The anticipation behind this year’s Roots Picnic could have easily evolved into a self-fulfilling letdown of high expectations gone unfulfilled. Fortunately for the sold-out crowd of over 6,000, the day met every benchmark for a phenomenal musical experience.
With the newly-renovated and sand-strewn Festival Pier as its home base, the all-day festival boasted an eclectic line-up of both upstart and established acts of various genres. All acts shared the Questlove seal of approval, bearing a heavy emphasis on rhythm and sunny-day vibes.
Although every act of the day put on a frenzy-whipping set (the strongest of them being, arguably, a sunset-backed and pitch-perfect Janelle Monáe), there were a few noteworthy highlights:
- An inspiring group of sets in the first half of the festival (prior to most attendees’ arrival) with particularly strong ones from New Zealand RnB group Electric Wire Hustle, hip-hop/classical sequence-loops master Emily Wells, blues-rock guitarist and singer Roman Gianarthur (including soulful covers of Erykah Badu’s “Bag Lady” and Radiohead’s “High and Dry”), West Philly’s own Chill Moody, and British drum-and-bass act Rudimental (during which this reporter felt bass shocks that almost stopped his heartbeat)
- A searing performance from WXPN favorites The War on Drugs, during which frontman Adam Granduciel gave Program Director Bruce Warren a heartwarming shoutout (referring to him as “The Other Boss”)
- The aforementioned strongest set of the day, starting with The Electric Lady herself being wheeled out on a stretcher in a straitjacket before tearing through most of her hits with uncompromising intensity
Check out photos from the day’s festivities, taken by local musician and photographer Mark Schaffer, in the gallery below.
Roman Gianarthur | Photo by Mark Schaffer
Emily Wells | Photo by Mark Schaffer