Before the Rain: Made In America day two grooves with Grimes, Danny Brown, Vacationer (and two songs from Spoon)
Let’s go back for a moment. Before the torrential downpour, before the lightning and thunder, before Spoon got cut off after a rousing “Don’t You Evah” two songs into their first time on the Made In America stage. The second day of Jay Z’s Philly megafestival (now in its third year and first time with a bicoastal setup) offered a lively assortment of groovy summertime pop, roof-raising EDM, badass rap and solid rock and roll.
Local DJ Noah Breakfast – formerly one half of the hip-hop/pop Chiddy Bang crew – opened the day on the Freedom Stage with big beats and bright lights before two other like-minded Philadelphia indie bands brought sunny pop vibes elsewhere on the MIA grounds.
First Vacationer played a set heavy on the tropical electropop-on-the-beach vibes of its latest LP Relief, released earlier this year, dipping back for the title track of its Trip LP and some other choice cuts. Frontman Kenny Vasoli simultaneously repped the Phillies (a ballcap) and Dr. Dre (a t-shirt), and has grown into quite the entertaining frontman since I caught them last summer at 2nd Street Festival. Equally breezy – though definitely more danceable – was Cruisr, which just announced its new record deal with Vagrant last week. It was still early and the crowd was relatively thin over at the Skate Park Stage, but the band was unfazed, rolling out a generous handful of brand new Making Time-ready jams (Dave P, book these dudes sometime soon, cool?) in the mix with cuts from its self-released debut EP like “The Fritz.”
LA rapper YG played a hard-hitting set peppered with many homages to Philly’s Meek Mill, who has been in jail since July for a parole violation. YG covered the title track to Meek’s Dreams and Nightmares with some of the rapper’s own vocals looped in, and also wowed the high energy audience with his own cuts like the Drake collabo “Who Do You Love.” Also impressive from the hiphop realm was Detroit’s Danny Brown – lyrically his set was kind of base, but in terms of pure showmanship, this guy worked the stage with more fierocity than just about anybody else this weekend. (Kanye was probably more of a showman.)
Philly’s Nothing played in the midafternoon, cranking the amps – and at one point blowing out the PA – to thunderous noiserock jams from their 2014 LP Guilty of Everything. It’s not exactly music I expected to translate on a sunny afternoon, but the band’s volume and intense playing made it decidedly connect.
Later on the Rocky Stage, I caught a peppy set and surprisingly enjoyable from LA rockers Awolnation – “Guilty Filthy Soul” was a great opener – before bouncing down to the Skate Park stage to see Jersey pop punks Man Overboard. They were okay; goofy, nasal, kind of annoying, but undeniably catchy and well-received from a crowd of fans clapping and singling along.
The standout set of the day belonged to Claire Boucher, the woman behind the eccentric pop act Grimes. Like many artists anymore, Boucher creates music with keyboards and loop stations and then sings along. Unlike the vast majority of those artists, she knows that it’s pretty freaking boring for a crowd to watch somebody fiddling with knobs and samplers and nerdy tech-y things, so once she gets her beats going, she rushes to the front to dance and deliver with the conviction of a pop star. Her dancers are a sweet added touch, with impressive choreography and massive smiles. Everybody onstage looked like they were having a great time – the two songs Boucher recorded with Blood Diamonds, “Phone Sex” and “Go,” sounded great and closing number “Genesis” got an enthusiastic reaction from the audience.
This is the part where the rain comes in. It had been moderately drizzling when Austin indie rock favorites Spoon took the stage, but nothing overwhelming – frontman Britt Daniel cheerily told the crowd they were excited for their first Philly show in four years, and the band opened up with the killer “Rent I Pay” from their new album They Want My Soul, then slid with the slickness into popular favorite “Don’t You Evah” from 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.
Right around here there came thunderclaps, flashes of lightning and the signal from the wings that Spoon had to stop. Announcements came through the PA that a storm was headed in and the crowd had evacuate the festival grounds and find shelter. Daniel walked offstage with a dejected look, and thousands of festivalgoers wandered out the front gate into rainy center city.
Of course the show did go on, and our Bruce Warren will report on the end of the evening later today. For now, take a look at our gallery of photos from day two below; for our day one coverage, go here.