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 area and kicking the balloon ceiling to pieces. Though lines were bonkers for ID checks and restrooms, nothing seemed out of sort (at least, relative to other area summer fests). Food was plentiful, there was space to move around, and the lovely Civic Center landscape gave an extra kick to the day.
Most fans we talked to availed themselves of public transit for at least some part of their journey, and sounded excited for Kendrick Lamar's TDE-family set later in the evening. Compton's YG (and his essential cohort DJ Mustard) ramped the energy up early, and fans bobbed to his many singles that have become staples on Power 106-FM.
Iggy Azalea, the Australian emcee who is modern rap's most divisive figure at the moment, did her best to compete with a deep hip-hop bill. She twerked as needed, but generally focused on proving her mic skills on a bill with plenty of more virtuosic peers.
But it was hard to shake the cheapness of this event at the crown jewel of L.A.'s downtown revival.
Coachella achieved its deserved international status by staying idiosyncratic - a beautiful venue, tasteful bookings, respect for every aspect of the fan experience. Made in America had unparalleled access to one of the loveliest and most symbolic areas of the city's most vital spaces. If a sea of beer logos and anemic rock and dance bookings are the best we can do at the foot of City Hall, L.A. is selling itself short.
Los Angeles already has an embarrassment of excellent - or at least important - music festivals in town. This one was at one of our finest new public parks that we closed for Labor Day to a private concert. Let's be sure not pawn that off so quickly.
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