Looking ahead as Made in America ends

Posted: September 04, 2012

The first Budweiser Made in America festival came to a rocked-out, rousing conclusion Sunday night as Seattle grunge survivors Pearl Jam closed out a two-day festival that successfully transformed the Benjamin Franklin Parkway into a comfortably spacious multistage music venue - a feat organizers say they plan to repeat in years to come.

On the second day of what festival curator and guiding light Jay-Z promised would be an annual event, the skies were gray and drizzly and the musical lineup was recalibrated. Hip-hop and electronic sounds dominated Saturday in the form of headliners Jay-Z and dubstep DJ Skrillex, while on Sunday the Parkway became the setting for a full-on rock show.

Pearl Jam was preceded by the gloriously good veteran Los Angeles punk band X, whose singer John Doe thanked the largely mellow crowd for "being good to one another. No trampling underfoot and things like that."

Pearl Jam took the stage in a light rain just before 9 p.m., hitting hard early in their planned two-hour set with pummeling rockers "Corduroy" and "Evenflow."

Before launching into "Unemployable," Vedder marked the election season by talking about jobs being shipped overseas. "We'd like to see a few more things made in America," he said in a play on the festival name.

Jay-Z joined Pearl Jam for one song, a galvanic rock rip on the rapper's "99 Problems." The band then closed out the evening with a strong, surprise finale tearing through Neil Young's protest song, "Keep on Rocking in the Free World."

Vedder said his band was proud to share the stage with the festival's eclectic mix of acts such as Philadelphia's Santigold and the confrontational hip-hop crew Odd Future, both of whom played earlier in the day.

There was no arguing with Made in America's ability to put on a diverse set of musical acts. Yet there were limits to its ecumenical approach - there wasn't a smidgen of country or non-electronic world music on the bill.

But if Made in America's vaguely high-minded ambition to stir up a state-of-the-art 2012 pop music melting pot wasn't quite realized, the fest - which promoters Live Nation said drew 40,000 a day - worked as a uniquely urban, impressively varied draw for a multiracial millennial generation crowd, even if many of the hip-hop fans left before Pearl Jam's set.

Reunited rappers Run-DMC, whose two remaining principals hadn't performed together in 13 years (their DJ, Jam Master Jay, died in 2002) were the biggest crowd-pleasers of the day.

Rappers Darryl McDaniels and Joseph Simmons set off the crowd with 1980s power chord-boosted bangers "It's Tricky" and "My Adidas" and, of course, their trailblazing Aerosmith collaboration, "Walk This Way."

In a touching interlude, the group handed over the wheels of steel to Jam Master Jay's two sons, Jason Mizell Jr. and TJ Mizell - who both grew up to be DJs. For an added thrill, the big video screens showed Jay-Z and Beyonce moving through the crowd during the set.

On Saturday, Beyonce stayed backstage for the most part, but she was on hand Sunday, at Jay-Z's side as they promenaded - circled by a phalanx of bodyguards - from set to set throughout the afternoon. They also took in the music from the VIP section.

Geoff Gordon, regional president of Live Nation, whose Philadelphia office promoted the fest, said in an earlier interview that the rapper/mogul was involved in the planning on every level.

"He wanted to know about the food trucks," Gordon said. (They served up quite tasty fare.)

Gordon said the hip-hop megastar would be deeply involved in a possible second fest next year. Possible, but not definite?

Mayor Nutter was hopeful, saying artists already had been inquiring about performing next year.

He said he and event cosponsors were in talks.

"I'm interested and they're interested," he said. "So we'll keep talking."

Sunday's fest began with a definite Philadelphia vibe, culminating at 4 p.m. with North Philadelphia soulstress Jill Scott, who was joined by West Philadelphia rapper Eve for the funk workouts "Shame" and "Let Me Blow Your Mind."

Before Scott showcased the full range of her vocal abilities in "He Loves Me (Lyzel In E Flat)," she introduced the song's origins: "[it was] made in a bathroom. Made in North Philly," she said. "And made right here on these streets. Do you still have love for me, Philly?"

Scott was preceded by another hometown girl, Santigold, who was raised in Mount Airy as Santi White. Sporting a bright-green party dress, the artist expertly wove rock and dub, pop and electro into a restlessly effective mix.

She invited a couple dozen audience members to dance along to "Creator," one of the break-out hits from her 2007 self-titled debut. "It's so great to be back home here in such a special location," she said.

She followed with "Keepers," the most politicized song from her new album, Master of My Make Believe.

"We the keepers, while we sleep in America/ our house is burning down/ Our house is burning down," she sang.

The day got under way at 2 p.m. with Rita Ora, the blond British singer who signed to Jay-Z's Roc Nation label in 2009. She went over well with the rain-drizzled crowd, particularly with her closing hit, "Party and B-."

It's easy to see what Jay-Z hears in her: the similarities between the timbre of her voice and Beyonce's were striking.

Over at the DJ tent, the glow-stick crowd was moving in sync to pulsating rhythms from laptop and turntable specialists, including Milkman, the Knocks, and BetaTraxx. DJ Shadow stood out, pushing deep bass grooves that appealed to the head instead of merely accelerating the heart rate.


Contact Dan DeLuca at 215-854-5628, deluca@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @delucadan. Read his blog, "In the Mix," at www.philly.com/inthemix.

Inquirer staff writer Jeremy Roebuck contributed to this article.

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