Made in America festival: 5 things we learned from Day 1

Kendrick Lamar onstage at the Made in America festival.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The first day of the Made in America festival featured a diverse slate of acts (Kendrick Lamar, Imagine Dragons, Capital Cities), pounding heat, snarled lines aplenty, busy porta johns, shirtless bros, girls in floppy hats and everything else that comes with a daylong music festival.

But the concert -- the brainchild of rap mogul Shawn “Jay Z” Carter -- is a risky experiment that’s undoubtedly being closely monitored during its Labor Day weekend run.

It’s the first paid event at the 2-year-old Grand Park, which stretches between City Hall and the Music Center, and Day One put all those festival logistics -- parking, traffic flow amid street closures, crowd control, etc. -- to the test.


Here are five things we learned from the first day of Made in America.

1. Where is everything? Grand Park is a lush yet narrow space that’s spread across several blocks. The multitiered park is easy to navigate when it’s just the local farmer’s market. But with three stages, a skate park, 40 food trucks, a carnival ride, an area dedicated to nonprofits, a high-end bistro, merch booths, multiple beer gardens and tens of thousands of fans, getting around was already going to be difficult. The struggle was compounded by the seemingly haphazard layout. What kind of food was there? Where are the water stations? What time do acts go on? Where do I go to the restroom? There were no maps, and signage was easy to miss. It was a horrifying cluster of confusion that made the early hours hellish. While we appreciate organizers promoting its comprehensive app, the darn thing was a battery drain. Like most, we opted to wander.

2. Beer + heat = defeat. One thing anyone who has gone to Coachella has learned is slinging back brews under the punishing sun typically never ends well. Most of the beer gardens we spotted had a heavy dosage of sun beaming down on them and by the time YG hit the stage at 3:30 p.m. it was easy to spot bleary-eyed festival-goers, some of whom eventually puked on curbs and behind trees. Or for one unfortunate young lady, all over herself.

3. Local rap acts the biggest draw. “Does the West Coast run this … right now?” Kendrick Lamar wondered during his set Saturday night. The Compton native was onto something. Lamar’s set, which drew from his instantly classic “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City” and showcased the rest of his Black Hippy brethren -- Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q, whose debut “Oxymoron” was also heralded -- could have closed the night, judging by the audience energy.

Rap, especially the stories cut from SoCal, drew the biggest audiences. Earlier in the afternoon Inland Empire producer Hit-Boy (who has produced smashes for Beyoncé, Kanye West and Jay Z) unpacked his solo work, and YG, another voice from Compton, moved through his mind-numbing party raps from his hot-selling debut “My Crazy Life.” The rhymes were brash and raw, and at one point he may or may not have coaxed a girl to flash her breasts, but it was the day’s first packed crowd.

4. Iggy Azalea is a star, like it or not. Rap outliers don’t come as polarizing as Iggy. A white chick from Australia, she’s deeply inspired by Tupac Shakur and raps in a flow that seems borrowed from Southern rhyme slayers. But she’s the only act on the bill ruling radio currently and being the lone pop presence Saturday worked to her favor. The crowd came to hear “Fancy” and danced along to her energetic set -- even if they weren’t fully prepped for her older, deliciously explicit material. The I-G-G-Y gets major bonus points for being the only act to flash vulgarities across the front of City Hall. It’ll likely get the mayor in trouble, but it was a bold middle finger to those of us who think she won’t last long.

5. VIPs stayed away. Coachella is where the young and the beautiful of Hollywood have long gone to be seen, with VIP areas ripe with celebs. Despite Made in America’s heavily corporate feel, there didn’t appear to be many areas reserved for the one percenters. The only snobbery we saw came courtesy of whatever private party is anchored on the upper floors of the L.A. Times building (we hear it’s concert promoter Live Nation). All day we could see revelers toasting and pretending to take in the music -- and no, we weren’t invited.