As the 2nd annual installment of the Budweiser Made In America Festival was starting to wind down on Sunday, September 1, Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme made the statement of the weekend: “Well, Philly, it’s goddamn good to see ya.” It was certainly good to see Queens of the Stone Age back in action, that’s for damn sure. After a 6-year hiatus, the band has returned in epic fashion with their new album, …Like Clockwork, which was recently released on June 4 and debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 200. Queens of the Stone Age weren’t the only sight for sore eyes at Made In America this year. The festival also marked the return of Nine Inch Nails, who have been on hiatus for over 5 years. In the wake of their senses-shattering headlining performance, the band will release their new studio album, Hesitation Marks, tomorrow. Aside from returning from long hiatus’s, these two bands have another thing in common – “Kalopsia” – the track off QOTSA’s …Like Clockwork on which NIИ frontman Trent Reznor lends his vocals. These two bands, along with a slue of other amazing artists, were set to make Made In America the perfect summer finale.
Ohio indie rockers Walk The Moon kicked off this year’s festivities bright and early at 2pm on Saturday, August 31. The band played a short but sweet set, including their two hit singles, “Anna Sun” and my personal favorite, “Tightrope”. In the late afternoon, hip-hop legends Public Enemy would prove that rock is a universal genre. They took the stage with a full band, adding some rock ‘n’ roll flavor to their tunes. Flavor Flav broke out his bass, layin’ down a serious funk hook, and they even mashed up some “Back In Black” by AC/DC. Public Enemy are no strangers to the rock world, having collaborated with thrash titans Anthrax for a rap-metal version of PR’s hit “Bring The Noise” in 1991. Many critics credit that song as being a blueprint for the emergence of rap-rockers like Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit, Rage Against The Machine, P.O.D., and more.
In the evening, Imagine Dragons turned in one of the highlight performances of the weekend. Late int he band’s set during “On Top of The World”, the band was so electrifying that the power for the lighting rigs went out on-stage, and frontman Dan Reynolds‘ vocals completely cut out. The band bounced back, and rallied to close out their set with a mash-up cover of “Hang Me Up To Dry” by Cold War Kids and the legendary “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King. The remix was a fun surprise for fans, and then they send the crowd into an uproar with an extended version of they’re smash hit single, “Radioactive”. French rockers Phoenix brought their fresh and foreign brand of alt-rock to Made In America this year. Along with their tight musicianship and pop hooks, their stage show featured great lights and screens; the whole set was visually wonderful. Perhaps the highlight of their set was the performance of their platinum smash hit, “1901”, off their 2009 album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.
On Day 2 of the epic festival, the heat was cranking up, but so was the music. First-up on the bill was funk-rockers Fitz and The Tantrums. Right out of the gate, the band unleashed a wave of infectious grooves and catchy hooks that send the crowd into an early frenzy. Pumping out dance rock anthems like “MoneyGrabber” and “Out of My League”. Despite the blistering heat and early set time, F&tT kicked out the jams and the fans responded. In my opinion, it was one of the better, more high-energy performances of the entire weekend. Later in the afternoon, somewhat-local heroes The Gaslight Anthem (the band hails from New Brunswick, NJ) turned in a great set of straight-up modern rock ‘n’ roll. The guys rolled through an 11-song set, dropping hits like “45”, “Handwritten”, “Old White Lincoln”, and “Great Expectations”. The only thing missing was the track “The ’59 Sound”, which is one of the band’s oldest and most signature songs. I can’t be too picky, though, the set was still kick-ass. So many of the rock bands on this year’s bill incorporated a lot of pop, alternative, and industrial elements into their sounds. The Gaslight Anthem provided a refreshing nod to the traditional amidst all the experimental.
Queens of the Stone Age set the tone for their heavy set during the intro – with loud, piercing sound effects of glass shattering, along with the imagery to match on giant screens behind Jon Theodore‘s drum kit. The band proceeded to make sure the crowd new that they had a new album out, playing five songs off their latest effort, …Like Clockwork. The band did maintain a balanced performance, though, dropping hits like “Little Sister”, “Go With The Flow”, “A Song for the Dead”, and their signature smash, “No One Knows”. The band also rock out with “Smooth Sailing”, my personal favorite track off their new record. Queens of the Stone Age had all the rockers and headbangers out in full force, and I believe they attracted and intrigued some new fans as well. With their signature sound, they synced monster riffs and catchy hooks in their seamless set. They certainly distributed a serious dose of heavy to Made In America this year.
Around 9:30pm on Sunday, the moment of reckoning had finally come – the return of Nine Inch Nails. While there were so many great performances hroughout the weekend, this was most certainly the most anticipated set of the festival by fans and critics alike. Without much of an intro, the lights went down and frontman Trent Reznor simply walked out on stage. Apparently, 5 years was a long enough wait and he wasted no time going right into “Copy of a”, the second single off the band’s highly-anticipated new studio album, which comes out tomorrow. Shortly, he was joined by the rest of the band, and NIИ never looked back. In particular, it was really good to see lead guitarist Robin Finck back in the band. Finck was with NIИ from 1994-2000, and 2008-2009. They pushed the new record just enough, also playing “Find My Way” and the lead single, “Came Back Haunted”.
