For the 3rd straight year, Heineken hosted the ultimate DJ showcase to kick off the largest free concert in America, “The Roots 4th of July Jam”.
Party goers literally danced until the sun came up at the 3rd annual Philadelphia Sound Konnoisseurs aka PSK! Roots founder, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson threw the epic event on July 3rd with an all-star line up at Voyeur. The evening featured RJD2, Cash Money, Cosmo Baker, DJ Phsh, DJ Statik, Emynd & Bo Bliz and of course, Questlove.
Written by Sebastian Ade
With The Roots Picnic being only a few days away, we thought it might be helpful to put together a list of festival essentials:
The rule of thumb is: If you don’t mind it being stolen, broken, or lost, don’t bring it. However, as soon as I spotted this at the family owned Ps and Qs Men Shop I thought that The Camera Cooler would be great for an event like The Roots Picnic.The Roots Picnic isn’t as crazy and long as other music festivals. During the show this could be the perfect place to keep your camera, lenses, phone…and beer.
If you are one of those people that race to the rim of the stage as soon as the doorman checks your ticket, you might want to invest in some earplugs. When you are having a blissful time watching your favorite artist perform, the last thing on your mind is your ears until the bass starts beating against your head. Want to avoid a headache after the show? I’m sure these Elvex Ear Plug will do you good.
You can find virtually anything you can’t eat at Philly Aids Thrift. At this place $10 can temporarily replace the sunglasses and hat you left at home before the The Roots Picnic. Philly Aids Thrift has a wide collection of books, CDs, clothing, and decor (just in case you want to indulge in a little shopping).
4. SEPTA Tokens
Until Septa can adapt a more efficient way to ride the subway, be sure you bring your tokens. The Spring Garden Station and South/Lombard Station will be crowded after show. Getting tokens, to and from your destinations ahead of time, will save you a long wait on a crowded subway train home.
5.Water and Sunscreen
It’s always sunny in Philly, sometimes a little too sunny. This Saturday is expected to be 90 degrees and can potentially be dangerous for the people who came without water and sunscreen. To avoid spending a fortune on a 20 oz. bottle of water, don’t leave your place without a bottle, or a few bottles, of water.
One of the worst things you’d want happen at The Roots Picnic is for your smartphone to die. A great tool that will help you prevent this is the Anker Astro Mini, it works with most smartphones, especially iPhone and Galaxy phones and isn’t larger than a container of lipstick.
As of today, The Roots Picnic is expected to be 6 hours long. Located across the street from the Festival Pier Lot at 630 N 2nd Street is Soy Cafe. This vegetarian deli is quiet, group friendly, healthy, and cheap! Perfect for stocking up on snacks (plus I heard there smoothies are delicious).
We’ve officially entered into the third year of Philly Tech Week as of Monday, April 22, 2013. For those of you who don’t know, PTW is the brainchild of local technology news network, Technical.ly. Join in on the celebration of technology and innovation in the Philadelphia region by attending any of the incredible events going on all week long. Over 10,000 people attended 80 events last year, and they are expecting an even bigger number this year.
You can look at the full event schedule here.
Below are two events that you should definitely make time for:
1. The Mayors Digital Inclusion Meeting
Friday, April 26th
Ben Franklin Technology Partners
Philadelphia Navy Yark/SEP Building
100 Innovation Ctr
2:30 pm – 4 pm
The Office of Mayor Michael A. Nutter will host a conversation about the importance of diversity in the technology development sector. As the demographics of tech consumers changes, the economy will be dependent on corporate America learning how to develop content and products targeted at the new majority. Therefore, there is a void for technology as it relates to minority creators. The economy needs diverse influencers in age and race in the technology field to provide innovative content similar to the influence on music, sports, movies, and other fields.
2. WXPN and Little Giant Media present The intersection of Music and Technology
Sunday, April 28th
1200 Callowhill St.
End Philly Tech Week with Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Bruce Warren, of WXPN, as they lead a discussion on the future of music and technology, followed by an hour long Q+A. Guests can also enjoy presentations from Rapgenius.com, Soulspazm Digital, theFUTURE.fm and live performances by POW POW, Khari Mateen and Lush Life.
