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Top 10 Moments of Made In America Festival 2013

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made in america 2013 Top 10 Moments of Made In America Festival 2013

External factors weighed heavily on the second annual Made In America Festival this past weekend in Philadelphia. Jay Z, whose name was absent from the bill, loomed over the festival grounds in the form of Budweiser ads peppered around every stage and whispers by festival-goers speculating if and when Mr. Carter would make a special guest appearance. Arcade Fire’s mysterious new marketing campaign saw their ‘Reflektor’ logo pasted absolutely everywhere. And then, of course, there was the tragic news out of NYC’s Electric Zoo, which cast a dark shadow over Sunday’s festivities. This article isn’t the forum to debate the ethics and basic safety of an entire culture of music, but it was interesting to note that little of the weekend’s buzz was about any of the actual bands playing the festival.

In the media tent before the first acts on Saturday, journalists traded stories about how many major festivals they’d attended this summer with palpable exhaustion in their voices. This left the massively corporate (pass the Budweiser, please), Jay Z-sponsored gathering as something to be endured, rather than enjoyed – or experienced in the truest summer festival terms.

Festival 2

It should then go without saying that this year’s big font acts, which included Beyoncé, Nine Inch Nails, Calvin Harris, Deadmau5, Phoenix, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, among others, had their work cut out for them. Thankfully, the lineup was able to deliver on the high bar set by last year’s fest, which included a show-stopping guest spot from Kanye West and a summer-defining set from Pearl Jam. This year, the mix of old school (Public Enemy) and up-and-coming (ASAP Rocky, Miguel, Kendrick Lamar) hip-hop/R&B acts was offset by veteran alt-rock tent poles like Queens of the Stone Age and The Gaslight Anthem.

Throw in a few EDM A-listers, and it became easy to forget about back-to-school woes and the ever-shortening dog days. There really was something for everyone on this Labor Day weekend, proving once again that Hova knows how to throw one hell of a party. Here are 10 of our favorite moments.

–Bryant Kitching
Senior Staff Writer

When Diarrhea Planet played the weekend’s best set from the smallest stage

Diarrhea Planet 3

Photo by Ben Kaye

Maybe it’s because the festival’s lineup was so electronic or hip-hop based, but Diarrhea Planet’s guitar-shredding punk rock stuck out like a brilliantly bright finger in the middle of MiA’s hand. It wasn’t just the nature of the music that made them standout, however; they legitimately had one of the best delivered sets of the weekend. Their banter was congenial and playful, like when Jordan Smith told a Cleveland fan, “This song is about dying in your city!” before going into the final cut on I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams, “Emmett’s Vision”. But they were also respectful as they thanked festival organizers and shared their honest appreciation.

Not 10 minutes prior to their set, I remarked how you could see the heat bothering bands after a few songs, but that never became a problem here. The Nashville band was all about the show, licking guitar necks, playing back-to-back, and stepping over amps to get closer to the crowd. Even their setlist, a blend of new and old, was well-timed, with the slower “Kids” paced perfectly about 30 minutes in. They even did the requisite hocking-the-new-album speech every young band should do, but theirs had a unique finish. “It’s sold out everywhere but iTunes,” Emmett Miller said. “So there’s that. Now let’s get back to it.” And back to their well-rounded set they went. If they keep delivering like this, expect them to far surpass their shitty name. –Ben Kaye

Skate Park Stage

Skate Park 4

Photo by Ben Kaye

One of the more interesting additions to the festival grounds this year was the not-so-creatively-named Skate Park Stage, which literally had a half pipe and grinding rail jetting out the back. Located right smack in the middle of the grounds, the stage still managed to be consistently less crowded than any other area throughout the weekend. The bands that played here were expectedly more of the punk variety: Cloud Nothings’ set on Saturday was a nice alternative to Imagine Dragons, who played at the same time on the main stage, and Diarrhea Planet unjustly flew almost entirely under the radar, playing in the same slot as Kendrick Lamar. The Skate Park Stage proved to be an oasis of guitar rock in a sea of mostly hip-hop and R&B, and I couldn’t keep myself away. –Bryant Kitching