The rest of the blistering 20-song set was a barrage of both smash hits and rare gems. Aside from the great music, the performance was Nothing short of what you’d expect from Nine Inch Nails. Elegant and violent all at the same time, NIИ unveiled a new stage show that featured set changes with large moving screens that displayed graphics, flashing lights, and flowing colors. At times, the design on the screen mimicked the band members’ movements. Throughout the entire set, every band member played multiple instruments; everything traditional guitars, drums, and keyboards to synthesizers, turntables, and even a cello. It was one the most elaborate and diverse shows I have ever seen. After dropping hits like “March of The Pigs”, “Wish”, “The Hand That Feeds”, “Closer”, “Head Like A Hole”, and my personal favorite, “Terrible Lie”, the band came out for a brief encore of “Hurt”. While the Associated Press labeled the track a “Johnny Cash cover”, it was in fact Cash who covered NIИ. The song was the final track on Nine Inch Nails’ 1994 masterpiece, The Downward Spiral. When NIИ came out for the encore, never in my life have I ever seen a crowd fall so quiet. While Robin plucked the awkward and haunting into notes, you could literally hear a pin drop along with his acoustic guitar. Went it came time for Trent to sing, thousands joined him in near-perfect harmony. I couldn’t have written a better scripted ending to the weekend. Nine Inch Nails are back, and will be a force to be reckoned with on their Tension Tour, which kicks off on September 28 in St. Paul, MN.
The Rock Revival‘s focus is obvious, however no one can deny that Made In America incorporates some of the best artists in the world across all genres of music. In the last decade or so, we’ve seen many genre lines blurred. At Made In America 2013, fans imbibed sounds of pop, rap, rock, alternative, industrial, house, electronica, hip-hop, funk, soul, dubstep, heavy metal, and more. Unfortunately, the only thing that was missing was some country music, which would have been awesome. Some of the highlight performances of the weekend included Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Empire of The Sun, Phoenix, Wiz Khalifa, Fitz and The Tantrums, Imagine Dragons, Kendrick Lamar, deadmau5, Beyoncé, Queens of the Stone Age, and showstoppers Nine Inch Nails.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are fresh off their MTV Video Music Awards domination, winning three Moonmen for Best Video with a Social Message, Best Cinematography, and Best Hip-Hop Video. Macklemore recently graced the cover of Rolling Stone, helping to bring the magazine back to prominence after their massive fuck up of glorifying a terrorist on the cover earlier this summer. The momentum continued into their Made In America set, as the duo drew one of the larger crowds at the festival. Out of all the rap/hip-hop acts that took the stage this year, Kendrick Lamar arguably turned in the best performance. Like Public Enemy, he had a live band backing him, and he rapped with conviction. Kendrick, among others, represents a new generation of hip-hop; a sharper, more mature rapper. deadmau5 certainly changed my perspective on the whole DJ/house/dubstep genre, as he incorporated an actual stage show into his performance. With his trademark mouse head on, and large animatronic mouse heads that moved all around the stage and looked like something straight out of a sci-fi movie. He definitely took what DJ’s are doing to the next level, and I only hope that he continues to expand on it.
With so many great artists under one roof, so to speak, unfortunately there were no collaborations. Fans and critics a like were certainly hoping for some surprises, but the weekend came and went, and the duets never came. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have minded seeing:
1.) Nine Inch Nails/deadmau5
2.) Jay-Z/Kendrick Lamar
3.) Beyoncé/Solange – It’s all in the family!
4.) A$AP Rocky/2 Chainz/Kendrick Lamar – Their recent collaboration, “F*ckin’ Problems”, was nominated for Best Hip-Hop Video at this year’s MTV VMAs.
5.) Queens of the Stone Age/Trent Reznor (NIИ) – Reznor is a guest vocalist on the QOTSA song, “Kalopsia”, off the band’s latest album.
Perhaps the most obvious (and most likely to have happened) duet would have been Beyoncé/Jay-Z. The 60,000 concert goers were pretty much shocked when Hov didn’t come out to for his verse on “Crazy In Love”, or why the couple didn’t perform their hit “’03 Bonnie and Clyde”. My best answer is that Jay didn’t want to steal the spotlight from his beloved during her headlining performance, given the fact that he already had his moment last year. Nevertheless, Beyoncé further secured her spot as the reigning Queen of Pop, keeping Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Taylor Swift at arm’s length and tied for second.
