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The Roots Picnic brings an inspired musical frenzy to the Festival Pier

The Roots and Snoop Dogg | Photo by Mark Schaffer
The Roots and Snoop Dogg | Photo by Mark Schaffer

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.

Janelle Monae | Photo by Mark Schaffer
Janelle Monae | Photo by Mark Schaffer

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)

-    Guest appearances from Philly’s own Freeway and Harlem’s Jim Jones during a DJ set from legendary producer Just Blaze, with Freeway performing State Property hits like “Roc da Mic

The War on Drugs | Photo by Mark Schaffer
The War on Drugs | Photo by Mark Schaffer

-    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

-    The Roots (post-Snoop Dogg) bringing out Doug E. Fresh, Biz Markie, and former member Rahzel for an epic rendition of several popular songs showcasing all three of their legendary beatboxing.

Check out photos from the day’s festivities, taken by local musician and photographer Mark Schaffer, in the gallery below.

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Six artists to watch at the 7th Annual Roots Picnic

Photo of Rudimental at Made In America by Dana Distortion via http://www.spin.com/gallery/made-in-america-fest-2013-spins-best-live-photos/
Photo of Rudimental at Made In America by Dana Distortion via http://www.spin.com/gallery/made-in-america-fest-2013-spins-best-live-photos/

Stories of old gigs from The Roots are the stuff of legend around Philadelphia. Throw a stone and you’re bound to hit a Gen-X music lover with memories (perhaps false ones) of surprise shows at now-defunct Old City venues and happenstance Questlove sightings at Northern Liberties brunch spots. These stories might be all that is left of a bygone era in which The Roots helped shape the sonic and ideological imprint of left-of-center hip-hop culture, all the while centering it in a series of extinct local hot spots.

Well, not all that’s left. They may have abandoned a rigorous touring regimen for late night glory, but Quest and co. remain committed to creating awesome moments of cross-genre delight and enlightenment for Philadelphians of all stripes. The clearest definition of this mission statement – one which has followed them into numerous genre-bending albums and collaborations – is the annual Roots Picnic, the 7th installment of which goes down at Festival Pier this Saturday. Few festivals pack such an eclectic and kinetic punch in a small, relatively inexpensive experience. While this year’s lineup is one of its strongest yet, we here at The Key have our eye on a few artists (including some lesser-known ones) who have had especially fascinating years and promise tremendous sets on Saturday.

The Roots

At the risk of sounding obvious, we’ll say that any set from The Roots is bound to set the mood for a day of gleeful head-nodding. Their reputation as a live act, honed through nearly two decades of constant touring and five years of sequence-scoring for Jimmy Fallon, is well-established. With the recent release of the excellent …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, the band also promises to deliver some searing live renditions of their epic new material.

Janelle Monáe

The first Made in America festival got a lot of mixed reviews from local concertgoers who were mired in large-scale and largely acceptable skepticism about how a festival of that scale would play out on the Parkway. Unanimous praise was saved, however, for Janelle Monáe’s classic soul-rooted, futuristically-oriented brand of music. After near-unanimous praise for her latest album, 2013’s The Electric Lady, the aptly named Electric Lady promises a solid set of fanciful festivity.

The War on Drugs

At least one prominent Roots Picnic slot is reserved for a buzzworthy indie act who, like The Roots, looks to bridge aesthetic boundaries instead of reinforcing them. Philly’s own The War on Drugs, riding on the success of this year’s acclaimed and dreamscape-y Lost in the Dream, fill big shoes left by genre benders like Vampire Weekend and TV on the Radio. But if their unique take on shoegaze-meets-Americana has a perfect home anywhere, it’s at an open air concert along their hometown’s emblematic waterfront.

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Snoop Dogg, Janelle Monae, The War on Drugs and Chill Moody top The Roots 7th annual Roots Picnic lineup

Now in its 7th year, The Roots Picinic will bring an eclectic array of music to Festival Pier on May 31, and the band today revealed everything you need to know about this year’s installment.

The year the legendary hip-hop crew will share the stage with Snoop Dogg (backed by The Roots), as well as Janelle Monáe, Action Bronson, A$AP Ferg, araabMUZIK, The War On Drugs, Rudimental, Jhené Aiko, Biz Markie (DJ Set), Bad Rabbits, Electric Wire Hustle, Chill Moody, Emily Wells, Roman GianArthur & more.

Get tickets when they go onsale this Friday at 10 a.m. on Ticketmaster and watch a few of the latest clips from acts on this year’s incredible lineup below.

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XPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week: “Free” by Rudimental featuring Emeli Sande’

Photo of Rudimental at Made In America by Dana Distortion via http://www.spin.com/gallery/made-in-america-fest-2013-spins-best-live-photos/?image=41
Photo of Rudimental at Made In America by Dana Distortion via http://www.spin.com/gallery/made-in-america-fest-2013-spins-best-live-photos/?image=41
Rudimental are an electronic band from London. The band gained popularity with the release of the soaring “Feel The Love,” the video for which was filmed in Philly, documenting the horse-riding lifestyle of North Philadelphia’s Fletcher Street. It went to Number One on the UK music charts, as did the single “Waiting All Night,” featuring singer Ella Eyre. The band released its debut full length album Home in the States in August and the band made its Philly debut at Made In America. During their set at MIA they put on a rousing, high energy performance with its mix of R&B, drum & bass, dub step, and soulful house music. The core of the band includes Piers Aggett, Kesi Dryden, Amir Amor, and DJ Locksmith and they mix live instrumentation with digital, electronic programming. Their album is complemented with several different singers including R&B singer Emeli Sande’ on the song simmering “Free.” Below, check out the lyric video for the song and watch Sande’s soulful live performance of it.

Purchase Home here.

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Explore Thailand with Rudimental in their music video for “Right Here” (playing Made in America 8/31)

rudimental

UK electronic drum & bass group Rudimental just released a new music video for their tune “Right Here” featuring singer Foxes (who has worked with tastemaking producer Zedd). It’s off of their debut album Home that dropped this April and was wildly successful in the UK. “Right Here” is a drum and bass jam (something that’s been largely missing from the American EDM scene) with catchy pop vocals. The video features beautiful scenes of Thailand and a wild tiger adventure – check it out below. Rudimental will be playing Philly’s Made in America Festival on August 31st.