Made in America tests Grand Park, with mixed reviews from fans

Made in America tests Grand Park, with mixed reviews from fans
Concertgoers pass out bottles of water as they await the start of performances at the Made In America Festival in downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 31, 2014. (Luis Sinco, Los Angeles Times)

"Sing so loud Jay Z can hear it," Chance the Rapper hollered Sunday from one of two stages in front of Los Angeles City Hall. It was a reference to the hip-hop mogul and mastermind behind the two-day Budweiser Made in America festival, where established chart-toppers such as rock band Weezer, local rap heavyweight Kendrick Lamar and pop-star-of-the-moment Iggy Azalea performed before Kanye West hit the stage Sunday night to close the event.

The festival was the first major close-up for Grand Park, the 2-year-old public space that stretches between City Hall and the Music Center. Although the park has hosted large New Year's Eve and Fourth of July gatherings, those were free and attracted an estimated crowd of 25,000. Made in America was the park's first ticketed event and its first test as a major concert destination.

West walked out after an overture of tolling bells and barking dogs, opening the set with his bracing, primal, aggressive "Black Skinhead," the sound of spacious, damning rhythms and slicing guitars filling Grand Park.

By that point, if concertgoers had given the park and festival a passing grade, it came with fine print.


Attendance, for one, did not live up to the initial hype. When promoter Live Nation announced Made in America in April, boosters including Mayor Eric Garcetti touted a festival that could accommodate up to 50,000. Saturday's show drew an estimated 34,000, according Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Capt. Charles Stringham, and Sunday's was estimated to be about the same.


That's lower, for instance, than last week's FYF Fest, a two-day concert promoted by Goldenvoice and held this year at Exposition Park. FYF Fest, an established brand on the local music scene and one respected for curating a lineup heavy on independent and risk-taking acts, drew 40,000 people.

A Live Nation spokeswoman issued a statement Sunday that expressed satisfaction with the turnout for Made in America, which focused heavily on radio-ready mainstream acts such as hearty rock group Imagine Dragons and adult-pop romancer John Mayer. A sister concert was staged for the third straight year this weekend in Philadelphia, where Made in America has become a mainstay.

"With attendance exceeding 30K yesterday and a similarly sized attendance today, Budweiser Made in America is off to a terrific debut in Los Angeles," read the statement. "The strong first year in Los Angeles is very similar to the first year in Philadelphia."

Concertgoers expressed concerns that were small — and seemingly easily correctable. With temperatures hitting the low 90s on Saturday and the high 80s Sunday, shade was at a premium.

"I think there should be tents, a lot more tents," said Megan Murphy, 22, of Studio City, near Grand Park's water fountain.

"Getting skin cancer is definitely not cool."

Grand Park and environs had been transformed with four stages, five beer gardens, one amusement park thrill ride and an air-conditioned, reservation-only pop-up restaurant. But some fans noted amenities at Made in America were lacking when compared with other major festivals, be it the one choice in brand for an adult beverage or slow-cooking food trucks that had some fans complaining of hour-plus waits. The line for the Kogi BBQ taco truck reached 40-plus people at one point on Sunday.

Still, Russell Uyema, 35, of Torrance said he would likely attend a second Made in America, should it return in 2015, even if the niceties weren't on par with Goldenvoice's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, held yearly in the desert city of Indio.

"Getting in was fine, but everything inside is disorganized," Uyema said. "The lines for beer gardens and food are out of control. And you've got to have enough water and Porta-Potties for people."

Pamphlets with set times and maps were missing in action on Saturday but plentiful on Sunday. Porta-Potties on Saturday were all a short hike away from the main stages up Hill Street. Live Nation corrected the latter problem on Sunday, placing more restroom facilities on Spring Street near the main stages.

Uyema's gripes were echoed by many on the grounds, as more than one attendee noted that most vendors ran out of water on Saturday. Mike Villegas, 47, of Fontana, who made his way into a beer garden just for a bottle of water, commented on the unfinished feel to Grand Park and the festival.

One large part of the festival grounds remained construction-site dirt.

"This is downtown, and you want to be able to showcase it," said Villegas, who was making his first trip to Grand Park and was surprised to find so much dust.

But he, like many others, said they were simply taken with the festival's urban setting.

Cole Walliser, 33, of West Hollywood, wearing gold chains and oval John Lennon sunglasses, was visiting Grand Park for the first time.

"It's crazy," he said. "I didn't realize they were going to be shutting down this whole downtown area. It's pretty exciting, we're here in front of this big government building having a party."

Times staff writers August Brown, Gerrick D. Kennedy and Abby Sewell contributed to this report.