Pop & Hiss
The L.A. Times music blog
Made in America Festival makes debut at downtown L.A.'s Grand Park

"Hello, Los Angeles," said Metric lead singer Emily Haines near the end of the band's second song on the city's first day of the Budweiser Made in America Festival. Her next words were far more ominous: "They're going to eat me alive, if I stumble."

She wasn't singing about the two-day music festival that transformed the Civic Center area, but city planners are keeping a watchful eye on the event, which was fast-tracked by Mayor Eric Garcetti since its announcement in April. Made in America is the biggest close-up yet on the downtown location, a recreational space with a just-opened area nearby, still partly covered in construction dirt.

Minutes before the festival gates opened, workers were hurrying to ready the grounds surrounding downtown L.A.'s Grand Park. The festival is the first-ever paid event at the 2-year-old park, which stretches between City Hall and the Music Center.

All of the last-minute prep was to ensure that Grand Park was ready for an expected crowd of 35,000 or more...

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Budweiser Made in America fest: A scorching day, a barrage of branding

Let's all raise a glass to the guy with a giant "It's Miller Time" tattoo at the first L.A. edition of Budweiser's Made in America music festival. 

That fan's lonely back piece was a riposte against the branding onslaught of Grand Park's largest private for-profit music festival yet. Over the first half of Saturday afternoon, artists such as Iggy Azalea, YG and Capital Cities did their best to rile the crowd despite a shadeless heat that hit nearly 90 degrees.

But fans were left in a funny predicament: They were at a concert venue on public land at the seat of government and the common interest, yet without a single sight line that led away from a beer logo. 

Suspicions that catastrophe would somehow strike - via under-attendance, gate crashers or drunkenness - were overblown. On Saturday afternoon, the mood was as peaceful as a mainstream beer-branded music festival could be.

Fans seemed respectful of the pristine Grand Park venue, save for the one guy climbing the rafters of a shaded...

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Made in America live in L.A.: Kanye West, Imagine Dragons, more
Made in America festival looks to go beyond music

In the next few hours, tens of thousands of fans will descend on Grand Park for the first day of the Made in America festival.

The two-day event that could attract up to 50,000 fans during the Labor Day weekend isn’t just an experiment for downtown, which has never hosted an event of this scale. It's also a test for the logistics of the Jay Z-curated festival itself.

With acts playing at the inaugural L.A. edition and in Philly, which is hosting its third Made in America this weekend, this event marks the first music festival to be anchored in two cities at the same time.

“We were very happy with what we accomplished in 2012, and [last year] we saw some tremendous increases in the popularity of the festival from those who had attended and the livestream numbers,” said Mike Thompson, brand manager for main festival sponsor Budweiser. “What we wanted to do was bring a similar kind of experience to the West Coast.”

While fans pack Grand Park to see acts like Imagine Dragons, Iggy Azalea,...

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Music community starts challenge campaign benefiting MusiCares

Done your ice-bucket challenge? Well, grab a favorite album and try the just-launched MusiCares Challenge.

Music publisher Tom DeSavia got the idea for a charitable challenge targeted to the music community and benefiting the Grammy Foundation’s MusiCares program, which helps musicians in need.

The idea is that rather than be deluge in near-freezing water, musicians and music fans should take a photo of themselves holding a favorite LP ("one that has made or makes your life better," DeSavia says), donate $5 or more to MusiCares and post the photo to social media using the hashtag #MusiCaresChallenge. Then challenge three friends, or any of the musicians involved in the chosen album, to do the same.

So far, participants include singer-songwriter Sam Phillips, who is photographed with a copy of “The Best of Slim Harpo,” Joe Henry (Thelonious Monk's "Criss-Cross"), Rhett Miller (David Bowie's "ChangesTwo"), Kevin Griffin (Neil Young’s “Harvest”), Richard Edwards of Margot & the Nuclear So...

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Skrillex, Diplo and Kiesza release new Jack U track 'Take U There'

With their new project Jack U, producers Skrillex and Diplo set out to purposefully make "the most annoying sounds ever." Now fans can judge for themselves if they met those lofty aspirations.

The DJ duo debuted a new track "Take U There" at Diplo's Mad Decent Block Party in Brooklyn on Aug. 9. The singer Kiesza joined them live to perform the new tune.

Now the group has released a live recording of the new track on its official Soundcloud. For those who didn't catch the tune's debut in New York, it certainly makes good on those early promises to be party music that's as dumb as a sack of rocks.

The song's rhythms veer from a woodblock clatter that sounds not-unlike "Teach Me How to Dougie," interspersed with more traditional house diva vocals and big EDM drum buildups. Listen to it here

The duo just performed in the L.A. area at Hard Summer, where they headlined alongside a slate of EDM and hip-hop acts like Tiesto, Disclosure and A$AP Mob. If this track is any indication, their...

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Ariana Grande makes things happen on headstrong 'My Everything'

In-your-face production. Cameos from high-profile rappers. A lead single about how, lingering attraction (and proper grammar) be damned, she'd have "one less problem without you." There's lots of newfound swagger on Ariana Grande's "My Everything," which came out Monday, just less than a year after her successful 2013 debut, "Yours Truly."

