Although this year’s Made in America Festival consisted of musical excellence from Bad Bunny, Tyler, the Creator, and Burna Boy, the rest of the bill didn’t live up to expectations.
The JAY-Z-founded, Philadelphia-based Made in America festival celebrated its 10th anniversary this past weekend with a lineup that could very easily be found on any of the other festival lineups we’ve seen this year.
There was three main stages: the Freedom Stage, the Liberty Stage, and the Rocky Stage. And spending most of my time between the Rocky Stage, which operated as the main portal of performance, and the Liberty Stage — which functioned as the secondary headlining stage — I found it difficult to truly enjoy all the performances.
Saturday, the first day of Made in America, featured a mix of rappers and R&B musicians such as DIXSON, Jenevieve, Flo Milli, Glorilla, and Larry June (who at this point deserves a set later on during festivals when crowds are actual there.) It was a bumpy first day for the festival, with Icewear Vezzo and Key Glock canceling their appearances and Kodak Black arriving nearly 90 minutes late. These developments left veteran Pusha T — who performed in front of a mass pile of faux cocaine bricks wrapped in tape — to offer the crowd something for hardcore rap fans until the night’s closer, Tyler, the Creator.
Jazmine Sullivan, who was given the Liberty Bell by the Mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney, owned the Rocky Stage as she effortlessly entertained her hometown with hits like “Lions, Tigers & Bears” and “Pick Up Your Feelings.” Her raw vocal ability, bubbly personality, and timely set were one of the best performances this weekend and makes me wonder why Jazmine hasn’t been asked to headline a major festival yet.
The set of the evening, however, came from the aforementioned Tyler. Taking portions of his Call Me If You Get Lost tour and bringing them to the Rocky Stage, Tyler dazzled with his pyrotechnics, multiple wind machines, and beautiful set design that evoked the feeling of walking through a European grassland.
On Sunday, fans got to their spots early by the main stage to get an up-close view of the man of the weekend, Bad Bunny, who would be headlining the final day of the festival.
Snoh Aalegra’s set was a glowing beautiful pink aura that, unfortunately, was a snooze. Don Toliver’s mixture of Houston hip-hop with poppy melodies seemed to win over the antsy crowd as they waited for Bad Bunny to appear on the Rocky Stage. In the evening, there was a distinct difference between the crowds at the Liberty and Rocky Stages. By 8:30, the Liberty Stage was packed for Burna Boy’s highly anticipated performance. From the moment the lights dimmed, and the video intro began, it became nearly impossible to move from your selected spot as fans joined for a glimpse at the man who sold out arenas with his infectious hitmaking ability.
There was a clear divide from the audience who rushed to the Liberty Stage for Burna and the patrons who waited all day for a spot at the Rocky Stage for a view of Bad Bunny. I, myself, was a part of that divide. There’s no debating that Bad Bunny is the biggest artist right now it’s clear he knows he’s the chosen one. Emerging onto the stage in a sofa chair that he rested in as the crowd endlessly cheered, I felt like I was watching the Puerto Rican Michael Jackson.
By the end of the night, I worried about the state of festival culture, as it seemingly becomes more of a money grab. You could easily switch Made in America’s bright red LED sign for Governors Ball’s logo. With festival season coming to an end soon, Made in America forced me to question who exactly these festivals appeal to if it’s all one big copy and paste?