Made In America: Diary Entry, Part 1

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Nice Move

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When someone offers you a free pass to go to a festival created by Jay-Z and write about your experience, you don’t think about it. You just say yes. This is the result of my access to the same press credentials available to the LA Times and Rolling Stone:

2 p.m. – I exit my apartment and walk a block up to the Metro line. LA’s rail system is notorious for being a shitpile, but in this particular situation, it’s easily the best option. Downtown is already a nightmare with the crisscross of one-way streets and only a few places to park without adding a massive music festival where more than 50,000 people descend upon the area. The subway might be slow, tenuous, and odd smelling, but it’s better than traffic, closed streets, and paying out the ass to stick your car somewhere.

2:27 p.m. – I give my seat to an old woman, because I’m a nice fucking guy. You hear that, ladies?

3:15 p.m. – Arrive at the festival grounds. I find out purely by accident that it’s quite easy to sneak into this place. I’m just wandering around looking for the media check-in, and I suddenly realize that I’m actually already inside. So I walk up to a security lady, ask about media check-in, and go on my way. I consider grabbing a beer on the way, but I think better of it.

3:20 p.m. – Show up and catch the end of the X Ambassadors set. That “Jungle” song really blew up since the World Cup, didn’t it? I heard it, like, a month before, thought it was cool, and put it on a mix. Now that mix is fucked forever, because anyone who hears it will assume that I just put it on there because it was popular, and I’ll sound like a douche when I try to claim that I liked it before it was cool. And why is it in every commerical ever now? The main (basically only) line of that song is, “follow me into the jungle,” so why is it playing over a truck driving in the desert? Just because it has a badass-sounding riff? Anyway, the point I’m getting at is that “Jungle” doesn’t really translate to live performance, even when you bring out a bunch of street musicians from around the world you found in a contest to help you play it.

3:30 p.m. – I’ve only tangentially heard any of YG’s songs. He’s one of those throwaway, cookie-cutter party/gangster rappers who pops up and replaces someone just like him every couple years–although I will say that while his music might be lame, he’s a hell of a lot of fun. It didn’t take him long to become dissatisfied with the lack of girls flashing the stage, probably because no one mentioned to him that it wasn’t 1983 and he wasn’t Van Halen. But he stuck with it and got a pretty decent percentage on the crowd chanting “show them titties.” I didn’t have his vantage point, so it’s unclear whether he was successful in his quest.

4:07 p.m. – There’s no way people brought these beach balls to toss around on their own. They all look exactly the same. The festival has to be gaming the system with these.

4:08 p.m. – Oh, the festival logo is actually on the balls. Guess they’re not really trying to hide that.

4:15 p.m. – The lead singer of Capital Cities looks like Brian Wilson. He’s pretty good, too. Actually, it seems that there are two lead singers. They’re both good. And a dedicated trumpet player? Love that.

4:32 p.m. – This trumpet guy is really into his job. I like that about him.

4:50 p.m. – Oh, they’re the “Safe and Sound” guys. I wasn’t super crazy about that song coming into this, but they’ve made it grow on me. Trumpet Guy is running out into the crowd and climbing platforms. He should have his own concert.

5:04 p.m. – It’s weird that Metric is one of the oldest bands at this festival. That band has only really been relevant for six years, which tells you something about the other artists here. Metric is really good live, though. I couldn’t tell you any of their songs by name, but I’m surprised how many of them I actually recognize. I think I liked this band more than I realized.

5:45 p.m. – Iggy Azalea looks just as good in real life as she does in her videos. Just thought y’all should know that.

6:42 p.m. – Sublime is exactly what you’d expect. There were already a lot of people smoking pot, but that number basically tripled when they went on.

7:20 p.m. – Something just exploded off to the side of one of the unused stages. Not sure what it was or whether you find that particularly interesting, but it definitely scared the shit out of me. Anyway, Kendrick Lamar is easily the MVP of the festival so far. Dude’s got crazy energy, he’s having a great time, and let’s face it–he’s the hottest rapper in the world right now. Schoolboy Q has his trademark bucket hat on. I briefly considered giving the bucket hat a go, but there’s no way in hell I’d be able to pull it off like he does. Anyway, it’s cool that Kendrick is performing here in this type of venue. Downtown LA is, like, 15 minutes from where he grew up, and the whole urban landscape as a backdrop really plays for him.

8:45 p.m. – I’ve enjoyed Afrojack’s set, but I don’t really need to stand around and watch a guy touch his beep-bop-boop buttons while everyone dances. I’ll just jam to his stuff at home.

9:30 p.m. – Imagine Dragons goes on, or so I assume. I’m back on the train by this point. According to my sources, though, I have it on good authority that they “definitely are a music band, and there were songs involved.”

I’m drinking now. Hopefully I’m in decent enough condition to cover Day 2.

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Sterling Cooper is a contributing writer for Total Frat Move and Post Grad Problems. He has never understood why people like sand, and has been in a bitter ten year rivalry with Muggsy Bogues, for reasons neither of them choose to reveal.

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