Keeping the party going will be DJs Dave Pianka, of Making Time, and DJ Phsh.
Photos by Joshua Pelta-Heller
The Mural Arts Program and Grammy award winning hip hop artists The Roots are proud to celebrate the production of the latest addition to the Albert M. Greenfield African American Iconic Images Collection. The Roots will be immortalized on the back of the World Communications Charter School with the upcoming mural due to be completed sometime in December 2012.
An event was held to honor local artisans and the continuing success of the Mural Arts Program at Ms. Tootsie’s at Broad and South Streets on Saturday, October 27. Executive Director of the Mural Arts Program, Jane Golden, made enthusiastic remarks about the program’s mission to improve public spaces and unite communities through artistic expression. The Roots’ Tariq Trotter and Ahmir Thompson say they are honored to be a part of this project and consider it to be one of their greatest achievements as artists and Philadelphians.
Later, guests walked to the site of the upcoming mural for an unveiling of the design and location. The day was marked by performances from Philadelphia natives Chill Moody, Rone, and Dice Raw. Attendees participated in interactive mural painting and t-shirt making with the artists who will be completing the mural. Collaborators as well as residents shared a mutual love for the city’s unique culture and innovative traditions, and the event highlighted Philadelphia’s long standing and ever growing art scene through live music and visual arts.
Clash of the DJ titans at Voyeur… Photos by Tim Blackwell
Questlove brings back the heavyweights for another amazing 4th Of July holiday eve at Voyeur Nightclub… DJ Statik, DJ Phsh, Rich Medina, J-Rocc, DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Drama and Questlove himself formed like Voltron and delivered the goods… which is probably a major understatement. Especially if you were there, sweating profusely from excessive dancing, pouring cold Heineken on your head, or partaking in free ice cold shots of Ciroc courtesy of DJ Drama. I’m pretty sure I did all three (from what I remember..), and somehow managed not to lose my camera in the process. Despite the hedonism that was PSK, I still manage to get some great shots. This easily beats losing an eye setting off shitty fireworks in your driveway. If you were one of the few people who weren’t there, check out the flicks now, and we’ll figure out your punishment later…
Basketball jerseys, Sound Problems & the Power of De La Soul at Day One of the 2012 Roots Picnic
June 2, 2012…
There were occasional clouds, but for the most part the sun was shining and it was a pretty beautiful day for the first day of the fifth annual Roots Picnic. By mid-afternoon Festival Pier, on the mighty Delaware River and looked down upon by the stoic Ben Franklin Bridge, was crowded. It was crowded with an amazingly diverse collection of people- people young and old, people of all races, people who looked like cartoon characters, people in funky outfits, people in sensible outfits, people in let’s go rage outfits- people ready to have some fun.
The Roots, who this year for the first time spread their annual summer festival out over two days, were to finish off the night- joined by Wale and then De La Soul. This would not happen until after 8pm. At a little after four, with the main stage getting ready for Tune-Yards and DJ Stretch Armstrong doing work in the Magic Bubble, a little after 8pm seemed very far away.
Nursing pounders of beer, smoking cigarettes, tweeting on their Twitters, instagraming on their Instagrams, the crowd generally chilled out like anyone would at a picnic. The idea of an energetic hip hop show seemed very distant and far-fetched. In the Magic Bubble, the tent off to the side of the venue, Stretch Armstrong had ‘em going, especially when he dropped in some Bone Thugs ‘n Harmony to his set. He was followed up by Star Slinger, a DJ who looks like the first place winner of the DJ Who Looks the Absolute Least Like a DJ contest. Long hair, a beard, a belly- all I’m saying is that it looks like comic books are part of his life somehow. But regardless, dude can DJ and he had the crowd bouncing.
On the main stage, Tune-Yards’ front woman and tribal leader, Merrill Garbus took the stage- the giant rock show stage now occupied by such a little lady. In front of her was a floor tom, a snare drum and a high hat. You could not see her feet, but that’s where the science of her set happened. Garbus rocks loops in the way that softies wish they could. Everyone responds differently to music as unorthodox as Tune-Yards. My first response was easy- sick grooves. Around me, people had varying reactions. Before Tune-Yards had been a set by rapper OCD. This was quite a bit different. Garbus, immersed within her loops- drum loops and vocal loops, was joined by a bass player and two sax players. You could tell who in the crowd were familiar with Tune-Yards and who weren’t.
