June 3, 2012 No comments yet
ROOTS PICNIC DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I woke up happy yesterday morning, as June 2nd, 2012 marked the the 5th exciting day of the last 1,825 days in my city of Brotherly Love. But it doesn’t stop there: this 5th Annual Roots Picnic is also the first two-day event in the festival’s history, dramatically raising the “Phun Days In Philly Per Year” index from %.273 to %.547! As the clock struck 10am, I donned my finest pot leaf tank top, roused the hungover Fader kids up off my couch (always mooching off the Mostly Junk Food kids) and was out the damn door!
I sat down with ?uestlove (no I didn’t) to discuss the origins of The Picnic so that I could approach the event with a little knowledge for purposes of showing off around other “journalists.” According to ?uest, the inspiration for the Roots Picnic comes from a festival curated by The Police in Canada between 1980 and 1983. Perhaps the most renowned curatorial/archival mind in hip-hop, it’s only right that ?uestlove (and crew) should carry on this tradition by hand-selecting their favorite acts of the year, inviting them to Philly, and in several instances providing the musical backing for their performances. The phrase “your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper” is often used to describe that next-level shit that inspires other artists as opposed to music critics or typical music festival curators; herein lies the essential difference separating the Roots Picnic from the rest of the pack of festivals.
Day 1 unfolded in three distinct chunks of time, three concert experiences within one. Here’s how it all went down:
During the first period of the day, up and coming rappers like Mr. MFN Exquire and Danny Brown performed for a relatively small crowd consisting of 20-Something Females, Philadelphia Sunglasses Dads, and Snapback Dudes Who Know All The Words To All The Songs (ah yes, T. World Peace was feelin’ at home and ready to mingle). For these first few hours, the sun sat high in the sky and the Port-O-Potty to human ratio felt pretty balanced.
Exquire hit the stage first, following his discharge from military service in the tundra (see picture below). His brief set did not disappoint– Huzzah was performed, heads nodded aplenty. Brown’s set was a bit longer and more charismatic. Between the Fool’s Gold industrial-type production, rock star outfit, and lyrics about his balls sucking his own dick, you kind of got the feeling that this was a man ushering in a new era of “rap.” We were partying in the future, and we weren’t even upset about it.
Periods II and III get a little more exciting on a personal level, as I inherited an All-Access pass from an anonymous source. This leads to me carefully studying what all the rappers are eating for lunch so that I myself can prepare an optimal Rap Feul regimen. (This also leads to “Why didn’t I bring my demo!?!?” and “Did I really just miss a few sets in the interest of consuming 12 free Vitamin Waters!?!”)
Star Slinger– a definite crowd favorite– launched a massive dance party with his Chain Dumbin’ collaboration featuring Juicy J, Project Pat, and Reggie B:
Stretch Armstrong spun a lot of classic rap ish, including Simon Says— Simon Says is always a highlight of your day at a concert unless it’s being performed by Pharoahe Monch and his unnecessarily funky band of live musicians. Also notable was James Murphy’s set, as he spun his deep dance cuts in an undershirt and without attempting to hide the fact that he was sorely in need of a nap.
Somehow, things just kept getting better. The final set of the day was well over two hours. Wale, The Roots, and De La performed in reverse order of artistic dependence– recall: Wale’s first big mainstream break amid building hype was on The Roots’ Rising Up, and of course The Roots are deeply indebted to De La Soul on various creative levels.
I’m not going to pretend to be a huge Wale fan, which is probably why his “Look! Now I’m rapping amongst the fans in the crowd and not on stage, everyone freak out!” portion of the set led him to stand directly in front of me, obscuring my view of watching Wale on the Jumbo-tron. Only later did it dawn on me that I could’ve goosed him pretty bad, or at least suggested that he “relax a little, you know, in general.”
There isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said about The Roots in live performance. These guys do it for hours and they do it at an extremely high level, especially in their hometown. Dudes in the crowd who typically just nod their heads are forced to shed their pretension and dance effortlessly. Roughly the same could be said for De La Soul, whose legendary status and contributions to the culture leave your brain on stand-by as they rock the mics. I don’t have a lot of words for either of these sets. Don’t really want to taint the magic with words, nor do I want to try to paint pictures of things you really need to just see in the moment. Read my stuff for weird commentary, but seek these actual experiences out for yourself.
The night came to a close with a surprise visit from Yasiin Bey himself, the Mighty Mos Def. The Roots backed him on his two song set which started with Casa Bey and ended with Umi Says. Put another way, Day 1 of The Roots Picnic ended with thousands of elated Philadelphians shouting about shining their lights on the world on that World Peace shit. We live in a beautiful world, a world where a major festival can wrap up with the multitudes singing “I want my people to be free, to be free, to be free.” Things are coming together, people. Can you feel it?