HAIM steps their game up

HAIM 5

Photo by Ben Kaye

HAIM just keeps getting better and better every time I see them. Even with the three sisters feeling under the weather, their game was on top. Baby Haim, Alana, steps up more and more; from her lead on their staple cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well” (with Danielle ripping the guitar solos) to her repartee with the crowd. “If you get your shoes up here, I’ll wear ‘em,” she yelled at a gentleman in the crowd waving his footwear at her. He hurled the kicks at the stage, nearly clunking Alana in the head, but she was a trooper and did exactly as she’d promised. Este got in on the fun too, stringing one pair of sneakers around her neck as she went into closer “Let Me Go”. “They smell really, really nice,” she sarcastically quipped. “Good job, champ.” –Ben Kaye

Arcade Fire’s subliminal messaging

Arcade fire fans

Photo by Ben Kaye

Leave it to Arcade Fire to be one of the most talked about bands at a festival they weren’t even playing. The band’s well-documented-yet-still-shrouded-in-mystery ‘Reflektor’ marketing campaign was everywhere this weekend. The diamond-etched logo was pasted onto much-needed cardboard fans, though it was unclear who was actually distributing them. Not once did I see anyone handing the fans out, and when I asked patrons where and from who they received them, answers ranged from “I don’t know,” to “I found it on the ground,” to “some dude.” That Win Butler, he’s such a tease. –Bryant Kitching

Queens of the Stone Age and this one Old Guy break the rules

QOTSA 1

Photo by Ben Kaye

“Hey, security!” Josh Homme called out in the middle of “Make It Wit Chu”. “Knock it off, man! This is Philadelphia, they know how to have a good time! Just fuck off, man.” You know you’re at a rock show when the frontman is telling security to stop doing their job. “Take the rule book and shove it up your ass just for a second, will ya?” QOTSA were definitely there to have a good time, and though the crowd was markedly diminished from the previous night, they were gonna make sure everyone in attendance had one, too. Even this old guy, who worked his way up to the rails and had his horns in the air for a good 15 minutes before the band even took the stage. With a setlist that covered all the bases and the band’s unsurprisingly impeccable performance, it’s safe to say that he and everyone else in the crowd had the kind of time Homme was hoping for. “Get up on each other’s shoulders, dance, have a good time! What is this, your fucking parents house?” Thankfully, not. –Ben Kaye

Phoenix kept the throne warm

Phoenix 10

Photo by Ben Kaye

Slotted second to last on the main stage on Saturday night, Phoenix drew one of the bigger crowds of the weekend, despite most of the audience just staking out a good viewing spot for Queen Bey. With their work cut out for them, Thomas Mars & co. pulled out all the stops for a more-than-solid 60 min set of as close to “greatest hits” as Phoenix can get. Half the setlist pulled from this years Bankrupt!, but they were thankfully generous with Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix material. Tracks like “Rome” and “Armistice” sounded tailor-made for the main stage at a festival, and garnered the attention of even the most loyal Beyoncé subjects.

“1901” was predictably the climax of the set, inspiring some infectious pogoing and girlfriends to be lifted on shoulders everywhere amongst the crowd. Mars sang the entire song hoisted up in the front row in true electro punk fashion, and added an exclamation point by crowd surfing the entire front pit. It was the perfect high-energy appetizer to the main course to come. –Bryant Kitching

Just…everything about Beyoncé

beyonce made in america Top 10 Moments of Made In America Festival 2013

Photo by Kevin Mazur // Getty Images

It’ll sound spoiled of me to complain about any second of Beyoncé’s 90-minute headlining set on Saturday night – but as shots of Jay Z in the audience at Deadmau5’s set graced the monitors at the main stage just before his wife went on, it seemed all but inevitable Hova would make an appearance. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. From start to finish, this would be the Mrs. Carter show. With no pre-recorded vocal assistance whatsoever, Queen Bey proved herself a consummate performer with few, if any, rivals in today’s modern music landscape. Highlights included a tribute to Whitney Houston in the form of an inspired “I Will Always Love You” cover, and lovestruck marital ballad in “1+1”, performed on top of a grand piano like the most sultry lounge singer you’ve ever seen.

