By Jonathan Edmondson
Arts & Entertainment Editor
Philadelphia knows how to end summer with a bang. Each Labor Day weekend for the past two years, “Made in America,” the Jay-Z curated music festival, has come to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The streets fill with thousands of music lovers, desperate to squeeze in one last festival fix before the summer fades away into a distant melody.
The festival features hand-picked acts by Jay-Z himself from various genres, spanning hip-hop, alternative and electronica and with four stages to keep attendees plenty occupied during the two-day event.
On Saturday, Sept. 14, the day kicked off right with The Neighbourhood, an alternative band that broke into the music scene with its hit single, “Sweater Weather.” While it was sizzling outside, the band kept it cool with smooth vocals from lead singer Jesse Rutherford. A large crowd gathered around the Rocky Stage, which served as the main stage for the festival, and swayed to the edgy, indie sound.
Most of the crowd then moved to one of the side stages to see Chromeo, a Canadian electro-funk, disco duo who ran through an energetic and engaging set. Members David Macklovitch and Patrick Gemayel proved their musical talent while keeping the crowd entertained and pumped-up for the rest of the night.
Just as the sun began to set, The National took the Rocky Stage to croon out sweet, acoustic jams while the crowd took a brief respite from the heat and intensity of the early afternoon. Lead singer Matt Berninger serenaded the crowd with his passionate baritone vocals and melancholy lyrics.
As darkness crept over the festival, attendees were met by the one-two punch of J. Cole and Steve Aoki. Cole, a North Carolina native, greeted a massive crowd and immediately dove into an impressive set. His passion was evident as his voice started to disappear after pouring so much of himself into each track.
Then, as soon as Aoki took the stage, a giant dance party erupted in the streets. Lights flashed and the bass blared as everyone in attendance got lost in the beat. Some attendees took to climbing trees and lampposts to show their dedicated enthusiasm. To add to the madness, Aoki threw multiple whip cream pies into the audience and then showered everyone with champagne to finish off his set.
To close out Saturday night, headliner Kanye West took the stage. The Parkway was packed with hardcore fans and casual listeners alike awaiting a set from one of music’s biggest names. As expected, there were multiple surprises, including West stopping in the middle of one of his songs to demand the lights be changed to what he originally planned. In addition, he had more than a few speeches which included how hard he works and how he doesn’t appreciate jokes. Antics aside, West has true musical talent.
Day two was met with inclement weather and caused most of the crowd to leave the festival early, but they managed to squeeze in acts like Kongos, Bear Hands and Man Overboard. Each of them put on fun, diverse sets that appealed to various interests. Also, the popular band Awolnation played through the rain and sang hit singles “Sail” and “Kill Your Heroes.”
Overall, the festival was an amazing way to end the summer with a crop of fellow music lovers who simply enjoy being carefree for a weekend without worrying about the stress of reality.