Have you ever seen someone actually go crazy? I mean literally and unequivocally lose their mind, to the point that you might be worried for not only their safety but for your own as well? That’s exactly what happened to the man wearing only American flag pants standing next to me when Kanye West appeared during Jay-Z’s closing set during day one of Made in America. I had watched him slightly mesmerized for nearly an hour, occasionally rapping along with Jay-Z with drool inching down from his mouth toward his chin. When Kanye came out, it was as if Zeus himself flew down in a golden chariot from Mt. Olympus.
Only minutes before he exited the realm of normal consciousness, he had casually asked if I had any acid I could sell him. To his disappointment, I did not, and he was one of a surprising many throughout the day who, of all of the more than 40,000 people there, came to me in the hopes for a random assortment of drugs that I didn’t have. Look at the headshot attached to this column. Does that look like someone who would sell you Molly before Skrillex started his set? Or someone who maybe had some “spare weed” as the Dirty Projectors mesmerized the audience with the tightest set of the festival? Exactly.
All of these kids needed something extra, something that their overpriced Budweisers weren’t getting them. I watched a girl run, stumble, and fall all in the span of about two yards as she tried desperately to make it to the EDM tent. I saw two dudes with a bag of bootleg Drake T-shirts make bank and run out of stock in about 20 minutes. I stood by as a man in a Neil Diamond tour T-shirt rapped along to Rick Ross’ fantastic “MC Hammer.” That’s America, I guess. And with all of the boys and girls clad in their red, white and blue getups, I couldn’t help but put everything in the larger context of what “Made in America” really means in 2012.
The song that gave the festival its name wasn’t performed that night, but its shadow loomed large. Some would argue that Made in America was merely a tool to sell a lot of beer and get young people to vote for Obama in the coming election. It would be hard to argue with those people, especially since the word “Budweiser” was printed on literally everything and a pre-recorded message from the president himself was broadcast a scant two songs into Jay-Z’s set. So it goes.
People that attend music festivals in the 21st century and still complain about the rampant, and sometimes downright disgusting, corporate sponsorship still don’t seem to get that that is the only way to put on a music festival these days. As I stumbled through the crowd packed tightly to view Skrillex playing songs from his giant, flying Arwing, I heard someone compare the proceedings to Woodstock. While those awful ‘60s purists might scoff at the thought, the guy was pretty close to being right. If Woodstock happened in 2012, it would probably look a lot like Made in America, right down to Jimi Hendrix taking a sip out of a Budweiser after playing the “The Star-Spangled Banner.” And I bet even the drooling guy with the American flag pants could get down with that.
Kevin Stairiker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.