Made in America Philly Day 1 Highlights: The National, Steve Aoki, Kanye West & More

Steve Aoki performs at the 2014 Made In America Festival
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Steve Aoki performs onstage at the 2014 Budweiser Made In America Festival at Benjamin Franklin Parkway on August 30, 2014 in Philadelphia, PA.

Here’s a minute-by-minute recap of Saturday’s Philly highlights.

Now in its third year, Budweiser Made in America got off to an auspicious, business-as-usual start in Philadelphia on Saturday (Aug. 30), featuring headlining performances from The National, Steve Aoki and Kanye West.

Made in America L.A.: Imagine Dragons, Kendrick Lamar, Afrojack Rock Day 1

But when considered in the context of its first companion event, the simultaneously running Made in America Los Angeles, the Live Nation festival hinted at an ambition on par with legendary music events like 1985’s Live Aid -- a dual concert held at both London’s Wembley Stadium and Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Stadium.

And where Phil Collins used a speedy, private jet to play both concerts, Made in America has six coast-hopping performers playing both festivals. West, Aoki, Cut Snake, and R3hab were headed to Los Angeles on their respective planes Sunday morning, while YG and Will Sparks booked it from downtown L.A. Saturday night to play mid-afternoon sets in Philly.
 
Frequent-flier feats aside, day one of Philly’s Made in America got off to a relatively quiet start on Saturday, with many stages at less than half-capacity for most of the afternoon. Perhaps some of last year’s fans opted to check out L.A., but the cause was more likely a back-loaded lineup that didn’t have many major draws until Chromeo’s 5:30 p.m. set. But by the time Aoki set up shop at the Liberty Stage, his giant, neon DJ booth illuminating a sea of wall-to-wall dance fans, Benjamin Franklin Parkway had finally seen a proper takeover of its grounds.
 
Behind the scenes, Jay Z watched performances at the main Rocky Stage and neighboring Liberty Stage from his perch at Roc Nation’s private viewing area, where buddies and business partners like Translation’s Steve Stoute, Budweiser’s Brian Perkins and Roc-managed artist J. Cole floated in and out. Though he didn’t perform in Philly, he too was due in Los Angeles the next day, and backstage rumblings heard tell of a shared jet with Kanye.
 
Billboard is doing bicoastal duty, too, but before we take off for L.A., here’s a minute-by-minute recap of Saturday’s Philly highlights.
 
1:30 p.m.: Shortly after doors open, Toronto’s The OBGMs (short for The oOohh Baby Gimme Mores) kick things off with a brisk, funk-rock set that nodded to a viral campaign they recently starred in for Budweiser Canada. In the clip, the unsigned group gets locked in their dressing room before a seemingly tiny club gig, while Budweiser frantically upgrades their stage production and shuttles in hundreds of fans via branded tour buses. The campaign put an indie spin on Budweiser’s Made For Music global campaign, which has also included Rihanna and Jay Z as spokespeople.
 
2:30 p.m.: It’s peak brunch hour in Philly, so it’s as perfect a time as ever for Cherub to close out their set on the Rocky stage with hit “Doses & Mimosas.”

2:45 p.m.: No sooner does Cherub’s dancey set wrap up before DJ Cassidy makes a bold bid to keep the energy going by kicking off his set with disco-fied single “Calling All Hearts.” The trick works, relocating virtually all of the young fans who arrived early from Rocky to Liberty for a dance party chock full of ‘80s and ’90s hits that are a solid five to eight years older than the average person in the crowd. This includes Technotronic’s “Pump Up The Jam,” Robin S.’ “Show Me Love” and a medley of Spandau Ballet’s “True” with Cassidy’s own “Make the World Go Round.”
 
3:20 p.m.: The bpms keep thumping over at the Freedom Stage, where Destructo (aka Hard founder Gary Richards) is treating the determined-to-rave crowd to a set of premium “G-house” normally reserved for the later hours at most EDM festivals. A deep house mix of Sage the Gemini’s “Gas Pedal” flows seamlessly into Destructo’s current hit “Party Up” featuring YG, with hard-hitting snippets of Khia’s “My Neck, My Back” and Juicy J’s “Bandz A Make Her Dance” also featured. Though there’s plenty of daytime raving going on, Destructo isn’t fully convinced the crowd has reached its full potential. “Philly, I heard this place gets f-----’ crazy. Show me.”
 
4:00 p.m.: Mayer Hawthorne takes the stage at Liberty, and the story of his booking is already the stuff of festival legend. The soul singer-songwriter attended last year’s festival as a guest of Budweiser, which included access to the super-exclusive Roc Nation viewing deck. Once there, he caught up with Beyonce to discuss a song he’d written for 2013’s Beyonce (she ultimately passed, but Hawthorne was just honored to have the opportunity), and then turned to her husband to ask, “What do I got to do to play this festival next year?” Ask and ye shall receive.

