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)
- 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”
- 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.
The 7th Annual Roots Picnic is this Saturday, May 31st at the Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing with Snoop Dogg, Chill Moody, Janelle Monáe, Action Bronson, ASAP Ferg, Jhene Aiko, The War On Drugs, Biz Markie, and more. Matthew Law, (FKA as DJ PHSH) released a Roots Picnic mixtape via Okayplayer guaranteed to get you ready for the big show next Saturday. Go here for tickets and more information about the show.
The Roots stepped out of their house band role last night into the musical guest spot, and with help from DJ A-Trak and the Metropolis Ensemble performed “Never” from their just released …and then you shoot your cousin on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. The stunning, celestial song, featuring Philly musician Patty Crash on vocals, was performed against an all white backdrop that visually captured the starkness of the song. The Roots will be in town for their annual Roots Picnic on Saturday, May 31st.
In his review of the album, The Key’s Sameer Rao wrote:
The Roots, to their immense credit, continue to leverage their immense fame and success to make aurally inventive music that opens worlds that other artists on their level are afraid to touch. …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin is a definitive affirmation of this band and genre’s true Roots, as well as crystal clear proof of its continuing innovation and relevance to the immensely complicated world around us.
Read the full review of the album here. Watch “Never” below.
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.
Meek Mill made a surprise appearance at the Roots Picnic this past Saturday. Below, watch footage from Meek’s performance shot by @spikejordan. Check out The Key’s photo recap and review of The Roots Picnic here.
The 6th annual Roots Picnic brought its trademark mix of sounds and styles to the Festival Pier on a sunny Saturday this weekend. And though the results were also somewhat mixed, the show had more high points than not.
The standout set of the day came from independent rapper / viral sensation Macklemore, who took the stage at the peak of the afternoon’s 90-degree heat. The crowd was at capacity, water was at a premium, and yet it was impossible not to groove to the dude’s lively and charismatic stage show. He was funny (quipping that he and DJ Ryan Lewis “just flew in from Egypt. Or maybe Seattle…” and snatching a fur vest from the crowd for his signature song “Thrift Shop”), he was poignant (introducing “Same Love” with remarks about marriage equality) and most importantly, he was entertaining.
Earlier in the day, fantastic performances were also turned in by pop singer Solange – sister to Beyonce Knowles, who was lively, stylish, and rocked a great cover of Dirty Projectors’ “Stillness Is The Move” – and Robert Glasper – who embarked on a wild space-jazz jam to a modest crowd as attendees were just beginning to filter in.
The pier’s tent stage housed more of the hard-hitting hip-hop and DJ names on the bill. Philly’s Lushlife played a tremendous set early on. I feel like, for whatever reason, I always wind up seeing the producer / MC (offstage name: Raj Halder) on lineups where he’s playing to indifferent, aloof indie audiences, so it was a treat seeing him rock a packed room of rap fans who were vibing off his delivery, waving their hands and pumping their fists. You could tell Haldar was feeding off their enthusiasm – he fell to his knees atop a stage monitor during a closing performance of “Big Sur” and sounded like he was beginning to lose his voice. I’m sure it was worth it.
Also in the tent, Brooklyn rapper Joey Bada$$ played a hyper set to a hyper crowd, bouncing between beats and tracks with an almost ADD rhythm. Whatever it lacked in focus, it had in energy. Raucous rapper Trinidad James rocked a riled-up crowd early in the day, while Canadian EDM artist A-Trak closed the tent by spinning a winning set to an audience that was waving cardboard cutouts of his cartooney, pixelated likeness.
Only two acts on the lineup were out-and-out disappointments. The set from blues-rock luminary Gary Clark Jr. was hookless and meandering. After a decent start, it devolved into a show of “hey, look how good I am at guitar,” and you could see its dullness reflected in the crowd’s exhausted faces. Likewise, indie electronic goddess Grimes made a solid effort at showmanship by bounding around the stage and bringing out backup dancers, but the music simply didn’t translate live – its repetitiveness and reliance on echoey effects really showed through. Indie R&B act How To Dress Well and rapper Hitboy also made forgettable appearances.
The Roots themselves capped the night with their trademark good-time, fast-motion set, bouncing seamlessly between something like a half-dozen songs in the first six minutes. It was strikingly similar to the set they play on the Parkway each year for Welcome America Festival; these guys are total pros, down to guitarist “Captain Kirk” Douglas and sousaphonist Tuba Gooding Jr. racing laps around the stage and leaping in time to the beat. But the band had a surprise or two up its many sleeves, like bringing breakout Philly rapper Meek Mill out for a cameo appearance at the end of the night and (more exciting to this reviewer) inviting Marsha Ambrosius of under-appreciated soul combo Floetry out to sing the hook on “You Got Me.”
And this year’s “classic hip-hop” headliner, Naughty By Nature, didn’t disappoint either, rocking their lively 90s radio-rap and marking the 20th birthday of “Hip Hop Hooray” with a sea of waving hands and shouting voices as a cool breeze blew in off the Delaware. Conclusion: even when it fell short, The Roots are masters of the mix – classic and emerging, rap to jazz to electronic and rock, all ages, all energized, all wondering what’s to come next year. See photos from the day after the jump.
Tomorrow is the Roots Picnic at the Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing with a stellar lineup including Naughty By Nature, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Grimes, Joey Bada$$, Trinidad James, Gary Clark, Jr., Solange, Grimes, Robert Glasper, How To Dress Well, Philly’s Lushlife, DJ Premiere and others. The music starts at Noon; schedule is above. Being that’s it’s Funky Friday today, we bring you the Roots Picnic edition of Funky Friday with some of our favorite jams below. See you at the picnic!
During a recent trip to his hometown of Austin, TX blues / rock musician Gary Clark Jr. stopped by KUTX, pizza in hand, to perform a pair of acoustic songs from his 2012 full-length Blak and Blu. Without the fiery passion of his electric guitar, Clark shows an impressive ability to translate his usually-explosive live show into an intimate and stripped-down setting. Gary Clark Jr. will perform at the 6th Annual Roots Picnic on June 1st; tickets and information can be found here. Watch the video via NPR Music below.
From the beginning, Bonnaroo SuperJams have been synonymous with exciting, unexpected one-off collaborations of music’s top artists, with past festivals linking up the likes of Dr. John, Mike Gordon, Luther Dickinson and Stanton Moore (2003), and this year featuring Jim James, Zigaboo Modeliste, John Oates and Preservation Hall Jazz Band. In 2012, Questlove and The Roots took things one step further by facilitating the return of R&B artist / producer D’Angelo in one of his first stateside concerts in eleven years. In the third of four videos documenting the SuperJam, the collaborators perform Funkadelic tracks “Funky Dollar Bill” and “Hit it and Quit it.” Watch the clip below and check out the first two installments here and here. The Roots Picnic with Gary Clark Jr., Grimes, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and more comes to Festival Pier on June 1st. Tickets and information can be found here.