Until more recently in my life, I didn’t know much about these enormous music festivals that have began to pop up everywhere in the world, other than casually hearing about Coachella here and there. Even then, I only knew of Coachella as some music event that occurred all the way across the country; but that it was apparently pretty epic. In 2012, Budweiser’s Made in America had kicked off as the East Coast’s largest urban music fest just two hours away from my home city in Philadelphia. I didn’t travel to Philly to go, but that’s when I started getting more clued in to what these multi-day massive concert blowouts were all about.
Last year, I was finally introduced to the in person experience for myself all the way in Barcelona, Spain, when I decided to travel to Europe with a girl I’d never even met in person and attend the Sonar Music Festival with her. (Crazy, right? I’ll be writing about this soon; stick around if you want to read allll about how that turned out.)
Sonar was unlike any other live music moment I’d experienced in life. After being bit by the festival bug, I made sure to attend DC’s 2nd annual Trillectro fest later that summer. Having had completely different music styles, locations, and atmospheres, I was grateful for the variation that my first two festivals awarded me.
Only shortly after I’d skipped to SoCal earlier this year, Budweiser announced that they were following me out west and expanding Made in America to the other city that’s always sunny - right here in Los Angeles. Prior to the artist lineup even being released, Adrienne jumped all over the tickets, promptly deciding upon a Labor Day weekend reunion in LA.
Can I just take a minute to tout how on-the-go my move making best friend has been this year? She visited me here in March before I’d even found my own place (LOL); upon graduation, she headed on her study abroad trip to Beijing and Shanghai, capping off her Asian adventures in Seoul, Korea; returned to DC only briefly before moving to Atlanta; lifted off to New York City for a week; spent time in Texas in both Dallas and Houston; came back to LA for the second time this year; and will be spending her upcoming birthday in Chicago. And the year’s not even over yet! Phew, I can’t keep up. I hope her work load lightens up a bit, we’d all love to read about her many jetsetting chronicles!
Anyway, I was stoked for Dri’s holiday weekend arrival. When my other A1 since Day 1, Erin, and our really good friend Brittani joined onboard for MIA in LA as well, that level of excitement went through the roof. Music festivals are the perfect reason for a girls’ trip. With Adrienne, Erin, and I now all living in different cities, we couldn’t wait to see each other’s faces again and, for a short-lived but much needed weekend, get back to our usual shenanigans.
Seeing the behemoth chunk of downtown that MIA completely took over was a little insane. Huge stages, light fixtures, multiple beer gardens, and a carnival ride went up smack dab in the thick of Los Angeles’s Grand Park. The vast park and its surrounding city streets just outside of LA’s financial district seemed surreal once transformed into this highly-opposed point of attraction.
Many unhappy locals had lamented bringing MIA to LA and the pesky detours caused by all the blocked roads in the week leading up to the festival. Maybe it’s our age/generation, but we (my friends and the thousands of other people who purchased tickets), of course, were all for it, chaos and all. I find it amazing when individuals bring large scale culture conceptions to places where you’d never imagine them being able to do so. F*ck the rules. To see a city center shut down and taken over in the name of music, to witness Kanye West perform some of this decade’s greatest hip hop anthems, to party right in front of City Hall plunked in the heart of one of our country’s most notorious skylines…the feeling was nothing short of exceptional.
None of us were that familiar with the majority of the musicians set to perform, so my plan was to wander around the multiple stages and enjoy even the artists who I don’t normally listen to, as well as those we knew we couldn’t miss. I can appreciate a variety of genres, and I wanted to make sure we got our money’s worth. When it came down to it though, we were really only up at the stage for a few sets.
The first performance we caught right on time early Saturday was YG -- one of our non-negotiables. I felt like I was in a packed sauna during his set, squeezed amongst the crowd directly in the hot sun. Luckily YG, backed by his right-hand man DJ Mustard, gave me so much life that I didn’t mind the sweat in exchange for the turn up he provided us with.
Dri got hooked to YG’s album “My Krazy Life” after her new friends out here put her on back in March. She’d told me she couldn’t stop playing/twerking to his album; so I finally listened and couldn’t deny that this guy makes hits. It’s YG fo’hunnidddd!
We definitely took delight in YG’s entertaining and humorous energy on stage, with our unanimous favorite song being “Left Right.” He also surprised us by bringing Jeremih out and performing their summer hit “Don’t Tell Em.”
Temperatures thankfully cooled down towards the end of day 1, and up to 30,000 music heads gathered around the main stage to prepare for TDE, headlined by Kendrick Lamar.
Isaiah Rashad hit the stage first, delivering the perfect momentum for a set that would be nothing short of mesmerizing. Jay Rock came out shortly after, joining him to perform “Shot You Down” -- one of the realest rap songs released in 2014 IMO -- off of Zay’s debut demo “Civilia.” Ab-Soul then hit the stage, keeping the Black Hippy camp’s lyrical fire ablaze. I got so hype once my man Schoolboy Q came out performing some of my favs, like “Studio,” “Man of the Year,” and “Collard Greens.” Aw man, so much bounce. Finally, Kendrick Lamar blessed us and shut everything down. The Good Kid MAAD City mastermind, owning MIA as powerfully as any of rap’s greatest would, was so electrifying I couldn’t take it. I really can’t wait to attend a full K.Dot concert now -- I have to see him hit some Section 80 classics.
Collectively, TDE is today’s epitome of quintessential hip-hop at its core. No gimmicks, nothing crazy. Just a stage and a microphone. So much passion. The lyrical punch, the audience engagement, the playback factor…they have it all. Oh, and I can’t leave out their spectacular band. In short, they were LIT. And it was wonderful to see them rock it out for a five digit fandom right here in the city that shaped (most of) them. I’m so proud. (In my head, they’re my big bros and’em.)
Made in LA’merica Day 2 was all about Kanye. Watching him rip the stage and enchant the entire audience around me -- I feel like everyone knew all of his lyrics -- I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen him perform live since the Glow in the Dark Tour in ‘08. With Ye’s endless (endless!) catalogue of orchestral masterpieces, he took us on a trippy, provocative, dynamic journey, Kanye rant and all. His music has been soundtracking some of my most notable memories for an entire ten years now. It definitely felt like a personal historic moment to see an icon.
I wanted more, more, more.
As much as I can get with the club hits and trap music (my friends and readers are well aware), it’s experiencing live performances from paradigm artists such as Kendrick and Kanye that remind me why music is truly life’s GOAT. It’s seeing the artists who were meant to provide the world with meaning through song. When there’s no denying the energy, effort, and creative vision they put forth with their art, you just know they’re here to leave their mark for good.