Made in America Festival: The Best and Worst
The long-awaited, and oft-controversial, Made in America finally arrived in L.A. over the weekend.
The attendance at the Jay-Z masterminded event wasn't fabulous, and John Mayer was performing, so there were two strikes against it from the start. Still, there were some pretty baller moments. Here are the best and worst of the festival.
See also: Our Made in America slideshow
Steve Aoki's Wild Energy
Not to get all Dave Grohl, but it bugs us that some DJs get paid boatloads to hit play on a computer in a dark club and stand around while everyone else gets wasted. Is that skill really as valuable as people who play instruments, rap, sing or dance?
The wonderful Steve Aoki had us changing our tune, however. He bounced all over the stage like a madman, throwing his signature sheet cakes into the crowd and spraying champagne into the air. His music may not require, like, his constant attention, but at least he is clearly working hard up there.
Getting High on the Steps of City Hall
What could be more exciting than breaking rules in the shadow of a couple of courthouses? As Top Dawg Entertainment's Ab-Soul declared from the base of the building that contains Los Angeles City's government, "Motherfuck the government!"
Of course, you weren't "supposed" to bring marijuana into the festival, but compared to how strict other major recent festivals have been, most of the rules at Made in America seemed more like general guidelines.
And of course, this was Los Angeles, so lighting a cigarette was more likely to piss off your neighbors than lighting a joint. And all the police officers present didn't seem to really care. "Medication, right?" some EMT guys asked a handful of people puffing away on a blunt.
This lax attitude also somehow spilled over into admissions: we heard about tons of people who slipped through fences without tickets or walked around barriers without beer garden wristbands. To be fair, we did also see some people get arrested trying to sneak in on the first day, but they attempted to hide rather conspicuously behind a tree, so that's on them.
The Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain
The fountain serves as a trippy destination for fun-loving Angelenos. Grand Park's New Years Eve celebration featured a blinking, 3D projection map of the fountain that dramatically disappeared during the midnight festivities. This past weekend, the fountain hosted Made in America's electronic dance music stage, where the bass dropped every five minutes and most pupils in sight were dilated. Nice job on whoever realized this awesome old fountain would be a perfect match for drugged out dancers looking for something weird and vibrating to stare at.
Let's take a moment and recognize that Budweiser, the event's sponsor, is incredibly uncool. Like, Budweiser is pretty much the last beer that any halfway young or hip person living anywhere near a city in America wants. It's not even cool for its cheap badness, like PBR.
So in an attempt to make their brand seem more authentic or something, Budweiser tried to reproduce the trappings of a craft brewery tour via a ridiculously phony looking trailer designed by a St. Louis marketing company. In exchange for a little time in some air conditioning (an understandable trade-off), festivalgoers heard about, you know, what hops are and how yeast works and what it means to lauter the mash. There were fake bricks and fake wooden boxes stacked and fake steel tanks — all to give the impression that you were sitting in a trendy, local place like Angel City Brewery or Golden Road, and not in a trailer designed by a $15 billion corporation that mass-produces shitty beer.
Crying Girl at John Mayer
We're not sure which was more disturbing: that a cameraman saw a twentysomething girl sobbing at the John Mayer show on Sunday night and decided to splash that private moment onto stories-high screens all over the park, or the possibility that the girl was crying about JOHN MAYER'S MUSIC. We're hoping those tears came from some recent, sudden break-up, or from the realization that "No Such Thing" came out nearly 15 years ago and that time is just PASSING, and maybe now she is too old to apply for that Masters degree in Sociology she always thought she was going to get. That must have been why she was crying, right?
Because seriously, if this girl was full on weeping over the beauty of John Mayer's melodies/blue eyes/intensity/hot bod/guitar skills, I really don't even know what to say.
While City Hall and Jay Z considered whether 35,000 people attending a festival designed for 50,000 was a failure, those of us who waited a full hour in line for a mediocre burger were relieved the place wasn't packed to capacity. Except for when it came to how insecure the artists were.
Almost every performer wanted us to get louder, sing their lyrics, and turn up. Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo looked desperate as he coaxed us into the chorus to a song nobody knew: "Now as loud as you can!" he shouted.
Kendrick Lamar told us he was used to playing giant festivals all over the world: now that he was back in his home town, couldn't we raise the volume to compete?
Turns out, we couldn't. Between the low audience numbers and the diversity of the lineup, it was difficult to find anyone who was a die-hard fan of more than one or two artists. Good thing the ever-phenomenal Kanye West was behind his signature bedazzled mask for most of his show; he maybe didn't notice that the crowd didn't live up to the stadiums he's used to.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.