After a thrilling Saturday at Made In America (MIA), I was more than excited for Sunday to commence. On Sunday September 4th, 2016, we arrived at Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 3pm.
You may remember me warning you about how long the lines can get – well there was a reason for this. On Saturday we arrived at 1:15pm, and walked straight up to security. On Sunday, as we arrived at 3pm, and we had to wait 30 minutes before we even reached security, because there were so many people trying to enter MIA at that time.
Once we got through security, we were all handed LED bracelets to put on. These bracelets were in preparation for the headlining act of the day: Coldplay. The bracelets were worn all day, but their true purpose was not revealed until the end of the night, when Coldplay took to the stage.
I’m not sure how many of you are aware of this, but Beyoncé’s birthday was on Sunday September 4th. Every performer gave a shout out to Beyoncé for her birthday. Although I thought it was a nice sentiment, it seemed a little strange to me that every person was giving her homage. Turns out, we were in the mist of musical and political royalty. To celebrate her birthday, Beyoncé came to the MIA festival, accompanied by Jay Z – the founder of MIA – and Malia and Sasha Obama. Furthermore, there was a surprise visit from Bill Clinton, who also joined Beyoncé for the festivities. As if all of this wasn’t exciting enough, Chance the Rapper gave Beyoncé a personal Happy Birthday serenade. I don’t know about you, but I would go crazy if Chance the Rapper sang me a Happy Birthday tune.
We came to MIA much later on the Sunday, so we didn’t see as many of the acts. That being said, some of the performers we did see really stood out – but one of them was not for a good reason. FLAT WHITE’s set, unfortunately, was remarkably underwhelming. His transitions were some of the worst I had ever seen; he would cut songs off far too early, and he would switch between genres and sounds with no fluidity. He had an inability to read the crowd, so the energy kept dropping when it should have been building. He kept tuning the music off to make the crowd sing at inopportune moments, and far too frequently. It was almost as if he got too excited when the crowd started to get into the songs, so he immediately cut the song off, even though the energy had not adequately built, so there was an awkward silence where he intended for the audience to sing.
It did help that I had a couple cans of Budweiser to help the set pass faster, but I spent a majority of the set trying to understand how he had managed to perform at such a big festival, with so little skill. FLAT WHITE also played at least 4 Kanye songs in his set, which further limited his ability to show range. Fortunately his set slightly warmed up towards the end; he played a song that everybody absolutely loved, so when he cut the music off, everyone was finally singing. He said he was just ‘testing the vibe’, and allowed the music to resume. After this, the set got significantly better, but it was not remotely enough to redeem the disaster of the beginning of his set.
Luckily, all of the other acts at MIA were far better. DJ Khaled performed on the main stage, and a ridiculous amount of people showed up for his set. He played loads of old classics, and preached about how people told him he would never get to this stage, which encouraged the crowd to get behind him 100 percent. DJ Khaled also brought out Jay Electronica for a couple songs – perhaps because Jay’s set was cut so short the previous day. Both performers went out into the audience together, which got everybody even more riled up.
After DJ Khaled’s set, Madeon stepped up to the plate on the Freedom Stage. I had the privilege of seeing him at the Billboard Hot 100, so I had high expectations for him, as he was one of the best DJ’s I had ever seen live – to my delight he did not disappoint. His songs were well chosen for the crowd, his transitions smooth, and his vibe was perfect. After him, Martin Garrix performed on the Liberty Stage. Martin Garrix is one of my favorite DJ’s, and he proceeded to perform one of the best sets I have ever seen. The graphics in the background were also exceptional, with an artistic representation of him and the audience shown on the projector.
Then it was time for Coldplay. To my dismay, we only had time to see Coldplay’s show for 30 minutes, and I will explain why later. However, the 30 minutes we did get to see were mind-blowing. Intriguingly, Coldplay started his set with some opera playing through the speakers – something that I never would have foreseen in a million years. He also played part of the ‘power to the people’ audio recording. When it came time for Coldplay’s opening song, fireworks erupted, providing us with stunning visuals to accompany Coldplay’s angelic voice. As soon as Coldplay started, everybody’s LED bands lit up, making the crowd look breathtaking. The lights were red for the first couple songs, but they appropriately turned yellow when Coldplay sang his song ‘Yellow’. The effect allowed the audience to not only experience the performance, but also be part of it, and integral to it, which added a whole new purpose to being there. Far too soon, we had to leave Coldplay’s set, but what we got to see was well worth the wait.
You may be chastising me for leaving the set early, but I assure you, I had no other option. Remember, when talking about Day 1, I told you it was important to plan travel far in advance? Well, here is why. On Day 1, we had a bus booked for 11:15pm, and it was the last bus back to New York until 7am, so we left Rihanna’s set early, at 10:30pm. We assumed 45 minutes would be more than enough time to make our way to the bus, as it was only a 10-minute cab ride. We did not account for the fact it took us 20 minutes to get through the crowd of the Rihanna concert, and out of Benjamin Franklin Parkway. By this point, we had 25 minutes to catch the last bus back to New York. Little did we know, that cabs and Ubers were not allowed in the vicinity of MIA, so it took us a further 5 minutes to go to a location where cars could pick us up. Things only got worse from there.
Just as my friend was ordering us an Uber, her phone, along with our external charger, had completely drained of battery. My phone only had 5% battery left, and we needed it to show our confirmation email for the bus, so I was not able to use my phone at all. In other words, we had 15 minutes to get to the last bus to New York, and no way to get there. Slightly tipsy, incredibly stressed, and highly emotional, we went into a Gyu Kaku, and begged the manager to call a cab for us to get to the bus station. By this time, we only had 10 minutes left to make a 10-minute journey. What happened next, restored my faith in humanity. The manager knew full well that if we waited for a cab then we would miss our bus. He told an employee named Eric Naroden to finish his shift an hour before he was meant to, and he drove us all the way to the bus, and he helped me charge my phone on the way. We made it to the bus with no minutes to spare; only to find out we had to print out the tickets, as the email confirmation would not suffice. Fortunately for us, the bus driver waited an extra couple minutes, so that we made it to the bus with tickets in hand. After this entire ordeal, we managed to catch the last bus back to New York, but never in my life do I want to be in a situation that stressful again. Please in the future MIA, select a designated taxi and Uber zone!
So, when Sunday came around, and we had an 11pm bus, which was also the last bus back to New York, we were not taking any chances. We left Coldplay’s set at 10pm, equip with 2 external chargers. We went directly to a road where we could order an Uber, and we made it to the bus by 10:30pm. It’s extremely fortunate that we left the festival that early, as the bus left 10 minutes earlier than it should have. If we had got this bus the day before, we would have missed it. We sat in the bus, feeling validated in our decision to leave the set early, yet still satiated by the phenomenal day we had experienced.
We had an incredible two says at the Budweiser Made In America Festival, thank you so much Budweiser for the invite! See you next year!
Also, if you end up in Philadephia, please visit the Gyu Kaku restaurant. There is no way we would have made it back to New York without them. With staff that fantastic and helpful, they deserve the support! The link to their chain is below: