A Long Day Under the Sun: The Roots Picnic 2012
Last weekend I got the opportunity to return to the city that conceived me, Philadelphia, PA. The perfect excuse to visit my Grandmom and cousins was The 5th Annual Roots Picnic. With Philly being an important city in my life, Black Thought being my favorite rapper, and The Roots being a daily inspiration, I had high expectations for this event. With a dent in my pocket from the $63 tickets, I needed this show to be like an outdoor couple’s massage on a Mexican resort at sunset. #satisfaction
Turns out I got exactly what I wanted long after getting exactly the opposite that Saturday:
Me: “Excuse me, how much is a water?”
Chick at Beverage Stand: “$4.50”
Me: **restrains from violence**
My cousin @thebulBEY and I arrived at The Roots Picnic mad early at noon. Neither of us had been to The Roots Picnic before and wanted to make sure nothing good got past us. Since, we arrived at the large Penn’s Landing Festival Pier before anyone had really arrived and before any performances started, we decided to focus on finding some food. Now forgive me for going to an event with “picnic” in the name expecting to have a variety of food readily available. Instead there were small selections of food, from the same vendor, and I recall each plate costing around $400… OK, obviously I am exaggerating but food wasn’t cheap. I was told by a clearly jaded ice cream vendor that the major live entertainment company Live Nation was to blame. I think that was just coming from his place of anger because of the 30% they take from the vendors’ profits. This was a just a learning experience because I found out soon after the show that there was more food backstage. A lesson for next year.
After accepting that I was going to leave this event broke and hungry, we peeped the opening performers. For the most part they left much to be desired, both on the main outdoor stage and the second stage enclosed in a tent. That was until Kids These Days performed. This energetic and extraordinarily talented young band had me cheering as if they had been around for years. With a drummer, rapper, singer/keyboard player, guitarist/singer, trumpet player, and trombone player, you would think these barely-legals would be a mess all over the stage. However, they seemed to know exactly what they were doing and were able to carry the crowd with them from beginning to their En Vogue tribute ending. I really became a fan when their female singer took center stage for her solo. She sang with a penetrating pure blues voice that made me forget she was a little white girl in 2012. Kids These Days is why we go to these shows to discover new music.
Sadly, Kids These Days just built me up only for the rest of the collection of performers to let me down. Hanging around all day waiting for the main performers would have been a lot more torturous on that hot day had it not been for the exceptions of Danny Brown, OCD and DJ SYLO, and a surprise performance from Tonya Morgan during one of the dj sets. Despite those pretty decent acts, I was cursing The Roots by 8pm.
When the Philly crew finally hit the stage, I was up front and ready to scream. Black Thought got it rocking quickly, spitting over go-go sounding music surely composed by the internationally known ?uestlove doing work on the drums. Following the long-awaited intro, Wale came out to perform. I was beyond hype to see the DMV artist I had been following since he was just a local emcee. Though D.C. isn’t close enough to my home town of Bowie (PG Country) to feel connected with it, I still felt like family was in the building during Wale’s set. He attempted to make the crowd a part of his performance by running off stage to spit nearly half of a track among those sitting on the back bleachers. That justly annoyed the majority of the crowd in the front of the stage who couldn’t see where he had run off to. Bad call, Wale.
The show proceeded to get even better as the legendary De La Soul trio performed with The Roots Crew. I had no idea these old guys could put on such a hype and creative show. Most of those in the crowd were in pre-school when De La came out, but that didn’t stop us from knowing all the words to songs like “The Magic Number,” “Me, Myself, and I” and “Baby Phat.”
Just when I was praying that they would perform “Buddy” with guest performers, my thought was intercepted as Mos Def came from the backstage into audience view. The crowd went nuts with screams. At first it seemed clear that Mos wouldn’t really be performing, but just occasionally acting as hype man for De La Soul.
“I am just a fan right now. The only difference between you and me is that I have a microphone,” Mos Def said to the audience. I didn’t matter if he performed or not, because I already felt I had got my money’s worth with De La and The Roots’ spectacular sets.
However, I forgot the fact that Jesus loves me. J So, I shouldn’t have been surprised when Mos Def came out to perform MY FAVORITE hip-hop song “Double Trouble” with Black Thought. All the pain in my feet from standing for 12 hours and the hunger pains in my tummy, completely disappeared as I screamed every word to that song, jumping up and down over my poor cousin and a stranger. That was it. The show was officially greatness.
It had been a long and hot day with a major slow start, but somehow it ended on a cosmic note. By the time @thebulBEY and I were heading home to our worried grandmom I felt inspired out the ears. Every one of the performers that night did a great job, and it was clearly because they were having just as much fun, if not more, as the audience. They were old hip-hop heads kicking it on a stage and I felt blessed to watch it.
Thanks, The Roots. Thanks, Live Nation. Thanks, cuz. Thanks, hip-hop. Thanks, Grandmom. Thanks, God. And thanks Philly. Peace.
I didn’t attend day two of The Roots Picnic, but I followed the social media buzz surrounding it. Check out what people had to say about Sunday’s shows HERE.