“Pretty sick, huh?” The guy next to me said. I responded, saying that it was amazing. Behind me I heard two other people having a similar conversation.
Tune-Yards continued, making indie rock funky. Two years ago, while seeing Vampire Weekend at the Roots Picnic for the first time, I thought they sounded like they were Paul Simon’s nephews. Ms. Garbus sounds like she could be Paul Simon’s oldest daughter. Tune-Yards are just so damn original. They were fun to bob too. Everyone around me started getting into it more. A couple songs in Garbus picked up her ukulele and from behind me I heard, “I was hoping for a ukulele. This is great.”
But apparently people still looked confused.
“Not many of you have seen us before,” Garbus said, a beat dropping behind her as she surveyed the crowd. “Raise your hand if this is the first time you’ve seen us.” A lot of hands went up, causing Garbus and her band to laugh. “I thought so,” she said. “A lot of you had that look on your face- that ‘what’s going on’ look…but in a good way.”
Back in the Magic Bubble there was another DJ set, this time Flosstradamous on the ones and twos, producing the same vibe as before. The Roots were still over two hours away. St. Vincent, a band led by the soft voiced Annie Erin Clark, were up next on the main stage. It didn’t appear to have many folks excited. Everyone was just chill.
During St. Vincent’s set it seemed everyone was in the food line. The poor gal, she tried. But it just wasn’t her crowd. St. Vincent sound like a band of robots. The saving grace for Tune-Yards were the beats- they got people interested. St. Vincent weren’t so lucky, bad luck only compounded when sound problems popped up (foreshadowing.) Clark stood center stage, no music playing and confessed to the audience, “I feel like Rodney Dangerfield, just without the jokes.” I felt bad for her. It was a bummer the food lines were so long, but at least it wasn’t as much of a bummer as standing center stage during sound problems. She handled it well and was relieved when the problems were fixed.
“Thank God that shit is fucking fixed,” she said. Thank God indeed. Now can we do something about the food lines?
Lots of jerseys in the crowd- nearly every basketball player known to mankind was represented. Not only did I see a Sonics’ Ray Allen jersey, but I also saw a Jesus Shuttlesworth jersey. I thought that was weird. Then I saw two different people rocking Barry Bonds’ jerseys. That seemed even weirder. But it was just that kind of day. It was the kind of day to rock a haircut like Kid from Kid ‘n Play or tell us a little bit about yourself based on the kind of socks you are wearing. Token drunk dudes started showing up, a little hitch in their giddy up as they followed their friends around. At just about seven p.m., it was starting to become all about James Murphy, formerly of LCD Soundsystem, and his DJ set in the Magic Bubble. It would get people going, get them excited, get them ready for the Roots. The food lines were still incredibly long- at least pretzels were cheap. Not good, but cheap.
You could tell who the professional was amongst the DJ’s tasked to spin in the Magic Bubble. Murphy’s set simply flowed better than the other DJ’s. It was tighter, had a gloss to it. And yes, his hair looks as crazy in person.
The crowd started getting serious in front of the main stage right around 8pm, as the final touches were made by all the union dudes. Collectively, we would have to ignore the slow jams coming over the PA if we wanted to stay amped and ready for the Legendary Roots Crew. The slow jams continued though. It wasn’t helpful. The whole day up until these few minutes before the Roots had been so mellow. I couldn’t help but think how it’d be different if the Picnic was still only one day long. We would have probably just seen Kid Cudi play and maybe would be waiting for Rakim, who’d be joined by the Roots. The vibe was too much on cruise control. I could see it in people’s faces, even behind their Ray Ban sunglasses- people wanted to get down.
The Roots would no doubt bring the energy, but would the crowd be able to match it?
