Made in America has come and gone and with it the 2015 festival season has come to a close in the tri-state area. This year of Jay-Z’s curated festival continued to raise the bar on previous years and would gone down as being the largest attended year ever. While this may have been expected based on the number of improvements TIDAL brought to the festival this year there was a time early in the summer where many Philadelphians were worried the yearly festival may not be happening.
A late announcement that the festival was taking place caused many to worry that the line up would not deliver but when the full artist announcement came music fans rejoiced as this year embraced all of the current trends in the music industry. From headliners to emerging artists Made in America returned to Philadelphia with the blessing of TIDAL and Livenation for a 2015 that will be remembered for a slew of reasons.
Spanning two days Made in America brought in a record setting 140,000 concert-goers to the Ben Franklin Parkway over the course of labor day weekend. The crowd had never been more diverse as this year’s line up dwelled heavily in pop, alternative, rap and edm. Made in America truly represented the best of the music scene this year and through out the weekend we saw many performances that will go down as some of the best Philadelphia saw all year, with that also came some that left fans disappointed. Here are the 10 big takeaways we had from the festival this year.
The Rising Stars
Two artists stood out as the future front runners of music for this generation at Made in America, Halsey and The Struts. Starting with The Struts who kicked the main stage activities off on September 5, the UK rock group has breathed new life into the rock genre and have garnered major radio play in the months leading up to the festival.
The group has embarked on a headline tour amongst other performances this year and embody a style that hasn’t been presented in rock music for a few years. While they had the tough spot being the first artist of the weekend on the main stage the band still drew a large crowd who they got involved quickly by playing their radio single “Could Have Been Me” very early in the set. The Struts brought it all to the stage before they strutted off after many thank yous, the group could be seen through out the day mingling among the crowd and taking photos with fans.
The next day we were treated to Halsey, who has taken the music scene by storm over the past few months. Her debut album, Badlands, just hit number 2 on the Billboard Top 100 Charts behind The Weekend and Halsey was quick to thank everyone who supported her to make that happen. At just 20 years old Halsey has quickly become an icon of the new generation whether she wanted that or not, her song “New Americana” truly is an anthem that many will embrace and project their own life struggles onto.
However Halsey’s music and performance was so much more than just that one song, she commanded the stage with a confidence that many artists never achieve and was not afraid to jump off the main stage, climb onto speakers and even drag her microphone along the pass of one of the many cameras live streaming the event. Her mid-set performance of “Colors” showcased the best of her song writing talent and allowed her vocals to boom across the Ben Franklin Parkway for all to hear in Philadelphia. Halsey was also nice enough to invite her parents out on stage with her and thank them before concluding her set, hailing from Newark she explained that this felt like a hometown show for her. Philadelphia certainly agreed and can’t wait for her to come back this October as she is certainly one of the most popular musicians out there.
The Unexpected Underdog
With anything there are always artists you don’t know what to expect from but when the time comes you are blown away, at Made in America that title belonged to Action Bronson who played on Sunday on the Rocky Stage. The crowd was a mixed bag but was certainly very large for an early set and many of them had Albanian flags that they waived in excitement for Bronson’s arrival.
As he walked out from the side of the stage smoking a blunt it became clear that Action Bronson was here to have a good time with Philadelphia and he did just that. He walked the stage endlessly and jumped into the crowd to take a walk late in the set, all the while delivering line after line of tight rap verses. At one point Bronson did forget his own lyrics but laughed it often and claimed he was way too high to remember them as he smoked another joint before he started the song again.
The crowd loved every minute of his set and it was disappointing to see it end so quickly because with a little more time I think Bronson could have given the crowd something even more impressive. That being said Action Bronson left his name in the mouths of everyone who attended Made in America, there is no doubt he made some new fans and furthered in the respect of the ones he had already.
EDM drew the largest and funnest crowds of the weekend whether it was the headlining Axwell Ingrosso or Bassnectar or one of the many other artists playing at the Freedom Stage during the bulk of the day. Each artist had incredible production ranging everywhere from legit fireworks to co2 and of course fantastic music cued lighting displays. Even Jay-Z himself rolled up with his posse to witness the party that took place during Bassnectar’s set Saturday night.
Before each set began you could see the crowd anxiously await to start dancing their hearts away and when the first dropped kicked in the dust storm that ensued was maddening. The Ben Franklin Parkway was destroy by EDM crowd that came to rage and were treated to some of the best sets that have taken place in Philadelphia this year. Made in America has always had a strong influx of EDM artists on their line up but never before has the amount of artists been so carefully picked to incite the parties that took place that weekend. Keep doing your thing EDM, you are the only genre that continues to innovate and party long into the night.
No one knew what to expect from Nick Jonas’ set on Saturday but it became clear within the first few moments that this was going to be no Jonas Brothers flash back performance as Nick stormed the stage with a crushing performance of his hit song “Chains.” During the set Jonas also treated the crowd to a slew of covers that showed how the young artist has worked to re-invent himself as a contemporary musician. The crowd sang a long loudly at the Liberty Stage to these songs but even louder when he capped his set off with “Levels” and his summer hit “Jealous.”
My only comment was that Nick Jonas had no business playing on the Liberty Stage, he deserved to be on the larger Rocky stage mainly due to the fact he had such a large crowd a lot of people couldn’t catch his set without obstruction. Nick Jonas has certainly taken himself and his music seriously over the past year and as a result he has succeeded in what few artists manage to do after splitting from a group like that. The boys in One Direction should take notes based on how Nick Jonas has carried himself publicly and how he has let his music steer his solo career. A congratulations to him and his continued success, Nick Jonas has since embarked on a headlining tour that will surely be one of the highest grossing medium size venue runs of 2015.
Rap Has Blossomed as a Genre
Judged and held back for so many years by people afraid to embrace the genre, rap has finally come to age in the past few years and Made in America’s line up showcased much of the talent out their in the field right now. Headliner J Cole returned to Made in America after a successful performance last year but this time around he dominated the larger Rocky Stage and drew in one of the largest, most insane crowds of the weekend.
Many fans were spotted camping out on the barricade as early as two in the afternoon as they waited for their chance to see J Cole later that evening. Cole brought a set that Philadelphia will not soon forget as he wasted very little time talking so he could deliver as many songs as possible to his fans and curious onlookers in the Made in America crowd.
He wasn’t the only one who left it all on the stage that weekend as rappers Future and G Eazy both drew monumental crowds to the Liberty Stage. Both artists are emerging and on the rise but Future has been very hot amongst the scene these past few months so it was shocking to see just how many turned up trying to glimpse his set even if it was from an extreme distance. As said before Action Bronson also embodied the new age of rap artist with his set and was one of the few rappers who played early in the day at Made in America.
Equally impressive was the brutal show that Big Sean brought as he made the most of every minute of time he had on the Rocky Stage, performing a few medleys even in order to get as many hits to the fans as possible.
Last, but certainly not least was the Philadelphia homecoming of Meek Mill who was greeted by a roar of cheers as he walked on the stage. The crowd fed off his on stage energy and literally lost their minds when he brought Nicki Minaj out on stage for a song towards the end of his set. Philadelphia loves rap and rap loves Philadelphia, a welcome change in pace for the Philadelphia music scene that used to be too metal heavy. Rap dominated Made in America alongside EDM, the newcomers and the stars who have found a new direction for their career. This year went down as the biggest yet leaving much to be expected for when the festival returns in 2016.