Nine Inch Nails are undoubtedly one of the greatest artists of all time. Pioneers of the industrial genre, they incorporated elements of rock, metal, electronica, and alternative rock to forge a style all their own. They shook the music world to it’s core in 1989 with their debut album, Pretty Hate Machine. The record was truly groundbreaking, and has since gone on to be certified multi-platinum. In 1994, NIИ set the bar once again with their sophomore effort, The Downward Spiral, which debuted at #2 on the Billboard Top 200. The disc went on to sell over 5 million copies, and be certified quadruple-platinum. It spawned NIИ’s finest moment, the single Closer. The band’s third album was a monster double disc outing titled The Fragile, released in 1999. The album saw NIИ expanding their trademark sound, and once again the band debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 200. From 2005-2008, the band released four more studio LP’s. Throughout their entire career, Nine Inch Nails were famous for their EPs, single releases, and remix albums. They have released approximately two-dozen since their inception. Every NIИ record is categorized with the word “Halo” followed by a number.
Queens of The Stone Age tapped Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl to play drums on their sixth studio LP. The album is the long-awaited follow-up to 2007′s Era Vulgaris, on which Grohl did not play. Along with 2000′s Rated R, the band’s 2002 masterpiece Songs For The Deaf is one of the best albums of the decade, and the last time Grohl played with Queens of The Stone Age. The disc hit #17 on the Billboard Top 200, and went on to sell over 1 million copies. Queens of The Stone Age are touring in support the new album, …Like Clockwork. The disc debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 back on June 4, selling over 91,000 copies in it’s first week of sales. Drummer Jon Theodore (ex-The Mars Volta) joined the band during the recording process, and is now touring with them. The band is in the midst of a world tour, with their final U.S. show coming on December 14 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.
Phoenix rose from the French alternative scene in 2000 with their debut album, United. In 2004 and 2006, the band released two more studio albums, each selling over 30,000 copies in the U.S. The band’s 2009 effort, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, hit #14 on the French Top Albums Chart and #37 on the Billboard Top 200 The album sold over 720,000 copies in the U.S. alone, and was certified gold. That same year, Phoenix won the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album, and the record’s lead single, “1901”, went platinum. In 2010, the band toured extensively and took that stage at Austin City Limits, Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Reading Festival, Leeds Festival, and more. In 2012, the band returned to the studio to record their much-anticipated new album, Bankrupt!, which came out back in April 2013. Hitting #3 on the French Albums Chart and #4 on the Billboard Top 200, it stands as the band’s most commercially successful album to date. Phoenix is currently on a world tour in support of the new album, which wraps up in Germany on November 22.
Imagine Dragons and The Gaslight Anthem are quickly becoming two of the biggest artists in the world right now. The Gaslight Anthem played Metallica’s first Orion Music + More Festival last summer in Atlantic City, NJ and their latest record, Handwritten, hit #3 on the Billboard Top 200. The band will also be playing Voodoo Experience in New Orleans, LA in November. Back in July, the band announced that they are working on new material for their upcoming fifth studio album, which is tentatively due out in early 2014. It’s safe to say that theses three rock acts this year returned in a big way. Imagine Dragons have been absolute monsters (pun intended) when it comes to touring as of late. The band is still on a world tour right now, with many huge festival stops planned this summer including Rock am Ring. Their debut album, Night Visions, debuted at #2 on the Billboard Top 200. The music video for the band’s smash hit “Radioactive” nominated for the award for Best Rock Video at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards back on August 29.
After releasing two albums independently, Walk The Moon signed to RCA Records in 2012 and released their major label self-titled LP that same year. The album peaked at # 36 on the Billboard Top 200, #15 on Top Rock Albums, and #8 on Top Alternative Albums. The disc produced two hit singles for the band – “Anna Sun” and “Tightrope”. Earlier this year, the band played the main stage at Lollapalooza. Throughout their career, Walk The Moon have toured with the likes of Young The Giant, Panic! At The Disco, and Weezer. Los Angeles funk-rockers Fitz and The Tantrums released their debut album, Pickin’ Up The Pieces in August 2010 to much acclaim Shortly before that, the band was invited to play SXSW in May. The record debuted at #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart. In early 2013, the band signed with Elektra Records and released their sophomore effort and major label debut, More Than Just A Dream, back in May. The record hit #26 on the Billboard Top 200. The album produced two hit songs for the band – “MoneyGrabber” and “Out of My League”. The band will be embarking on a fall tour in October.
So, 364 days until Budweiser Made In America 2014. What can we expect? Judging from the last two years, it’s safe to say we can expect anything. Here’s what I wouldn’t mind seeing, though: Eminem and Metallica headlining, along with Deftones, Rihanna, Eric Church, David Guetta, Frank Ocean, Incubus, Wu Tang Clan, Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown, 50 Cent, The 1975, Earl Sweatshirt, Heaven’s Basement, Dastik, Street Sweeper Social Club, Pharrell, Stone Sour, Cold War Kids, The Lumineers, Otherwise, J. Cole, Crobot, Boyz II Men, Blessthefall, Jessie J, Ben Folds, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Papoose, Little Big Town, The Wonder Years, Vintage Trouble, and Lauryn Hill. Too ambitious? Well, this is Made In America, right? And in America, a music lover can dream, can’t he? Damn right. Hov, hit me up. Let’s make this happen. – by Matt Bishop (@The_MattBishop)