In advance of this weekend's Budweiser Made in America festival, pop music critic Dan DeLuca held a chat Monday with readers on The Talk, the inquirer.com page moderated by columnist Daniel Rubin. Here's an edited transcript of the Dans' conversation.
The Talk: Who are you jazzed about seeing?
Dan DeLuca: Lots of bands, actually. Phoenix. Beyoncé. Kendrick Lamar. AlunaGeorge, Miguel, QOTSA [Queens of the Stone Age]. Deadmau5, the Saturday EMD headliner, whom I've never seen.
TT: I have to figure that not everyone knows some of these smaller-font names they show on the MIA website. Tell me about AlunaGeorge, for starters.
DD: AlunaGeorge are a very cool new Brit R&B club music duo, made up of singer Aluna Francis and her DJ producer-partner guy, whose name is George Reid. Great song called "Your Drums, Your Love" is where I'd start. I have an interview with her coming in Friday's Inky Weekend section.
Guest comment: Were the crowds overwhelming last year or did MIA make for a good experience?
DD: Not overwhelming. It was very hot on the blacktop on Saturday afternoon during Gary Clark Jr. as I recall. And the food lines were long. But they limited attendance to 50,000 last year, and 40,000 showed up. Wasn't too crushing. This year they are expanding the capacity to 60,000. Not sure if there's more space or not, so we'll see how it feels. The stage setup was pretty well designed, easy to get around. Almost all of the EDM - electronic dance music - is in one tent, so if that's your scene, that's where you go to be in a laser-show strobe-light sweathouse.
TT: Any chance they'll bring in better, or adequate, cellphone coverage this time around?
DD: They better have better cellphone coverage. Actually, I think it was better on Sunday, the second day, last year. That's crucial, not only so working stiffs like you and me can file our stories, but so everybody can text and tweet and post, because that's what we go to shows for, isn't it? Not to actually watch the band and hear the music, but to take pictures of the band and tell the world we're there.
TT: Hard to spread buzz when there's no signal. . . . I'd asked you who else you were looking forward to.
DD: Solange, Beyoncé's indier, more Brooklyn-y sister. Does a sweet cover of Dirty Projectors' "Stillness Is the Move." Haim, the sister trio from L.A. A bit Fleetwood Mac-ish. Public Enemy. Flavor Flav will be in the house.
TT: I assume, given your job and omnivorous tastes, that you see everything good that comes through town or within driving distance. Which acts are less familiar to you?
DD: I don't get out to EDM clubs or festivals all that much. MIA is particularly strong in that regard. I have never, for instance, seen the Estonian DJ-producer known as Mord Fustang.
TT: Can you grab me a Mord Fustang T-shirt?
DD . . . Robert DeLong, a guy from L.A. who mixes electronica and more conventional songwriting, has been hotly tipped. I missed him at SXSW this year, so I'm keen on that.
TT: Is there anyone you'd consider that perfect opportunity for a long bathroom break?
DD: Well if all EDM sounds like a car alarm going off to you, I would say you should bring earplugs and walk several blocks away in search of a fish taco during Deadmau5 or Wolfgang Gartner or Nero, for instance.
TT: Last year I told you I had a moment during Jay Z's electric headliner when I bristled at the rawness of the language, the free-flying n-words, the b-words. All those words that can sound one way when you're cranking it up in the car, and then sound another way altogether when, like last summer, way too many people were shooting each other in Philadelphia. I felt like a fuddy-duddy, but I have to tell you it bothered me, given the outrageous violence we were experiencing. So last week on Philly.com, radio host Dom Giordano wrote a commentary headlined "Make Jay Z concert an n-word-free zone"? It was the Riley Cooper moment that set him off. What do you make of [those] concerns.
DD: It will never be an n-word-free zone, I will tell you that - though the n-words being used will most likely end in -a rather than -er and be voiced by African American artists with very different meaning and context than the way Riley Cooper used the -er word. It's also of note that there will be plenty of warm, humanist, positive vibes, coming in large part from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, whose "Same Love" hit is a celebration of equal rights and gay marriage.
TT: So let's finish with an open-ended question, Dan. They call this show "Made in America." Throwing out Phoenix and a few others, tell us what's American about this roster. Is this the leading edge of American music today?
DD: Is it the leading edge? The bleeding edge? No. I'd say Made in America is a marketing concept owned by a beer company [that is owned by a Belgian Brazilian multinational brewer], and a convenient catchy festival name that meshes with Jay Z and Kanye's song "Made in America," which is about African American achievement, and it makes perfectly logical sense to put such a fest on here in the city where America was "made," from a modern marketing synergistic standpoint, at least. And the bands do reflect a certain diversity, and an interesting definition of a contemporary urban sound.
Will it change the way people think about Philadelphia? Probably not, but it could. People come here and go to a star-studded pop concert right in the middle of Philadelphia's own beautiful Champs-Elysees - did I spell that right? It's a unique event, and I don't see any other big East Coast metropolises pulling off anything like it. It might seem like a big headache to Philadelphians who aren't interested in the music, but if you come in from out of town to see Beyoncé and Phoenix and Calvin Harris and Nine Inch Nails on Labor Day weekend right in the middle of town, you probably think Philadelphia is doing something right.
Find the entire chat at The Talk under live chat.