The fourth installment of Jay-Z’s Made in America festival kicked off yesterday with a full day of sun and sounds, from hard rock to hip-hop, capped by a knockout performance by pop idol Beyonce. When she played MIA back in 2013, Bey was just ahead of dropping her surprise self-titled release – the record that might just have gone on to be the biggest of her career. Last night’s crowd got to hear stellar performances of music from that album – the cathartic “Drunk In Love,” the funky disco of “Blow,” the eerie and industrial “Haunted,” the joyous anthem “XO” – backed by a squad of dancers and arty film projections. It was a theatrical production as much as a concert, and it was captivating.
On the rock end of things, Modest Mouse made their proper Philly appearance in what feels like forever, and sounded tight and funky – “Dark Center of the Universe” was great to hear early in the set, “Float On” wound up being a big singalong in my section of the crowd. Death Cab for Cutie was also a treat, sounding intense and tighter then ever in their post-Chris Walla configuration and mixing in cuts from their new Kintsugi with old jams like “Cath…” and the epic set closer “Transatlanticism.”
On the Philly end of things, Hop Along had the biggest crowd of the day at the Skate Stage and tore up songs from Painted Shut and Get Disowned, doing perhaps the best “Sister Cities” I’ve ever heard them do. Meanwhile fellow XPoNential Music Fest alums Strand of Oaks destroyed quite literally during their set; an amp head blew up, cutting out both guitars. The air smelled like chlorine, and things were uncertain for a quick moment, but the band got it fixed and powered through a fierce delivery of music from last year’s HEAL as well as a smoking jam on early cut “Sterling” that must have had Neil Young’s son bobbing his head over in the Pono booth nearby. Waxahatchee also sounded terriffic playing as the sun set, bringing things to a breathless stillness during the hushed “Blue Pt. II.” Earlier in the day, Doylestown four-piece Superheaven brought the epic 90s riffs and Creepoid played a set of smoking psychedelic space-punk. And on the main stage, Meek Mill mixed up songs from Dreams Worth More than Money with candid banter and a guest spot from Nicki Minaj.
We also caught digable sets from stoner rapper Earl Sweatshirt (who went on to play the TLA for the MIA afterparty last night), Nick Jonas (say what you want, that boy can sing), Vic Mensa (he killed it working the crowd), De La Soul (dad rap, yeah, but “Potholes in my Lawn” and “Me Myself and I” sounded sick) and more.
Check out photos from Day One below, and follow our real-time coverage of Made In America day two over at the XPN Instagram.