There were too many moments of high-velocity pop perfection to count. Despite the aforementioned absence of her husband during “Crazy In Love”, Bey’s voice roared like a lioness while leading a pack of expertly choreographed dances. There were almost as many wardrobe changes as songs played, but the Shakespeare in Love-meets-Lady Gaga music video footage that played during these momentary breaks were engaging enough to pass the short breaks. “Halo” closed out the night in grand fashion, and by the time the track reached its climax, Jay Z might as well have been a distant memory. –Bryant Kitching

Solange walks out, shadow-free

Solange 2

Photo by Ben Kaye

Not to be upstaged by her big sis, Solange provided one of the most thoroughly enjoyable sets on Sunday. The young singer’s music isn’t made to pack stadiums, so the mid-sized Liberty stage during the afternoon was actually a perfect setting for her indie-minded R&B. Her music smells funkier than Beyoncé’s, and I counted at least four uses of the word “boogie” throughout her all-too-short 45 min set. It was a welcome wash of easily digestible music for the feet, and got the festival moving after a long night before. The one-two punch of “Losing You” and her amazing cover of Dirty Projectors’ “Stillness Is The Move” was enough to drop jaws, and a few booties. –Bryant Kitching

Miguel melts like butter

Miguel 2

Photo by Ben Kaye

Sunday was noticeably emptier than the day prior (shocker: Beyoncé devotees aren’t huge Nine Inch Nails fans), but they didn’t stop a massive crowd from gathering for Miguel’s late afternoon set at the Liberty stage. Looking dapper as ever, the soul crooner came packing a full band, tastefully infusing a little hard rock into cuts from last year’s breakthrough Kaleidoscope Dream. “Adorn” and “How Many Drinks?” melted like butter, and provided some fantastical relief from the relentless humidity. The only eyebrow-raising moment came when he chose to include “Do You…” in his set, which has him repeating the phrase “Do you like drugs?” over and over. Considering the tragedy the day before and the likely inebriation of many in the crowd, it was in bad taste to say the least. –Bryant Kitching

Nine Inch Nails show Philly what a rock headliner looks like…

Nine Inch Nails 3

Photo by Ben Kaye

…and got a fourth of the crowd Beyoncé did. That’s not exactly surprising; Saturday’s crowd was oppressively, maybe even dangerously, packed, and there was little doubt that Queen Bey was the main reason for that. The turnout for Trent Reznor and crew was different, in makeup as well as being able turn to your friend without bashing some stranger in the head with an elbow. The irony is I felt less worried about personal injury at the Nine Inch Nails show than the Beyoncé show.

Understandable as it is, it’s a shame the crowd size was so diminished, because NIN can still bring it. Reznor and his latest effort, Hesitation Marks, may not wind up on everyone’s year end list, but “Copy of A” and “Came Back Haunted” make for great show openers. And that stage setup, opening in that Stop Making Sense style and utilizing mobile screens and a(n) (un)healthy dose of blaring lights, is more impressive live than any description can really muster. It’s a well choreographed dance, each song with its own unique arrangement of the moving walls, and accompanying effects designed accordingly. For obvious reasons, this makes altering the setlist a bit of a challenge, so yes, we got “1,000,000” into “March of the Pigs” into “Piggy”. We also got treats like “Somewhat Damaged”, though, so Reznor’s behind-the-scenes team gets much credit.

Nine Inch Nails

Photo by Ben Kaye

As for the front-of-scenes team, this incarnation of Nine Inch Nails passes all kinds of muster. Reznor, a hulkish little imp up there, bounds about and throws his all into every wail. While veteran guitarist Robin Finck aligns well with Reznor’s energy in terms of utilizing the stage, his pummeling guitar and vocal screams adding plenty to the grime. Whatever your opinion on what Reznor’s doing now or what NIN is in 2013, this live show evinces all the best of what the band is, from old material to new, technological fascination to raucous showmanship, all enveloped in smoke and strobes. –Ben Kaye

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Photographer: Ben Kaye

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