day wore on we gradually meandered our way into the festival for day two.
The first artist we witnessed was 21 Savage on the Liberty stage. Well that’s not entirely true; the first thing we witnessed was ten minutes of 21 Savage’s hype man who was, arguably more interesting than the main act itself. However once he called the artist to the stage he took up his secondary post as Dj and with a heavy drop we were off. Being orally assaulted by a combination of extremely hard lyrics alluding to the Artist’s personal success and very bassy beats. The most interesting portion of the performance was the give and go between the Dj and the artist, they seamed very comfortable on stage. However the main artist’s in and out style of allowing the crowd to sing and chant the lyrics seamed less effective than perhaps desired given either the size of the audience or the overall unfamiliarity of said audience with his lyrics. That and his dedication of his entire body of work to his own success and party lifestyle wore thin after a while, a very short while.
We breezed through the Green Velvet set being buffeted by wayward bass lines and blinded by a spectacular laser show on our way to Jorja Smith at the Tidal stage. She entered like a lion, however she exited like a lamb. Much of the devices she used to great success such as synth dominant lines and powerhouse vocals became monotonous by the time her set concluded given the absolute lack of variation from track to track.
Up Next, Run The Jewels, and run the stage the strains of a solid remix of Queen began to bleed through the speakers on the Liberty stage before Killer Mike and El-P took the stage by storm. A blistering attack of synchronized speed rap and heavy beats berated our senses and ripped us into their own world of rap and roll. Playing off of each other and riding the wave of fans they blasted us with a refreshingly original and aggressive set.
Maleek Berry was interesting. I especially enjoyed one of the back up characters who’s entire purpose was to stand and scream “what? What!” However as the set wore on, he grew on me, his easygoing, rasta-esque style mixed with real pipes eventually drew my affection. The last performer before the big acts we R3HAB. R3HAB gave a pretty classic Dj performance; heavy beats with a big drop. However his energy was infectious and his limiting his use of the pyrotechnics available to him to just the right moment poignantly illustrated his ability to build a quality set.
The Chainsmokers lit up the Rocky stage with gusto and enthusiasm. Throwing back to their earlier roots with heavy beats and some serious trap beat moments before bleeding into Roses, accentuated with fireworks and extended musical intro. As an additive they seemed to have a drummer early in the set, not entirely sure why. Approximately halfway through their set the stage goes dark and what begins as an awkward silence turns into the main front man addressing the crowd before launching into Honest, presenting it as an acoustic guitar, a Dj and a singer (oddly effective if artificial combo). Suddenly the theme song to Rocky can be heard bleeding through the speakers, which effectively segued into closer and closed off their tumultuous set with Do Not Let Me Down finishing with a bang, literally.
Second last act of the festival, Marshmallow took to the stage with fire, flames and bass. Working as his own hype man he whipped the crowd into a frenzy with a series of chants and shouts that he managed to work into the musical experience before sliding into what sounded like some sort of “underwater effect” without actually dropping the volume. Later I the set he sampled a number of both current and past hits including Albatross, Congratulations, One More Time, Every time We Touch and Hello from the Other side. For the first time in those two days, it felt like a festival.
The man eclipses the stage with sheer force of presence. Charisma, force of character, lyrical genius. His fame is more than deserved. When Jay-Z performs, even as one who is not a die-hard fan, I couldn’t help but be drawn in by the man on stage. As he wound his way though some of his greatest hits spanning the breadth of his career including but not limited to Dirt of Your Shoulder, Hard Knock Life, Empire State of Mind and so on. Towards the end of the evening he gave an extraordinarily touching tribute to the memory of Chester Bennington whom he had collaborated with in the past performing Numb originally written by Linkin Park. By far the longest set of the festival Jay-Z seemed determined to not only give the fans what they wanted but outperform even himself. After the encore, instead of ending the evening he snuck over to one of the smaller stages and began an entirely new set. Joined by Meek Mills, they rocked Philly into the night and closed out the MIA festival with the grand finale it deserved.