Images and Words by: Jake Krolick
Roots Picnic :: 5.31.14 :: River Stage at Penn's Landing :: Philadelphia, PA
The seventh annual Roots Picnic put another notch on their growing list of successes. This
yearly celebration of Hip-hop, culture and Philadelphia has managed to stay fairly
corporation-free, letting the funky vibe of Philly steer the picnic
into a best of what hip-hop and street culture represents. As far as venue make-overs go,
the fresh dusting of sand was just a little lipstick on the pig that is Festival Pier. The
food and beer lines were so incredibly long it was unfathomable to think about waiting to
eat and drink. However the bands flowed seamlessly into one another and
without much maneuvering you could hear, if not see every little bit of the music.
Music boomed all around the venue featuring hip-hop samples from the past 25 years. Thanks
eclectic ear we were treated to a pretty laid back vibe for the lucky 7th Picnic. Philly
native Chill Moody
brought simple flow and verse that fed into the Bad Rabbits' soul grooves that
warmed the crowd. Just Blaze
brought up another Philadelphia native, surprise guest Freeway, who rocked the
microphone for most of their set. Together, they created small eruptions of old school ass
shake as the crowd soared to capacity at a little under 8,000.
The UK’s pseudo-variety show/dance band Rudimental struggled to boost the energy of
the crowd before
Biz Markie demonstrated his turntable skills. Jhene Aiko was as sweet as pie
blowing onto the stage
in a flowing white dress, her school yard lyrics about sex and drugs were in stark
contrast to her innocent appearance. She had some choice
words in a later tweet
for haters in the crowd. A$AP Ferg opened his set with the doozy of a rap “Dump
Dump,” which had most of
the rail shouting, “I f**ked your bitch!” Ferg announced that in Philly he was the dope
master before his younger cohort
tossed himself ragdoll style into the crowd for a bit of surfing. Both rappers found
themselves climbing speakers, the DJ
table and the crowd to emphasize their point in more rambunctious ways.
Not everything went smoothly for The War on Drugs. After flying in from Barcelona
they hit a wall of sound
problems before giving the crowd a glimpse at what mastery Adam Granduciel and company can
bring to an outdoor
set. It appeared as if this was the first time most of the crowd had heard The War On
Drugs even though they were formed in Philadelphia and have been playing the city for
the better part of the past decade. Sure most of the intricacies and lyrics were lost on
the crowd, but as their set clicked
in during a splendid rendition of “Under the Pressure,” I saw a bunch of new fans taking
notice. Granduciel even added
some extra emphasis on the lyrics “when it all breaks down and we’re runaways standing in
the wake of my pain.” One can only dream of the possibilities for this band this summer
and beyond as they build on all their recent success.
Thank god for Action Bronson, who was finally able to inject a shot of energy back
into the lazy day. The
Queens hip-hop act didn’t take himself too seriously and let the fun flow. He started by
giving shout-outs to South St.
eatery Ishkabbiles during an entertaining rap over “Tequila” that ended with him
declaring, “I don't even give a fuck
about the Mets. I hope the Phillies win today!” Bronson was crafty and he jumped into the
crowd and made his way to
the soundboard mid-set. With a sea lion-like heave, he tossed himself atop one of the
vending stands and performed
the remainder of his set in the center of both stages. Flanked by the Penthouse Club
billboard and the Northern Liberties
skyline, Bronson blasted through a bunch of songs and even purchased a water ice before
ending the day’s best set.
Janelle Monáe was wheeled out onto the stage in a Straitjacket. Before her set was
over, her posse of black
and white clothed musicians helped her deliver an elaborate trip through sound that
touched on James Brown, Cab
Calloway and some exceptional Jackson 5 covers including "ABC" and "I Want You Back."
Despite sound issues Monáe
was one fantastic show person - dancing, singing and moonwalking through her set.
The event felt light on The Roots compared to previous years. Most were just happy
to have the hometown
heroes back on a local stage. They took us back to 2004 for "Don't Say Nuthin'", but
hardly uncorked their latest
album, …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin. The little music the band did play from
that album like "Understand" was
fiery and left many wanting more. With little to no fanfare, hip-hop legend Snoop
Dogg entered stage right, showing his love for Philly by sporting a bit of Phillies
garb. Snoop opened with “Gz And Hustlas” and ripped
effortlessly through “Gin and Juice” and knocked out most of the classic Doggystyle
album. Doug E. Fresh
made a surprise appearance for "La Di Da Di," as well as some beat boxing from Biz Markie.
Next year, it would be
great to see The Roots play with earlier bands and help the energy levels grow
consistently. Perhaps it’s time to move this event to a new larger location.
JamBase | City Of Roots Love
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