Thursday, December 18, 2014

POSTED: Saturday, August 30, 2014, 9:11 PM

Before J. Cole came out, the big screens flanking the Liberty Stage showed a montage of cops brutalizing black men and women. It was set to the doleful strains of Cole’s “Be Free,” a track he  rush-released as a response to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

Was the party atmosphere at Made in America about to get a polemical rebuke? No, the North Carolina rapper’s performance was notably free of racial commentary. Instead he gave an energetic reading of his tracks, strutting, stumbling, and jumping around the stage like a crazed scarecrow to act out the sentiments of his lyrics.

After a guest appearance by rapper Bas on on “Lit,” Cole built to a volcanic climax of “Can’t Get Enough,” “Crooked Smile,” and “Power Trip.” It left the performer drained. The crowd clearly wanted more.

J. Cole performs on the Liberty stage during the Budweiser Made in America Festival, on the Ben Franklin Parkway, in Philadelphia on August 30, 2014. ( ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer )
POSTED: Saturday, August 30, 2014, 7:33 PM

Chromeo, the Montreal electro-funk duo, took the Liberty Stage borrowing the marching chant from the Wicked Witch's castle guards in Oz: “Chrom-e-o … ooh-oh … Chrom-e-o … ooh-oh. …”

They delivered a hotwired set, albeit one that relied heavily on pre-programming. Ah well, it left Dave 1 and P-Thugg with their hands free.

The duo’s style could be labeled neo-disco. It’s a brand of classic pop with a chilly but refreshing electro coating. As they worked through hits like “Bonafied Lovin’,” “Over Your Shoulder,” “Frequent Flyer,” and “Jealous (I Ain’t With It),” there were distant echoes of artists from Michael Sembello to Ric Ocasek’s Cars.

The neo-disco duo Chromeo -- with Dave 1 (left) and P-Thugg (right ) -- performs at Liberty Stage on the first day of Made in America on Saturday August 30, 2014 on the Parkway. (RON CORTES \ Staff Photographer )
POSTED: Saturday, August 30, 2014, 7:11 PM

The Budweiser Made In America is a corporate branded event, for sure, and all the red, white, and blue color coding in bandanas, bikini tops, and, yes, Julius Erving and Allen Iverson Sixers jerseys can make it seem like entrance was denied to anyone not getting with the program.

But despite that homogenous surface, the festival is also an appealing, unruly mess, one that draws a digital-music-age, shuffled-up, youthful mix of a crowd far more racially diverse than at events featuring only rock or hip-hop or electronic dance music.

The latter category dominated at the Skate Park Stage on Saturday, where Lehigh Valley-born and Philadelphia-based noise-rock band Pissed Jeans held forth in a set that overlapped with Brooklyn synth-pop duo Holy Ghost close by on the Freedom Stage and Canadian electro act Chromeo on the Liberty Stage.

Lehigh Valley-born and Philadelphia-bred noise-rock band Pissed Jeans roared on the Skate Park Stage at Made in America 2014. (Photo: Dan DeLuca/Inquirer)
POSTED: Saturday, August 30, 2014, 5:34 PM

Big Daddy Kane may be old school, but that doesn’t mean there’s rust on the pipes. The Brooklyn MC is still the smoothest fast rapper in the game. His evening set on the Rocky Stage had the feel of a soul revue.

Well, it was vintage soul -- except that the man with the mic was spinning out words quicker than an auctioneer. All of them perfectly metered.

At 45, the rapper they once called Dark Gable still cuts an imposing figure. And his classic jams, such as “Ain’t No Half-Steppin’ ” and “Raw” can still kick it.

Big Daddy Kane performs during the Budweiser Made in America Festival, on the Ben Franklin Parkway, in Philadelphia on August 30, 2014.
POSTED: Saturday, August 30, 2014, 5:05 PM

Mayer Hawthorne, the Michigan formerly-retro soul man born Andrew Mayer Cohen, played to a packed crowd of late afternoon partiers on the Liberty Stage. The no-longer-bespectacled singer/guitarist did an expert job of continuing his transition from skinny-tie ’60s revivalist to ’70s blue-eyed soul singer and smooth-groove practitioner.

Drawing heavily from his 2013 album Where Does This Door Go, Hawthorne and his  five-man band, The County, nodded to Steely Dan and Philly soul-pop heroes Hall & Oates (as well as the latter’s antecedents, The Temptations) when he dipped into his 2009 debut A Strange Arrangement.

He also showed his aplomb in working a festival crowd by taking off his white suit jacket to crank up the guitar riff on Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way.” He the hip-hop fans to push up close to the stage by referring to “my homie Kendrick Lamar.” Lamar was not on hand but did collaborate with Hawthorne on his most up-to-the-minute track, “Crime.”

Mayor Hawthorne performs at Made in America on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Saturday, August 30, 2014. (PhotoL Stephanie Aaronson/Philly.com)
POSTED: Saturday, August 30, 2014, 4:57 PM

Philly boys OCD took the Skate Park Stage in high spirits. With young MCs Moosh and Twist rapping simultaneously and in tandem, they blazed through a frenetic set that encompassed their own songs, such as  “All That I Know,” and covers of 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, and others. The pace was more ADHD than OCD, with one truncated song slamming into the next.

The Schuylkill crew was unusually hyper, with Twist even climbing the stage scaffolding at one point.

Home court advantage is important, even in concert.

Oliver Feighan, one of the two members of the Philadelphia Rap group OCD, leapt into the crowd in front of the Skate Stage and crowd surfed for a while during their set on Saturday afternoon at Made In America. ( MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer )
David Hiltbrand @ 4:57 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Saturday, August 30, 2014, 3:40 PM

Destructo couldn't wait to rave.

He took the Freedom Stage before his scheduled 3 p.m. start to unleash a marathon club jam, complete with light show and smoke machines.

Destructo -- the stage name of seasoned Los Angeles DJ Gary Richards -- powered through a throbbing, unbroken dance set that wove in distorted samples of Drake, Jason Derulo, and other artists.

POSTED: Saturday, August 30, 2014, 3:12 PM

How does a band win over a Made In America festival, and inspire a patriotic chant while they’re at it?

“This song’s called ‘Chocolate Strawberries,’ said Jordan Kelley, singer of Nashville electro-pop duo Cherub, the first band up on the festival's Rocky Stage. “It’s about doing that, and watching pornos. That’s a pretty American thing to do, right?”

Then he took a look out at the red-white-and-blue-dressed crowd and noted, “It looks like the Fourth of July out there.” Voilà: The first “U-S-A!” chant of the day was under way.

Jason Huber of the band, Cherub, is the first band to perform on the Rocky Stage Saturday afternoon at Made in America on Saturday, August 30 2014. (MICAHEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)
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