Words: Alison Nieto — Pictures: Ryan Bowman
Imagine you’ve been invited to the biggest block party of the year. Now imagine it’s full of all your favorite artists, performing at different stages all day. Now imagine it’s hosted by Jay-Z. Welcome to Made In America.
This year’s festival featured an outstanding line-up of hip-hop, R&B and alternative artists, with Post Malone headlining Saturday night’s festivities and Nicki Minaj reigning over Sunday. Our day kicked off at 1:30 PM on the Liberty Stage with a performance from The Driver Era, an alternative band best known for their song “Preacher Man.” They were followed by a performance from Tyla Yaweh over on the main stage (aptly named the Rocky Stage), an up and coming rapper who just released his latest single “Gemini” in mid-May. The rapper spent more time in the crowd than on the stage, interacting with everyone in the audience throughout his set. Preme took the Liberty Stage next, pulling the crowds away from the stage at the foot of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Preme was joined by Yaweh on the Liberty Stage to perform their single “Goals.”
After the set on the Liberty Stage, Jessie Reyez, an alternative artist from Toronto, Canada performed on the Rocky Stage. Her striking vocals captivated the crowds while she sang about issues like the #metoo movement and her own journey as an artist. Tekashi 6ix9ine was supposed to take the Rocky Stage at 4:15 but he was delayed so the festival improvised with two short sets and continued with 6lack on the Liberty Stage. He commented that he was supposed to be on vocal rest but didn’t want to cancel his set and gave it all, joking that his doctor is going to kill him when he gets home.
Tekashi 6ix9ine took the stage after 6lack and played most of his set before removing both his shirt and his pants and running around the stage in his underwear. If nothing else, he was a great entertainer and had a great stage presence. Immediately after Tekashi 6ix9ine’s set, Fat Joe took the stage and took the crowd on a musical journey, including hits like “All The Way Up,” which the entire Villanova community should recognize as the recurring theme song from the Wildcat’s 2016 NCAA Championship win. Fat Joe was also recently featured on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s charity track “Almost Like Praying,” which dropped last September in response to Hurricane Maria.
Janelle Monáe took the Liberty Stage at 7:00 PM. Monáe owned the entire stage, complete with a set of stairs in the middle of the stage, four back-up dancers and a throne for one of her songs. She opened her set with “Crazy, Classic, Life.” For the hour she was onstage, I could not take my eyes off her and the crowd was dancing from her opening number to the closing song “Tightrope,” where she belted her heart out. By far, I believe Monáe delivered the best performance of the night. Meek Mill took the Rocky Stage, as people sprinted from Monáe to watched the Philadelphia rapper make his grand return to the stage. Mill performed for an hour, captivating crowds of casual fans to diehard fanatics. It was definitely an incredible experience to be able to watch Mill perform in his hometown for the first time since his release from jail. Many celeberties were in attendance as well including 76’ers players Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and Villanova Basketball legend Josh Hart.
After Mill’s performance, DJ Zedd delivered an electric performance from the Liberty Stage. He played hits such as “Stay The Night (feat. Hayley Williams),” “The Middle (feat. Maren Morris),” “Break Free (feat. Ariana Grande),” and “Stay (feat. Alessia Cara).” Everyone was jumping up and down and singing to the songs we’ve heard on the radio all year summer. Zedd ended his set with “Clarity (feat. Foxes),” which was his first big hit in 2012. Finally, Post Malone hit the stage at 10 PM, and began his hour-long set. He experimented with lighting and moved all around the stage as he sang hits like “Better Now,” “Over Now,” and “Psycho.” Malone’s energy and unique voice were the perfect end to the first day of Made in America.
The festival has had many sponsors, including Abercrombie & Fitch, which had a pop-up shop set up in the Cause Village. The fashion company has never sponsored an event like this before, but in an effort to connect with their target market and bring the consumer experience to the customers partnered with MIA to design the festival merch. The merchandise has the words “Made in America” written in 13 different languages down the back of the shirts. Additionally, there was a pop-up barber shop, where a local barber from Philadelphia came in to style festival-goer’s hair. For every hairstyle done, he vowed to donate that time back to the community. The Cause Village was also home to a ton of charities, where festival-goers were encouraged to give back to the local community and register to vote. Overall, the first day of Made In America was beyond exciting, with breathtaking acts and incredible causes taking over the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.