I saw a lot of things this weekend at Made in America – a lot I can never un-see (but really wish I could,) and also a lot that I would never want to un-see (I’m looking at you, Skate Stage.) Being my first time attending the Jay Z-curated, Philly festival, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What I got was a lot of rain, a lot of mud, and most importantly, a whole lot of good tunes.
Though M.I.A. is notorious for their stacked hip-hop and EDM bill, the lineup boasted quite a smattering of local indie gems. Tucked away in the corner of the raging fest stood a heavenly haven of punks — a.k.a. the glorious Skate Stage. With a half-pipe practically inches away from the bands, a whole heck of a lot of shredding went on.
Dreamy indie outfit, Queen of Jeans, eased into the start of the weekend with breezy, retro vibes, while LA-based, Philly bred, Mt. Joy kept their soulful, folk-y songs grooving despite the beginning of the day’s infinite torrential downpour.
Mannequin Pussy burned through their fiery, no-nonsense quick jams with a contagious fervor (i.e. they packed in twelve songs in their forty-five minute set;) with Philly’s favorite lo-fi weirdo prodigy, (Sandy) Alex G, taking the stage next.
As the deluge of water remained relentless, Giannascoli thanked the sopping wet crowd for staying in the rain and being “diehard fans.” Primarily playing tracks off of the latest album, Rocket, the crew ended with the catchy jazz experiment, “Guilty,” to which Giannascoli repeatedly noted as “their best song” they saved for last.
On Sunday, Michelle Zauner reminded me that I’ll never be as cool and/or badass as her as she entranced the crowd with electro indie rock as frontlady for Japanese Breakfast – later quipping that she felt like she was in high school again, as “she played songs while skater boys ignored her.” A funny kind of irony since Zauner also let the crowd know that she was missing her ten-year high school reunion for the set, to which she simply wrote on the Facebook event page, “Cannot attend. Playing Jay-Z’s festival.” Like I said, total badass.
Philly punks, Beach Slang, later gave one of the most entertaining performances of the weekend, as the uberly charismatic frontman, James Alex, opened with the blunt and honest statement: “We are Beach Slang from Philadelphia and we are here to punch you right in the heart.” And punch they did, as the fancily-dressed Alex played to the crowd by leading the band in a flurry of blink-and-you-missed-it covers of Santana’s “Smooth,” Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy,” and even Oasis’s “Wonderwall,” while devoting a full rendition to the gloomily searing Pixies’ jam, “Where Is My Mind?”
Emo rockers, Tigers Jaw, then capped the last of the local bands in wonderful angsty pop fashion — particularly the Brianna Collins’ fronted track, “June,” which danced about as a shimmering sunset send-off.
If you were at Made in America this year and weren’t aware of these low-key, hidden performances, explore a little next time, and come through for what will hopefully be another local music treasure trove. Just follow the sounds of crunchy guitar, stop when you see Vans and flannel, and jam to your heart’s desire.