Wednesday, March 4, 2015

POSTED: Sunday, August 31, 2014, 4:21 PM

New York band Bleachers opened with “Wild Heart,” a song that might have been written for the occasion. “They closed the Parkway late last night,” goes the first line.

The band, the side project of Fun guitarist Jack Antonoff, delivered a rich rock sound with a lot of shake, rattle, and roll folded in. On go-for-broke songs like “Rollercoaster,” they could have passed for a Jersey Shore band at a last-night-of-the-season gig.

It was all prelude to their big wheels anthem “I Want to Get Better,” on which their two-drummer array really paid off. Hate to say it, but this was more fun than Fun.

Bleachers play on the Rocky Stage during Made in America Festival in Philadelphia on August 31, 2014. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
David Hiltbrand @ 4:21 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Sunday, August 31, 2014, 3:33 PM

It was an all-Philly affair on the Skate Park Stage in the early afternoon, with bouncy pop song of Cruisr (recently signed to Vagrant records) giving way to Nothing, Dominic Palermo’s dream-pop project, which debuted on Upper Darby metal label Relapse Records this year with Guilty of Everything. At Made In America, the band’s set, delayed by sound problems at the start and plagued by more midway through, nonetheless succeeded in building shrieking, squealing songs that layered dreamy vocals under sheets of noise while moving momentously forward toward a galvanic finish.

— Dan DeLuca

For more coverage of Made in America 2014:

POSTED: Sunday, August 31, 2014, 2:17 PM

Sunday began smartly with Brooklyn indie rockers Mister Wives. They played an exotic brand of rock with subtle hints of Romany and Japanois.

They brought an already simmering afternoon to a rapid boil with. "Imagination Infatuation," a brassy jam.

Brazen reheaded singer Mandy Lee has an intriguing voice, somewhere between Karen O and Björk.

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POSTED: Sunday, August 31, 2014, 2:10 PM

"We've been waiting all summer for this, Made In America," Kenny Vasoli of the Philadelphia "nu-hula" smooth-grooves band Vacationer said as he got ready to kick off the action on the Liberty stage on Sunday.

"Here we go, Chilladelphia!"

Wearing a '70s throwback Phillies baseball cap and a Dr. Dre Chronic T-shirt, the Abington native and supremely chill dude fronted a five-piece band that shimmied and shook with a mix of traditional guitar-bass-drums instrumentation, programmed beats, and perky xylophone accents. Pulling from the band's beachy second album, Relief, the quintet excelled at creating an aural oasis right there on the Ben Franklin Parkway blacktop. The 30-year-old Vasoli cut his teeth with the long running local emo band The Starting Line; with Vacationer, he's found a fresh outlet ideally suited to the summer festival season.

The Philly/Brooklyn nu-Hula smooth-groove band Vacationer kicked off Day 2 of Made in America with their sunny sound. (Photo: Dan DeLuca/Inquirer)
POSTED: Sunday, August 31, 2014, 12:09 AM

Kanye West took the Made in America stage at 10:37 p.m., entering to the sound of snarling, roaring lions and the confrontational tribal drums of “Black Skinhead.” He prowled the stage like a big cat, a brilliant red backdrop behind him. Wearing a mask while the video screens showed him only in stylized silhouette, he slowed the song at the end and quietly rapped: “I always knew they would come for me.”

With an amped-up crowd that had been patiently waiting for his arrival in the palm of his hand, West went on to mix catalog hits like “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” and the King Crimson-sampling “Power” with further salvos from last year’s album Yeezus such as “New Slaves,” for which he dramatically removed his mask.

West went on one of his trademark monologues about 25 minutes into his set, reminding his fans that “this s--- we do is serious” and talking about how he makes “music to help more people” and “what we do, we put our lives, out hearts, our soul into. It’s three in the morning every night in the studio.” He then made a change in the set list, and did “Blood On The Leaves,” his song from Yeezus that samples the Nina Simone version of “Strange Fruit,” the song about the lynching of African Americans recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939.

Kanye West performs totally silhouetted 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, 11:11 PM

One man. One mixing board. By all rights, Steve Aoki shouldn’t have that much power.

But with his booming elecronica set on Saturday night, the globetrotting DJ had the crowd at MIA hopping like Pavlov’s kangaroos for a solid hour.

The Aoki EDM experience is a ritual of frenzy and abandon. It’s part carnival music, part sports arena spectacle, all powered with an insane underbody of bass. And it’s completely machine-tooled.

Steve Aoki perform on the Liberty Stage during the Budweiser Made in America Festival, on the Ben Franklin Parkway, in Philadelphia on August 30, 2014.
POSTED: Saturday, August 30, 2014, 9:28 PM

Indie rock is not Made In America’s strong suit. There are a handful of top-shelf bookings, such as Mayer Hawthorne on Saturday and Spoon and Grimes on Sunday afternoon. But for the most part, the fest pulls in its people with hip-hop and classic-rock headliners and a heavy dose of EDM.

So there was some question as how well the brooding Brooklyn band The National would go over with a determined-to-party pop audience. After all, there’s a high seriousness to singer Matt Berninger’s songs. The “I don’t have the drugs to sort it out” admission in “Afraid Of Everyone” that Berninger shared on Saturday was an admission of paranoia that wasn’t in step with anyone else on the bill (except maybe that raving genius in the top spot, Kanye West).

And to be sure, The National’s stately hour-long set, complete with horn section, was a chill-out interlude in a relentlessly energetic day. But it was also one of the day’s unquestioned highlights. That’s because The National are a band that builds a majestic wall of sound never overblown but, on Saturday night anyway, always compelling, from Berninger’s sonorous vocals, to Bryce Dessner’s careening guitar, to the way Berninger knocked the microphone on his noggin with a percussive agenda. Most impressive.

The National perform at the Rocky 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, 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 )
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