But perhaps nothing speaks to Grande's empowering ascent from B-list Nickelodeon player to worldwide pop star like the fact that she didn't even put "Bang Bang" on her album. A boisterous mod-soul collaboration with Nicki Minaj and Jessie J, that top 10 summer hit is featured as a mere bonus track on the deluxe edition of "My Everything," as though the singer were so flush with material that she could afford to treat sure things like scraps.

Turns out that's more or less the case. As strong a pop record as any so far this year, Grande's second disc keeps offering up delights, from the implied raunch of the looped saxophone lick in "Problem" to the...

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Aphex Twin announces L.A. listening session for new album 'SYRO'

The mercurial, influential electronic music artist Aphex Twin has been teasing his first new album in 13 years, called 'SYRO,' for the past month, and Southern California fans will have an early chance to hear it, Warp Records has just announced. The artist born Richard D. James will offer a series of advance 'SYRO' listening sessions at various locales around the world, including an L.A. date on Sept. 6 at 4 p.m. The album comes out on Sept. 23.

Details for the event have yet to be revealed, but here's Warp's announcement in full: 

"Beginning next Friday, over the course of several days there will be one off events internationally where fans will be able to hear Aphex Twin’s first new record in 13 year in its entirety before the release on September 23. RSVP ticket lottery begins on Sunday, August 31 at 4am PST/ 7amEST/ 12pmGMT/ 1pmCET and closes Tuesday, September 2 at midnight in each time zone."

In addition to L.A., the sessions will be held in London, New York City, Chicago,...

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Bruce Springsteen's children's book, 'Outlaw Pete,' due Nov. 4

The fall is rapidly turning into Rock Star Children’s Book season for the holidays. Bruce Springsteen has become the second Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Member-turned-co-author of a youth-oriented book in recent months with the reveal of a forthcoming kids' book based on his song “Outlaw Pete.”

The Springsteen news follows the announcement in March about “Gus and Me,” a children’s book coming Sept. 9 from Rolling Stones songwriter and guitarist Keith Richards in collaboration with his daughter, illustrator Theodora Richards.

“Outlaw Pete,” which the Boss has created with cartoonist and writer Frank Caruso, will be published on Nov. 4 by Simon & Schuster, and is drawn from the epic 8-minute song from Springsteen’s 2009 album “Working on a Dream.”

The book represents a full-circle turn in a way for his song, which he said in a statement was inspired by a 1950 children’s book titled “Brave Cowboy Bill” that his mother used to read to him.

"Outlaw Pete is essentially the story of a man...

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Ed Sheeran at Staples Center: The boy next door steals hearts

In 2012, a hard-strumming British singer named Ed Sheeran performed his first Los Angeles gig at the tiny Hotel Cafe, capacity 165.

Roughly a year later, the young beatbox troubadour sold out the Nokia Theatre on his 22nd birthday -- capacity 7,100. On Wednesday, he returned to an effusive reception from about 20,000 fans at Staples Center. At his rate, he'll be playing multiple nights at Dodger Stadium by the time he hits 30. 

Of course, Sheeran is no stranger to big arenas. Taylor Swift, who collaborated with him on her song "Everything Has Changed," invited him to open her recent Red Tour. He accrued thousands of new fans, many of whom seem to have fallen hard for him.

Those fans, many of them teenage girls and twenty-something young women, sang every word to his sly love songs and candlelit confessionals. The singalong was so strong, at peak moments Staples might have been housing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Not bad for a shaggy redhead with a guitar, a microphone and a magic...

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Downtown residents express frustrations with Made in America

As crews are working to transform downtown's Grand Park into the Budweiser Made in America festival, local residents gathered at the nearby Caltrans headquarters to express confusion and frustration just days before the two-day concert was scheduled to kick off.

About 40 people attended a community meeting Tuesday that was meant to ease ongoing concerns about the festival. Tuesday’s meeting, the second open forum of its kind, was supposed to address residential worries about the event taking control of downtown’s Grand Park over the Labor Day weekend.

Kanye West, John Mayer, Imagine Dragons, Iggy Azalea and Kendrick Lamar are among the acts to perform at the Jay Z-curated festival, which could attract up to 50,000 fans per day. Residents wanted organizers to detail the festival’s footprint in the neighborhood.

Representatives from promoter Live Nation and Los Angeles Police Department gave an overview of the festival and took questions. Reps from Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Jose...

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Fans slam Hollywood Bowl's weekend Dave Stewart-led Beatles tribute

Last weekend the Hollywood Bowl celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' debut performance at the storied venue. The bandleader for the three nights was Dave Stewart, producer, guitarist, father and co-founder of Eurythmics. 

He invited some peers and family members to remember the moment that Beatlemania officially conquered Los Angeles. These guests included Billy Ray Cyrus, Mary Lambert, Allen Stone -- and a whole lot of Dave Stewart and family.

If the volume of email and many livid posts on the Bowl's Facebook page are any indication, the evening didn't go well. Some wondered why The Times had yet to chime in, and even imagined a conspiracy involving a spiked review. 

(Because of other events last weekend -- specifically, the FYF Fest at Exposition Park -- The Times didn't send a critic to the show to review it for the paper. Truth be told, another deciding factor for not doing so was that the roster didn't look all that interesting.) 

But the Times' Randy Lewis attended...

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