Jay-Z's Made in America Festival a Success

The bill for the Jay Z Made in America Festival

For eighteen-plus hours over two days during the Labor Day weekend, Philadelphia's Parkway (aka Art Museum Boulevard) was transformed into a mini-city of new proportions. The first Made in America Festival – a success courtesy of host and curator Jay-Z, Live Nation and Budweiser – featured grassy grounds, rows of food trucks, scores of special interest tents, and live music from every angle.
It was easy to navigate, clean (especially considering 40,000+ daily attendees and Sunday’s ongoing rains), and worth calling our own.

From a live perspective, the best sets were certainly each day’s last. On Saturday Jay Z ruggedly ran through a list of his greatest hits (including his Philly-centric teaming with Memphis Bleek on "Murder Marcyville (South Philly N*****)", and was also joined by special guests Kanye West and G.O.O.D. Music crew members Big Sean, Pusha T, Common and 2 Chainz.  On Sunday Pearl Jam played over two hours of their own classics (“Even Flow”, "Better Man") and covers such as Neil Young’s “Rocking in the Free World”, with the highlight of the set being their teaming with Jay Z on a raging version of Hova’s “99 Problems.”

Along with its headliners, Made in America brought Los Angelino punks X to a side stage with a smaller audience, yet with no less empowered noise and dynamic harmonies for its size.  Soul man D’Angelo played it low and slow during "Untitled (How Does It Feel)." Bluesman Gary Clark Jr. mesmerized the crowd with his snaky guitar prowess. The Maybach Music Group complete with Rick Ross and Philly’s own Meek Mill rapped roughshod across the wide main stage. The always fabulous Janelle Monae her 13 member ensemble performed her own "Electric Lady" and a torrid cover of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back”. Best of show though was Run-D.M.C. Performing for the first time since the 2002 murder of co-founder Jam Master Jay, surviving members Joseph "Run" Simmons and Daryl "D.M.C." McDaniels, along with the late DJ's two sons, Jason "Jam Master J'Son" Mizell Jr. and TJ "Dasmatic" Mizell, raged through a 40 minute set that included “Walk this Way,” "It's Tricky" and "Mary, Mary." Revered Run summed it all up when he said "Damn, this feels good".

Jay-Z agreed. While hanging in the VIP section with his missus, Beyonce, and his newest discovery Rita Ora, Hova was rapping along to Run-D.M.C.’s set – all the while being filmed by director’s Ron Howard crew. Howard was all over the festival as he’s making a documentary on Jay-Z. He got plenty of footage in the Citi Deck VIP area where this reporter hung out all weekend. Jay (in fresh tan Timberlands, new jeans, and gold rope chains) and Bey (resplendent in tousled hair and a white shirt that read “Brooklyn”) noshed on fine fare from Stephen Starr restaurants Morimoto and Buddakan (served on white china), and hung out with Jaden Smith (Will’s son, who had a blonde triangle dyed into the back of his hair). They held hands while running around the festival and seemed closer-than-close while watching Gary Clark Jr. On Saturday Jay-Z checked out Janelle Monae's performance while Beyonce stayed mostly backstage.

In the VIP area I got hugged by Mayor Michael Nutter and legendary radio DJ Pierre Robert (they both smelled really good), stood in a food line with Ron Howard while he piled meatballs onto his plate, had a Bud with Adam DeVine and Blake Anderson (the guys from Comedy Central's Workaholics), and spied actresses Brittany Snow (Harry’s Law) and Adrienne Bailon (That’s So Raven),  and ex-b-baller Rick Fox. Though Kim Kardashian was on the side of the stage during boyfriend Kanye’s set, she never made her way to the VIP area.

Photo ©Made in America Festival 2012

Posted on Tuesday, September 4, 2012 11:40 AM