BEING THERE: Made In America


Made In America, the two day music festival organized by Jay-Z, returned to Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway over Labor Day Weekend. Early in day one, much-buzzed-about sister act Haim impressed the crowd with their unique percussion-heavy mix of 80’s pop and jam band-ian hippie-rock. Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Flava Flav performed their politically charged rap backed by a sizzling live band and delivered one of the best sets of the fest. Public Enemy put their money where their mouth is, announcing that they were donating their payment for the show to the embattled and underfunded School District of Philadelphia and challenged the headliners to do the same. Imagine Dragons played a slow building set that missed with a mash up of “Hang Me Up to Dry” and oldies classic “Stand By Me” but bulls-eyed with teeth rattling and crowd pleasing “Radioactive.” As night fell on the festival, Deadmau5 ascended a large, illuminated upside down pyramid and proceeded to spin out an impressive set of progressive house with festival curator Jay-Z watching from the wings. Beyonce closed the first night with an hour and a half tour de force that re-affirmed her bonfides as the reigning queen of pop.  Her show featured an exhausting half dozen costume changes, a humungous storm of gold confetti, an luminescent renditions “Halo” and a “Crazy In Love.”

Fitz And The Tantrums opened up day two with a fun set of smooth retro pop that had the hot crowd clapping and dancing. Wavves impressed with a smart set of catchy punk pop under the blazing afternoon sun. Beyonce’s little sis Solange delivered an engaging set of edgy synth pop and won Best Song Title Of The Festival with “Some Things Never Seem To Fucking Work.” Rappers Kendrick Lamar and Whiz Khalifa each performed explosive rap sets that ratcheted up the energy level of the festival. Macklemore (wearing a retro Phillies jersey) and partner in crime Ryan Lewis rocked the crowd with a raucous lightning-strike set of their hits that drew the largest and loudest crowd of the day. Josh Homme’s Queens of The Stone Age turned a sludgy set of bluesy desert-rock highlighted by a hammering, snake-like “No One Knows” and the driving set closer “Go With The Flow.” But the most eagerly-awaited performance was Nine Inch Nails festival-closing headliner slot. Trent Reznor, NIN’s electro-industrial auteur, arrived alone on a bare stage, waved to the crowd and triggered the stuttering beats of new song “Copy of A” with a small synth console at center stage. As the song built he was joined one at a time by the other four members of his band. They followed with a bracing “Sanctified” then another new song, the classic-sounding “Came Back Haunted.” Later Nine Inch Nails delivered the highlight of the weekend with a thundering white and blue-lit “Wish.” Reznor closed with a slow meditative “Hurt,” after which the crowd filed out past a religious zealot waiting outside with a megaphone ranting about sin and redemption, not realizing the crowd had just had an hour and a half lesson on those subjects from a master. — PETE TROSHAK


WORTH REPEATING: Set ‘Made In America’ Free!

PHILLY POST:  In a city that is as impoverished as ours, it is unconscionable to fence off public space and charge the citizenry of Philadelphia the princely sum of $95 a day to stand on land they already own. That is just plain wrong, even if Skrillex is spinning. Before we go any further, let’s go over some numbers. In Philadelphia, a whopping 26.7 percent of the people live below the poverty line—i.e., an annual income of $22,314 for a family of four or $11,139 for an individual—which puts us way out front of Chicago (21.6 percent), Houston (20.6 percent), Los Angeles (19.58 percent) and New York City (18.7 percent) in the race to the bottom. And that’s just the working poor. Currently, unemployment in the City of Brotherly Love hovers at 10 percent which, in a city of 1.5 million, means 150,000 Philadelphians are currently without work.

Jay-Z’s net worth, according to Forbes, is $460 million. The bulk of that fortune comes from a number of recent business moves. In 2007, Jay-Z sold his Rocawear clothing label for $204 million. The next year he signed a 10-year, $150 million concert tour deal with Live Nation, which more or less means that Live Nation gave him $150 million and for the next 10 years every cent of his concert revenues will go to pay off that advance. Presumably the Made in America concert, which is being produced by Live Nation, is part of that deal. He currently holds stakes in the Brooklyn Nets, the 40/40 Club chain, and an ad firm called Translation. As recently as 2010, he was pulling down $63 million a year in income. That is a remarkable financial CV, especially when you consider the fact that Jay-Z, aka Shawn Carter, came from nothing. He grew up in Marcy Houses, a housing project in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City, which, it is safe to say, doesn’t turn out a lot of mega-millionaires.

Jay-Z is the living embodiment of the American Dream, never mind that his ticket out of the projects wasn’t rapping, but the sale and distribution of crack cocaine. At the height of his drug dealing days, when he oversaw a distribution network that extended out of Brooklyn to Trenton and down to Maryland and Virginia, he was moving upwards of a kilo of cocaine a week. At the time, the going rate for a kilo of pure coke was $20,000, but if you turned it into crack, you could quadruple your revenues, according to his business associates at the time. There are many words you could use to characterize such an operation: ruthless, immoral, felonious. But I prefer the most accurate and honest name for it: raw capitalism. MORE