Made in America Recap: A Weekend in The Freedom Tent
While Randall’s Island pulsed with the sounds of Electric Zoo, an entirely different kind of festival closed out the summer circuit about 100 miles away... on a parkway in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Jay-Z-curated, Budweiser-sponsored Made in America Festival drew tens of thousands of fans to the middle of the City of Brotherly Love for an unlikely lineup dotted with the faces of dance music, rock and R&B.
Two large stages without overlapping sets played host to most of the acts, but the Freedom Tent — complete with spinning glow stars, video screens and LED lights galore — was devoted to an all-electronic lineup. The DJ home base proved to be an oasis from the block-long lines at concession stands and two main stages, which at times seemed filled past capacity.
Savoy kicked off Day 1 in the Freedom Tent with tracks from their new EP Supertrail. “We are the Sun” left fans looking for more while laser lights, kaleidoscope backdrops and a hearty "U-S-A" cheer readied the crowd for what was sure to be a non-stop party in the electro enclave. The crowd shrunk just before Otto Knows took over the tent. The Swedish producer spun a set including one of many “Somebody That I Used to Know” remixes heard during the fest. Later, Funkagenda brought the crowd to a swell, playing hits like “What the Fuck” and a remix of the Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic.” The crowd was ripe for Calvin Harris to close down the tent for the night.
However, before Harris took to the decks, Passion Pit drew fans to the main Rocky Stage, which sat at the base of the Philadelphia Museum of Art's so-called "Rocky Steps." The Boston-based electro-pop outfit spent the summer touring and promoting its new album, Gossamer, and the set was dotted with new tracks like “Take a Walk” and “Carried Away.”
Calvin Harris appeared after Passion Pit, with energy that set the overflowing Freedom Tent ablaze. He played a whirlwind set, featuring his own classics like “Feel So Close” and “Flashback,” as well as current tracks from Nicky Romero and David Guetta. Smoke poured from the tent and lights bounced off the roof before fans were herded to Skrillex’s set. From high atop his towering Mothership stage set-up, Skrillex dropped a crowd-throbbing hour of music. He even slipped in Kill the Noise’s “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” bootleg, paying homage to West Philadelphia (just a few miles from the fest locale). The crowd ate it up.
This was probably MIA-mastermind Jay-Z’s intent. Hova took the already soaring crowd and tipped them just over the edge by surprising fans with a performance from the G.O.O.D Music crew (Kanye West, Common, 2 Chainz, Big Sean and Pusha T). A “Ni**as in Paris” encore complete with fireworks closed down Day 1 and left the crowd exhausted.
Fans who made it to Day 2, in spite of the rain, were rewarded with more big names rocking the Freedom Tent. Milkman and the Knocks started the seven-hour dance party and there were no more than fifteen minutes between sets. Burns paid tribute to Jay-Z with an extended “That Shit Cray” interlude and Betatraxx indulged fans with Alvin Risk's crowd-pleasing “We Are Young” remix.
By the time Alesso took the stage, the grass had turned to dirt and the fans were soaked with rain and sweat. That didn’t stop the Swedish DJ from dropping his new tunes “City of Dreams” and "Years" amid a dizzying light show, before scooting off to a gig in Atlantic City. Afrojack closed out the night with a boiling hour and a half of fan favorite tracks, including mainstays "Take Over Control" and "Can't Stop Me," as well as the recent hit "Rock The House." A combination of his Steve Aoki collab “No Beef” and endless confetti ended the set on a remarkably high note.
Philly over Labor Day Weekend seemed like the last time and place for Jay-Z to pull off a weekend-long festival, given its overlap with both Electric Zoo and hip-hop fest Rock The Bells. But the lineup drew a diverse crowd looking for two days free of pretension and full of uninterrupted beats.
Written By: Jessica Goodman