Questlove and Knuckles were the first ones on the stage; taking their places behind the drum kit and percussion set up. Recently the Roots started playing a go-go version of “Paul Revere” by the Beastie Boys as a tribute to the late MCA. It sounded like it was going to be the opener. Black Thought came out, his white coat looking illuminated. He grabbed the microphone and…
Questlove and Knuckles kept playing. The rest of the band- including a three-piece horn section, came on stage. Black Thought kept on rapping and the crowd heard none of it. No one had a hand in the air with a finger outstretched because they were pointing in the direction where they thought north was. They were trying to get someone’s attention, anyone’s attention. Turn his mic up, people in the crowd yelled. The Roots went into “Proceed” and still no one could hear Black Thought, who was still rapping. It was becoming frustrating. Unbelievable. Was no one aware that this was happening?
Finally a sound tech came from the side of the stage, switched out Black Thought’s microphone and then poof, ladies and gentlemen we have Black Thought. Upon hearing his voice, the crowd cheered wildly. After “Proceed,” Black Thought asked the crowd if it was true, was no one was able to hear him. There was a collective shrug from the Roots and boom, they launched into “Paul Revere” again, as if the first two songs had never happened. It was the coolest thing I saw all day. The Roots played a couple more songs, including “Bustin’ Loose,” a tune by the late Chuck Brown, before they were joined by Wale for “Rising Up.” But big surprise, Wale’s microphone wasn’t working. Bush league.
Wale’s set, eventually improved by the presence of a functioning microphone, was solid, but not something that made me like him more. It seemed to take the energy level back down, which was a shame because in only a handful of songs, the Roots had pumped so much life into the crowd. After Wale’s set, Black Thought announced that they were going to take a few minutes to get the sound right. The mood in the crowd was akin to a rain delay at a baseball game. You could only hope people packed an extra blunt with them.
A few minutes later the Roots re-took the stage for a couple more songs, including a non-Flyers’ centric version of “The Fire,” before introducing De La Soul, who to be completely honest with you- killed it. Man they were fun. Dave, Posdnous and Maseo brought the infectious energy of little kids let loose in the backyard to the stage and the crowd responded. For the first time all day, Festival Pier was full of life- not just people and over-priced beers. Backed by the Roots, De La Soul busted out a slick, tight and spot on career-spanning set. They repeatedly thanked the crowd for being so awesome. It was genuine. There was no fronting or grand-standing.
“We didn’t come here to be cool,” Dave of De La Soul said at one point. “We didn’t come here to be cute. We came here to party.”
And it was a party, complete with a random pop-in, none other than Yasiin Bey (Mos Def,) who rambled out from behind Maseo’s turntables, was given a microphone, and just kind of hung out on stage for the remainder of their set, pitching in when needed. De La Soul never tired. Nineteen songs and their enthusiasm never once wavered. “Potholes in My Lawn,” “Pass the Plugs,” “A Roller Skating Jam Named ‘Saturdays,” “My Myself and I,” they left no stone unturned and gave them crowd everything they could have asked for. How do you follow something like that?
An impromptu set by Bey backed by the Roots couldn’t hurt. Bey rocked a little freestyle, followed by “Umi Says” and “Double Trouble,” before the Roots closed out the set and day one with “The Next Movement.”
With almost a full moon in the sky and the rain apparently saving itself until day two, the first day of the Roots Picnic was an uneven shindig. No one is ever going to question the Roots ability to kick out the jams, but as I talked a cab driver into giving me a short ride back home, I found myself going back to my original question- why two days? I doubted it going in and I doubted it on the way back home. I doubted it waking up Sunday morning and I doubt it writing this now.
Sometimes more isn’t better. Sometimes more is just more. Just because the only beers available are pounders, doesn’t mean you should drink as many as you normally would and just because you think you can stretch out a festival over two days doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
But it’s like De La Soul said, we only came here to party. So we’ll leave the haggling over details to someone else.
See you next year.
Photos by Tim Blackwell
Everything you need to know to be prepared for this year’s Roots Picnic show
For years, Memorial Day weekend was the unofficial kick off for summer. The three day (or for some, four or five day depending on how forgiving your work is) Memorial Day weekend is a starter gun in the form of barbeques, sunburns, too many beers, parades, fireworks and traffic jams that kicks off another hopefully glorious summer. But over the past couple years, another weekend event has started to supplant Memorial Day as the unofficial start of summer in the greater Philadelphia area…the Roots Picnic.
