Recap: The Roots Picnic

by Couch Sessions


Around this time last year, I was somewhere lurking around the Okayplayer discussion board lamenting over the fact that I missed the first annual Roots Picnic and explaining to my roommate that neither hell nor high water would stop me from going to the next show. And despite my poor luck when it comes to seeing the Roots perform live (I’ve missed three shows in a years time) redemption came last Saturday when I was one of the many that walked through the gates for the sold out 2nd Annual Roots Picnic at Penn’s Landing. Looking back, misfortune is the first word that comes to mind when I think of the poor souls that missed out on the opportunity to attend and unfortunately as Stone noted earlier, he’s quite familar with this term. Luckily, and I use that word loosely, I’m here to help him relive a couple highlights from the show with a few tidbits all recollected from the perspective of a virgin Roots concertgoer aided by the consumption of $7 Miller Lites.

As mentioned earlier, when it comes to seeing the Roots live, I’ve been about as lucky as Ray Nagin visiting China. In my 29 years of life, I’ve seen all of my favorite artists in concert (some as many as 3 times) but ironically, the one group that practically lives on the road, has always evaded me. So imagine my excitement once leaving work on Friday afternoon, knowing that I was less than 24 hours away from finally shedding that “Last Hip Hop fan on Earth to never see The Roots Live” burden that has lingered around in my life for the past decade. Our gracious hosts began the show with a short 30 minute set in which Black flexed his lyrical prowess and impeccable breath control by running through “Get Busy”, “The Web” and even Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up”.

From what I had been told, no Roots show is complete unless a surprise guest or two jumps on stage.  The opener featured the Jabbawockeez and my “hangin tough” brethren from middle school NKOTB alongside Black Thought. Considering The Roots have rocked with everyone from Jay Z to The Dave Matthews Band, it wasn’t completely awkward nor nearly as blasphemous as one may think to see Jordan Knight and Donnie Wahlberg run on stage during this opening set. Now what followed from Donnie Wahlberg could only be described as odd but slightly amusing…check the clip below

The Roots Picnic from Shep on Vimeo.

More after the jump.

Anxiously waiting for Public Enemy to take stage, the crowd was treated to performances by newbie band Elevator Fight (just for the record, Lenny and Lisa spawned a cutie), The Antibalas, Santigold, Asher Roth, Kid Cudi and the Black Keys. Of the aforementioned acts, I was most impressed by Santigold and the Antibalas. Santigold showed love to her Philly origins and performed “Starstruck”, “L.E.S. Artistes”, “Creator” and even brought out Spank Rock for “Shove It”. The Antibalas, who later backed PE along with The Roots, delivered their set, introducing the crowd to their brand of  jazz, funk  and afrobeat.  While indulging in a few adult beverages, I managed to miss the Asher Roth performance (oops! *insert sarcasm*) but caught the last few songs from Kid Cudi’s set. Am I the only one not feeling this kid?? I have about as much interest in hearing him rap as I do in listening to Bill O’Reilly speak about anything. Regardless of my personal taste, it was quite obvious that the crowd was feeling him. I don’t know much about The Black Keys and unfortunately, I wasn’t really able to familiarize myself with them as their performance was plagued with sound difficulties.

The real highlight for me would be Public Enemy. It must be noted that I’m a firm believer that It Takes A Nation To Hold Us Back is the greatest hip hop album ever created. So to know that this record would be played in its entirety with The Roots providing the backdrop was enough for a hip hop induced seizure and from the opening bars, I was straddling the line of convulsion. With ?uestlove at the helm and The Antibalas helping,  PE ran through the album effortlessly. Crowd favorite Flavor Flav was definitely at home on stage, taking time to include his trademark catch phrases and dances, all while Chuck and Black Thought helped the crowd stroll through memory lane. Even after the end of the set, Flav still lingered around on stage rambling on and on and at one point asked the crowd if they would vote for him if he ran for President. Needless to say, the answer was a convincing “NOOOO”. Sorry Flav, we love you but not that much. Once PE finally left the stage, TV On The Radio followed. Though I don’t know much about TVOTR, the energy from the crowd was definitely electric and I’m sure most of their fans enjoyed their set.

Finally, the grand finale, (which later was revealed by ?uest on OKP that it was intended to be longer), began around 11:30 pm and simply put, Captain Kirk stole the show. He ripped and shredded his way through what was easily a 15 minute rendition of “You Got Me” that even included some of Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child Of Mine” and the lovely Amanda Diva doing the chorus. Black Thought shined on “Men @ Work”, and after about 40 mins, my first official Roots experience was complete. With my feet numb and blistered from standing for 9 hours, I limped away with a smile on my face.  The drought is over.