The Roots Picnic | 06.05 | Philadelphia

Words & Images by: Jake Krolick

3rd Annual Roots Picnic :: 06.05.10 :: Penn's Landing :: Philadelphia, PA

'Tis the season in the 215, that time of year to clean your hi-tops with that old toothbrush and hang out in a parking lot all day in 90-degree weather. Sound like torture, maybe, but to those who have braved the heat for the last two Roots Picnics know how amazing these events can be. Too bad this year's gathering was nowhere near the throw down that the last two were, but there was still fun to be found if you knew where to listen. Plus, Philly was ripe for a party, high on a Stanley Cup play- off and ready for the best event to bridge the culture, race and music gap the city had ever seen.

The day's highlights came from several sources, but let's start with the two bands from Africa. Bajah and the Dry Eye Crew opened by saying how we were all going to Africa with them before they put on a warm-up set filled with bass heavy rhythms and an exhibition in how to dance in the heat of the midday. The other African connection, The Very Best, shattered my expectations and made the crowd move like there was no tomorrow. Their set was filled with their songs, "Julia", "Warm Heart of Africa" and "Mulomo," which features the music from Yeasayer's "Ambling Alp" all wrapped up in a yummy dose of afro- electropop. Jay Electronica's set was thoughtful and featured some well delivered songs about the hurricane debacle in New Orleans and a great rap about living on Cecil B. Moore in North Philly.

The Roots were a bit of a disappointment, not musically, more in that they barely played as The Roots. In previous years we got spoiled with two to three full Roots sets throughout the day. The highlight of their brief jaunt came in guest spots by Philly's Dice Raw and ex-bassist Leonard Hubbard. To make up for the lack of solo Roots, they served us a generous helping of The Roots playing back-up band to John Legend and The Roots with the Wu- Tang Clan's Method Man, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon.

The John Legend set was expectedly soulful and featured a funky rendition of Bill Withers' "I Can't Write Left-Handed" and a cover of Eugene McDaniels' "Compared To What." The Wu set featured a fair amount of smack talk about the Philly sports teams, but the performance made up for the babble as the rowdy grouping heaved us a classic "C.R.E.A.M." from their album 36 Chambers.

Much of the crowd ran for the gate before Vampire Weekend dropped a short set of songs that really would have been better suited in an afternoon time slot than at the end of a long day. Regardless Vampire Weekend closed out the festivities with true-to-the-album versions of "Oxford Comma" and "A-Punk." Frontman Ezra Koenig said that The Roots were the first band that he ever paid money to see before closing it all down with "Walcott."

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[Published on: 6/8/10]

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