5:30 p.m.: Few bands have had a bigger breakout on the summer festival circuit than Chromeo. Like Empire of the Sun last year, Chromeo is often the lone live band that gets invited to all the big EDM fests (Electric Daisy, HARD, etc.) but can still draw major crowds to the dance tents at the likes of Coachella, Lollapalooza and many more. So it was no surprise that their mid-day set at Liberty drew the biggest crowd of the festival thus far, with fans flipping out to every word of Chromeo classics “Night By Night” and “Bonafied Lovin,” as well as current singles “Jealous (I Ain’t With It)” and “Come Alive.”

6:00 p.m.: The City and Colour (aka singer-songwriter Dallas Green) may be one of the lesser-known performers to grace the Rocky stage in terms of radio hits. But his engaging folk-rock can more than draw a crowd, retaining an impressive majority of the fans who came out to see Chromeo minutes prior.

7:50 p.m.: With Kanye’s closing set just hours away, Made in America officially reaches the Turn Up Zone, and J. Cole is on hand to usher in this new era with hits “She Knows” and “Crooked Smile.”
 
9:20 p.m.: There are two guarantees when The National plays your festival: 1) they will draw more people than anyone passively familiar with their catalog would have imagined, and 2) frontman Matt Berninger will end up surfing the crowd for “Mr. November.” Tonight, both guarantees were fulfilled.

9:30 p.m.: With his cake-tossing sets already the stuff of EDM legend, and hotly anticipated full-length Neon Future I just a month away, it’s Steve Aoki’s moment. And the impeccably tressed DJ knows it, kicking off the first of two Made in America sets this weekend with snippets of new music, including a new collab with Afrojack. By 9:45 p.m., the densely gathered crowd is in the palm of his hands: he deftly blends the opening chant from Kanye’s “Power” into The Chainsmokers’ new single “Kanye,” a cheeky nod to the Rocky stage moment that was about to transpire.

10:37 p.m.: After Aoki adds three or four new cakes to his lifelong total (seriously, someone get his baker a reality show), it’s Kanye time. As the sounds of angry dogs reverberates across the park, Kanye emerges from a cloud of smoke in his diamond-studded Yeezus tour mask. “Black Skinhead” is first on the menu, followed up quickly by his verse from “Mercy.”
 
10:50 p.m.: Kanye is barely three bars into “New Slaves” before he stops the music. “Turn that shit black and white,” he commands the video production crew. “I’ma take my mask off so they can see my face really close -- just my face, but black and white.” This is the first hint that a Kanye rant may be imminent, which prompts one fan to shout, “Go viral! Say some shit!”
 
10:58 p.m.: Rant request granted, part one. “You can call me a lot of things,” Kanye says after a triumphant “Power.” “I’m in a very publicized interracial relationship right now... I just need y’all to know this is the shit we give our lives to till 3 a.m. in the studio, not the media trying to segregate us.” He then asks the crowd to make some space to form a circle for a mid-set “Blood On the Leaves,” which he normally uses to close out each night of the Yeezus tour. 

11:14 p.m.: The mask is back on, and so is the ranting. “The main reason they say that Kanye is not a good guy...is just I tell the truth, and I tell the truth your whole life. All life. And what makes that Mercedes-Benz better than your Toyota or something is it’s called class. It’s what motivates you to get to a higher job, a better house...my job is to be exactly who I am. I sit at awards shows looking at mothaf------ like, I’m the only n---- here that’s not crazy.”
 
11:16 p.m.: And speaking of awards shows, Kanye was not happy with Jay Pharoah’s impression of him during last weekend’s VMAs, and called the “SNL” cast member up to tell him so. “[I said], ‘Let me tell you what I went through to get to that position -- it’s 12 times harder to do that if you see a black guy goofing on a black entertainer. It’s about beauty and truth and creativity and positivity.” Somewhere, a Budweiser exec sighs relief that cuddly Kanye has decided to come out tonight, and not anti-corporate ranting Kanye.

11:25 p.m.: Kanye would love to tell you more about his love for Travis Scott, Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean, but even he is wary of the clock. “The last thing I wanna do is f--- up my curfew for Jay Z, my brother, so don’t worry Hov.”

11:40 p.m.: We’re knee-deep in hits now, from “Run This Town” and “Heartless” to “All Falls Down” and “Touch The Sky.” Kanye apparently has so many hits, he’s already forgotten which ones were released as singles. “If you don’t mind, I wanna do something that’s a little bit underground,” he says before introducing top 20 Hot 100 hit “All Of the Lights.”

11:44 p.m.: The irony of performing “The Good Life” in the City of Brotherly Love does not elude Kanye. “The good life/if feel like Philly/it feel like Philly/IT FEEL LIKE PHILLY OHHH.”

11:50 p.m.: “Before we get out of here I wanna introduce the many people that helped make this shit tonight,” Kanye says before introducing his “legendary” keyboardist Mike Dean and “my cousin, the world-famous Tony Williams, take us home.” A closing one-two punch of “Bound 2” and “Blood On the Leaves” reprise was an apropos send-off, even if a handful of folks wouldn’t be going home for very long.

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