Pearl Jam Closes Made In America Festival; Brings Politics, Jay-Z To The Stage

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Photo: Maria Ives

Photo: Maria Ives

Throughout day two of the Made In America festival, fans had eyes peeled for the event’s spokesman and headliner, Jay-Z. Every appearance he made, whether on the side of another artist’s stage (he watched Janelle Monae and Gary Clark Jr.), walking through the crowd (with a security detail, of course! ) or even strolling through the media area (not to actually talk to the media: he needed to use a portajohn) caused a frenzy.

But other than his own performance Saturday night, the only other time he grabbed a microphone was when he joined Pearl Jam on stage towards the end of their set for a rousing mashup of their “W.M.A.” and his “99 Problems.”  But there were many great performances before that incredible collaboration.

Santigold opened the main stage at 2:45 pm: her Devo-esque band started playing and her two dancers led Santi’s way to the mic.  She pulled a large crowd for such an early start time, but had the audience dancing with her hits “Disparate Youth” and “L.E.S. Artistes.”

The dance tent was packed all day, both days, creating a sort of alternate festival. On day two some of the big name DJs included Afrojack and DJ Shadow (an ironic inclusion given his song “Why Hip-Hop Sucks In ‘96” from his 1996 Endtroducing… album: the only lyrics were, “It’s the money!”).  But if you prefer to dance to two guitars, bass, drums and one of the greatest frontmen on the planet, you can’t do any better than The Hives… and they’ll be the first to tell you so.

The Swedish band’s show started before they even appeared, with their roadies scurrying back and forth across the stage… dressed like ninjas, including black facemasks.  As for the band, they actually topped Jay-Z for style and equaled him for “swagger” with their dress code of top hats and tuxedoes.

“Hate To Say I Told You So,” “Main Offender” and “Tick Tick Boom,” riled up the crowd who yelled along with singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist.  Without a doubt, The Hives gained some new fans at the festival.  Everyone in the general vicinity of their stage was smiling and their crowd grew throughout their show.

Gary Clark Jr. returned to play Made In America for a second day in a row, this time on the smaller Liberty Stage. The crowd seemed larger in a more condensed area, and there was an additional draw: Jay-Z and Beyonce were on the side of the stage (as was Jay’s Roc Nation signing, Rita Ora, who opened the Liberty Stage hours earlier) dancing to the bluesman’s psychedelic fretwork and soulful singing.  A cameo on a new Jay-Z (or Beyonce) record could be all that this artist needs to launch him to the so-called “next level.”

One of the emotional highlights of the day was Run-D.M.C.’s performance, marking their return from retirement: as the Reverend Run noted, he and D.M.C. decided to end the group after their DJ Jam Master Jay was killed in 2002. The video screen above the stage read “Jam Master Jay Forever” throughout the show, and Run and D.M.C. had Jay’s sons, both DJs, join them on stage. Both Jason Mizell Jr. and TJ Mizell, performed brief sets on the turntables. The re-activated group’s show was celebratory and fun: when addressing the fact that people are still surprised that he’s an ordained minister, Run said, “I can marry you or bury you!” pointing out that he hasn’t lost his edge. Neither have their classics like “King Of Rock,” “It’s Tricky” and their Aerosmith collaboration “Walk This Way” (one of the first songs that broke down the walls between rock and hip-hop, directly leading to cross genre audience that made up Made In America).

Pop-rapper Drake mentioned several times during his set that he was honored to be “opening” for Pearl Jam.  Although technically, he was opening for legendary L.A. punk band X, making one of the most bizarre transitions of the day: going from an artist who values flashiness and popularity to one that is suspicious of both.  Their sales never came close to matching their influence: Pearl Jam are X disciples, and it’s likely that they helped to get X booked (it’s unlikely that X would be on Jay-Z’s radar).  As with all classic punk rock shows, the fans concentrate on who is there, not who isn’t, and the audience was rapt during a high energy set that included three decade-old classics “Your Phone’s Off The Hook, But You’re Not,” “Johnny Hit And Run Pauline,” “Nausea,” their cover of The Doors’ “Soul Kitchen” (The Doors’ Ray Manzarek produced their first three albums) and “The Unheard Music.”

Of course, Pearl Jam was the big event, and they did pull a huge crowd. Some rock fans showed up late in the day just to see them (Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell was originally scheduled to play an acoustic set earlier in the day, but pulled out of the festival), while many hip-hop fans stuck around to check out a legendary band. Their two hour set (the longest of the weekend) included hits “Evenflow,” “Daughter,” “The Fixer,” “Do The Evolution,” “Jeremy” and “Alive.” But a good part of the set included lesser-known tracks like “Go,” “Got Some” and “rearviewmirror.”  There was no sense that the band, who change their setlist every night, was going too heavy on hits to cater to the crowd.

Eddie Vedder didn’t hold back on sharing his thoughts about the upcoming election, either. He noted that “One political party, we’re not mentioning names, is trying to make it harder to vote in certain places.” He said he hoped this would inspire people to be even more determined to vote in November, before launching into a cover of The Clash’s “Know Your Rights.”

Before “Unemployable,” he said,  “A lot of job creators are creating a lot of jobs for other countries.  We’d like to see more things made in America.” Jay-Z, watching from the side of the stage, had to be smiling: his festival kept even the least corporate band, Pearl Jam, “on brand.”   (And it’s worth noting that Made In America’s t-shirts were indeed, made in America).

The highlight was their collaboration (fan-shot videos were posted online within minutes) but Pearl Jam’s entire set had the audience energized from start to finish: after Jay-Z left the stage, they did one more song, Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World.” The band wrapped by their 11 pm curfew as construction crews walked towards the stage to start tearing it down.  Final tallies of attendance and gross have yet to be announced, but it looks like a sure bet that Made In America will return to Philadelphia in 2013.

Brian Ives, CBS Local 

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