With Jay Z as its patron, Made in America’s lineup is always a good bet to have some unique performers culled from the megastar mogul’s friends and family, his Roc Nation company, as well as up-and-coming talent highlighted by his streaming service, TIDAL. After a brief stint in L.A. last year, the festival returned solely to its birthplace of Philadelphia for its fourth straight year. The 2015 edition boasted two marquee headlining acts: Beyoncé’s first full performance in about a year and one of The Weeknd’s first gigs following the recent release of Beauty Behind the Madness. But further down on the festival lineup, there were some great tiny-font acts to be seen as well, from Philadelphia natives like Marian Hill to up-and-coming rappers like Vic Mensa and buzzy indie bands like Bully. Having attended last year’s edition, I think it’s safe to say 2015 brought an even better focus to its core areas: Philadelphia artists, a range of rising and veteran rappers and DJs, and breakout rock bands. And unlike last year, the weather was perfect for Labor Day weekend: sunny without even the threat of a drop of rain.
Musically, the addition of another rising talent (TIDAL) stage – with incredible, sweeping views of downtown Philadelphia – was a good idea in theory but worked less well in its execution. It was positioned on the main throughway, as well as close to the Skate Stage, another performance spot for many of the rising acts. Consequently, the close proximity of these stages added to the congestion and difficulty navigating the main entrance to the grounds and, more importantly, diluted the smaller crowds on hand at either of the stages. The sold-out gig felt even more crowded near the two main stages, signalling that the festival may be nearing the practical limits of how much it can continue to grow.
With Made in America diversifying its portfolio with a free show on New York’s Liberty Island, maybe its flagship event is quickly approaching a crossroads, one where it can dedicate an event to mainstream pop and another to indie talent. But this year, it was clear the vast majority of people came to see the likes of Queen Bey, J. Cole, and The Weeknd, all of whom rightly earned their main stage billing.
Click ahead for the best of Made in America 2015, plus an exclusive gallery.