It’s that time of the year again in the historic, beautiful streets of Philadelphia. The sun sets a little bit earlier, the leaves turn a light auburn and break off their bond with their colonies and fall softly to the ground, and droves of unsupervised teenagers take to the Parkway to partake in Abercrombie and Fitch’s Made in America Festival.
Did you think I was going to say “Budweiser”? I did too, but it turns out that tides have shifted and Abercrombie is now the primary sponsor of the event. This could be noted by a few large pieces of signage spread around the parkway, as well as a cute little pop-up store near the front gates of the festival.
It’s been a few years since I have attended the festival so some of changes may not be as new as they felt to me, but the addition of a fleet of food trucks was welcome. Signs scattered throughout the parkway depicting a variety of languages, as well as the cause village, gave some diversity to the festival.
But food trucks and civic engagement aren’t why thousands of teenagers drop over $100 to stand in the hot sun for 10 hours. They come for the music, the friends, the alcohol and the vaping. I swear I saw more Juuls on the parkway than I thought existed in the world. But I can get back to roasting the event attendees in a moment. It’s probably most important to discuss the musical offerings at this music festival.
The event was spread across Saturday, Sept. 1, and Sunday, Sept. 2. Due to there being five stages in the festival (Skate, Tidal, Freedom, Liberty, Rocky), it was difficult to see everyone you may have wanted to. Alot of the performances ended up overlapping but they at least tried to overlap artists of varying styles and genres, to try to minimize people missing out on some shows they would have wanted to see.
The first show I saw was Chicago suburbs rapper Kweku Collins. I had been unfamiliar with Collins prior to the show but his mellow and chill flows over an interesting variety of beats made for a great introduction to the festival. He performed a lot of his more popular songs like “Lonely Lullabies” and “Aya,” as well as his newest single “ET.” I was overall impressed and will definitely check him out in the future.
Following Kweku was Saba, one of my personal favorites. Despite suffering from some technical issues and being forced to start late, he gave a great, energetic performance. He performed most of his recent “Care for Me” album from this year, as well as a good amount of songs off his 2016 “Bucket List Project.” The small, intimate vibe of the Skate stage made this show stand out to me and was one of my favorites by the end of Sunday.
Another fun note, controversial rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine came on an hour late and the rush of the crowd as people ran across the Parkway to see him was both terrifying and disappointing.
After that I headed over to the Freedom Stage to check out Snakehips and Louis the Child. Both of their sets were great and it was fun to have a nice little EDM break amidst all of the poorly mixed hip-hop vocals that rang out from the different stages throughout the Parkway.
Unfortunately this is a pretty common occurrence at Made, especially for rap performers. The mixing on the bass of the beat is so heavy it usually drowns out the instrumental and vocal and just makes you physically uncomfortable. I don’t know who exactly wants that. Maybe drunk teenagers do? But I don’t. Anyway, both Snakehips and Louis the Child brought great remixes, with a smattering of originals and the two hours I was at the Freedom stage seemed to fly by.
After the Louis the Child show wrapped up, Meek took the Rocky stage. I’m not a huge Meek fan but I’d be lying if I said the crowd wasn’t super into the show. I sat on the curb some distance away and could hear every note of the set and the crowd chanting along almost every word. He performed “Dreams and Nightmares” because of course he did, and the crowd was really into it. I imagine it was a lot of native Philadelphians’ highlight of the Saturday performances. Meek was followed by Zedd who put on a pretty typical Zedd set, nothing super special, but it was fun and the man sure knows when to drop a beat.
I kicked off Sunday with Belly’s set at the Rocky Stage. I didn’t know Belly before this performance but the set was entertaining enough. He had some fun lines and hooks in his songs that got the crowd, who seemed unfamiliar with him, enticed. Most of the people there were waiting for the next set from Pusha T. Pusha T put on a great, vibrant show. I couldn’t hear most of his vocals over the bass despite standing not too far from the stage. He went through the entirety of his 2018 release “Daytona” and some older tracks for the fans. He also performed “Feel the Love” from Kanye and Kid Cudi’s “Kids See Ghosts.” The crowd, me included, had a great time mimicking Kanye’s nonsensical noises.
After Pusha T, I swung by Daniel Caesar and Cashmere Cat. They have very different vibes. Caesar put on a great show for the fans, performing a lot of his big hits but the mellowness of his music seemed to clash with the energy that the audience was looking for. Keep in mind you’re dealing with a lot of scantily clad, drunken patriots here. Cashmere Cat had a great set but the crowd kept trying to mosh and Cashmere was having none of it. He’s not the type of DJ who builds up to big drops like Diplo or Zedd. Groups would be preparing to mosh for a good five minutes before the chance arose.
After Cashmere Cat, Kendrick Lamar took the Rocky Stage and delivered what honestly felt like an underwhelming performance. However, I don’t think that was Kendrick’s fault entirely. The audience, at least where I was, was not as engaged as most audiences were and seemed more interested in the guest verses Kendrick perfmored like on Travis Scott’s “Goosebumps” and Schoolboy Q’s “Collard Greens.” Kendrick was followed by Diplo who was then followed by Nicki Minaj. Both gave fine performances, though Nicki’s may have gotten a bit too revealing for some.
Made in America Festival was good, but I think I’m just not the target audience any more. I felt old because relative to everyone else, I was. I suppose a lot of college students could still have a good time there, but it feels like there’s something we lost. A festival that used to have a variety of performers and genres is now boiled down to two genres, the same performers, and preppy, intoxicated teenagers throwing up or making out on every corner.