An estimated 35,000 people came out for the downtown Los Angeles debut of Made in America.
In 2013, Made In America in Philadelphia was an absolute triumph, a well-run two-day event featuring Beyonce, Deadmau5, Calvin Harris and more. A large part of what made it so successful was the scope of the festival.
Unlike events such as Coachella and Lollapalooza, Made in America featured just three stages close enough together to actually be able to see everything and not cause massive fear of missing out among festival-goers. The only question was, How would the festival grow while keeping that relative intimacy? The answer turned out to be by doing what millions before Made in America had done -- going out west.
This year, Made in America is holding two simultaneous festivals -- one in Philadelphia and another in Los Angeles’ relatively new Grand Park. The L.A. edition kicked off Saturday (Aug. 30) in front of a packed crowd estimated at 35,000 fans. As early as 4 p.m., while rapper YG was on playing the Dylan Stage, it was already a Herculean task to navigate through the dense crowd.
For some of the artists on the bill, the thought of playing in the heart of downtown L.A., with a backstage located literally on the steps of City Hall, was exciting, if for different reasons.
“I think it’s like the first of its kind for L.A. We’ve had street festivals all the time, not at this scale,” L.A. resident Sebu Simonian of Capital Cities tells Billboard. “The stage was massive, the sound was huge, I think it’s a good experience. We had a good time, inaugural year in L.A., we’re from L.A., so it’s fitting.”
For DJ Gareth Emery it was a return appearance. “It’s been so long since I’ve done a festival in downtown L.A., obviously so much history and stuff. It’s amazing to be back here,” he said, adding the last downtown L.A. appearance was the infamous Electric Daisy Carnival in 2010, “The last one before they moved it to Las Vegas.”
The two main stages were right next to each other so fans who didn’t want to branch out to the EDM-centric James Dean Stage had their festival in a condensed space. But those who did explore by making their way up the stairs to the James Dean Stage, located right next to an open Starbucks where patrons were able to go in and out (one of the perks of an urban festival), liked the layout.
Rachel Reyes, a 28-year-old concert-goer from L.A., liked the spread out setup, though in the afternoon at least the turnout at James Dean Stage was definitely light.
That may have been due to a heavy concentration of talent at the two main stages, which saw YG on the Dylan Stage lead into Capital Cities on the Marilyn Stage. Then Metric on Dylan, Iggy Azalea on Marilyn and on and on throughout the night.
As the sun descended there were plenty of highlights, arguably none bigger than Afrojack’s hour-long set. As he took to the stage to set up a few minutes before his stage, the fans packed into the front chanted the DJ’s name. “A few minutes,” he told them, standing near the front of the stage to talk to the crowd amassed for him.
With a giant video screen behind him showing key lyrics from songs like “Ten Feet Tall,” the crowd -- which stretched back as far as could be seen, to the food trucks and beer gardens a good distance away -- screamed the words loudly. One fan got so into it they climbed a street light and began waving an American flag.
L.A. and Philadelphia are not so different musically it turns out. In 2013, the biggest turnout was for Calvin Harris, and Saturday night it definitely felt like Afrojack had the biggest crowd and party, with female fans dancing atop people’s shoulders and even some crowd-surfing -- not a usual occurrence at an EDM show.
Day one headliners Imagine Dragons closed out the night with a hit-laden set that also brought a lot of crowd energy and support. Frontman Dan Reynolds got into the crowd-surfing as well, riding along the fans in front.
Among other standout sets were Kendrick Lamar, who received a shout out from Reynolds on stage. He called Lamar both immensely talented and down to earth. Other highlights included Metric and Emery, which did attract a heavy crowd up the stairs to the James Dean Stage.
The star at Made In America, though, is someone who didn’t even show up day one: founder Jay Z. “If Jay Z is not here I will be disappointed,” Reyes said.
L.A. fans have high expectations. But day one of Made In America lived up to almost every one of those, offering musical highlights, great crowds and a giant party.
Afrojack summed it up best after his set. “That was f------ awesome.”