Now in its fifth year, the Roots Picnic has created a reputation as an interesting, fun, sweaty and eclectic day of music. Past acts to join Philly’s Legendary Roots Crew are the Black Keys, TV on the Radio, members of the Wu Tang Clan, Vampire Weekend, Nas, Wiz Khalifa, Santigold, Public Enemy and many more. This year’s lineup features De La Soul (backed by the Roots,) Wale, Tune-Yards, James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem,) Rakim, Kid Cudi, Diplo, Major Lazer and more.
For those of you going, here is a primer for this year’s Roots Picnic.
1. Bring a Sleeping Bag. This is the first year that the Picnic is spread out over two days, Saturday and Sunday. In past years, it’s been a marathon of a day that starts in the early afternoon, runs through the dog days of summer and ends sometime before midnight. By the time the Roots hit the stage to close out the show, you’ve dropped 18 pounds from sweating, your feet are killing you and you’ve gladly traded beers for water. Not so this year. Well, not totally so- both days are still as jam packed as one of Questlove’s hard drives. Tickets are available individually for each day or you can pick up a two day pass. Both days are headlined by the Roots. The Saturday highlights are De La Soul, Murphy’s DJ set, Tune-Yards, Wale and St. Vincent. For Sunday, highlights are Kid Cudi, Major Lazer, Rakim (performing his album Paid in Full, backed by the Roots,) Diplo and Philly’s Chill Moody.
2. Eff Off 90 Degrees! Constants for the Roots Picnic: amazing music, amazing hot temperatures. Last time I went to the Picnic in 2010, it was so hot I briefly wondered if stripping down to my birthday suit would truly be a bad idea or not. Up until a week ago, I just figured we would be in for the same thing this year and as a result, I started hydrating and applying sunscreen last week. But wait a second…the forecast for this weekend is…actually pleasant. Mid-seventies baby! There are three awesome things to do on a day when the sun is out and the temperature is in the mid-seventies: go to a Phillies game, sit outside somewhere and drink, go to an outdoor rock show. Looks like this weekend, you can knock out two of those things at once. Which is nice because let’s be honest, this might be a lost season for the Phillies unless you know someone that will hit homeruns for free.
3. DJ Sets = Quality A/C Time. I don’t know who thought of adding an air-conditioned bubble to Festival Pier, but they’re a personal hero of mine. I know I’m not alone in saying that the Bubble has saved my life while attending shows at Festival Pier on multiple occasions. It’s like a beautiful oasis, complete with two bars, excellent people watching and at the Roots Picnic, some great DJ sets. Last year, Black Thought and DJ J. Period performed a live mix tape in the Magical Bubble. You never know what’s going to happen in there- only that it will be refreshingly cool while it’s happening.
4. Who Can’t the Roots Back Up? In past years, our gracious hosts, the Roots, have backed up Public Enemy, members of Wu Tang and Nas. This year, Questlove and the gang are pulling double duty. Saturday night, they back up hip hop legends De La Soul, who earlier this year, released a collaboration with the French DJ duo Chokolate and Khalid called First Serve. And then on Sunday, the Roots back up, Rakim and perform Paid in Full, the debut album from Eric B. and Rakim. For good measure, they might as well bar back in the Bubble, just to stay well-rounded.
5. Let’s Mesmerize Some Lyrics! The hardest part with these multi-artist shows is being properly prepared musically. The Roots Picnic is a lot to study for. I’m going to be honest, I’ve only heard a handful of Wale songs and I’m going to be even more honest with you, I’ve never listened to Paid in Full all the way through. The last thing anyone wants to do is go to a concert and look like a goon. Lucky for us, DJ Low Budget and Okay Player have us covered. Last week they released the official 2012 Roots Picnic Mixtape– a sprawling, comprehensive and incredibly helpful compilation featuring mashed up jams of nearly all of the artists appearing at this year’s concert. It’s perfect for these few days before the show and while listening to it is not a guarantee you won’t be that guy or gal at this year’s show, bothering your friends for song titles, it definitely makes that less likely to happen. You can check out the mixtape here.
Other than that, you’re on your own. If you’re going, have fun, tell Questlove I said hi and don’t forget to hydrate.
For more information and ticket info on the 2012 Roots Picnic, visit Okayplayer.