Roots Picnic 2012: 10 Things Seen & Heard Saturday
Now in its fifth year, the Roots Picnic is fast becoming a staple of Philadelphia's rich musical culture. This year marked the first time the festival was expanded to two days (Sat. Jun. 2-Sun. Jun. 3), with acts like De La Soul, Diplo, and Kid Cudi among the biggest names. The line-up was entirely hand-picked by The Roots themselves, and in that spirit, included a wide variety of styles reflecting the Philly group's eclectic taste. On Saturday, indie rock favorites like St. Vincent and tUnE-yArDs brought a Coachella-esque vibe to Philadelphia's Penn's Landing, while DJs like Flosstradamus and LCD Soundystem's James Murphy held it down inside the dance tent. Check out our recap of all the action that took place on the first day of the Roots Picnic.
1. If you consider yourself a Roots fan, simply watching them rock "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" on a regular basis doesn't quite do their live show justice. Seeing them take the stage at their annual festival is to watch the Philly legends in their truest element, as they again proved in 2012. Still, the Roots' set wasn't about just them. Instead, it was about watching them apply their musical craftsmanship to making some killer collabos. After opening with a couple of their own songs, ?uestlove and the gang took the stage alongside Rick Ross cohort Wale, and later on, with hip-hop legends De La Soul.
2. Aside from the Roots, hip-hop legends De La Soul were Saturday night's biggest attraction. It's been nearly twenty-five years since the release of their seminal debut album " 3 Feet High And Rising." The trio -- consisting of Posdnuos, Dave, and Mateo -- looked surprisingly spry in reviving the Native Tongues movement for the Philadelphia crowd. With the Roots as their backing band, De La Soul tore through inspired renditions of songs like "Jenifa Taught Me," "I Am, I Be," and "Me, Myself, and I." And of course, being it was Saturday night, what's a De La Soul set without a sampling of "A Roller Skating Jam Named 'Saturdays'"?
3. The Roots picnic is always good for spotting a couple special guests amongst the regulars. The Roots' three-hour set brought out several notable faces: first, rapper Yasiin Bey (formally known as Mos Def) and later, DJ Jazzy Jeff. Mos came out to a rousing round of applause during the early stages of his set while Philly native Jazzy Jeff (who played the festival two years back) made a special quest appearance, repping for his hometown.
4. Old school hip-hop heads had plenty to like with the Roots and De La Soul on hand, though D.C. rapper Wale certainly warmed things up for the younger crowd. His set borrowed heavily from his most recent album, 2011's "Ambition." He also tossed in a few other odds and ends, including his verse from Waka Flocka Flame's 2010 hit, "No Hands." Typically, his DJ dropped a healthy amount of his trademark Maybach Music brandings throughout the set.
5. The Picnic's first few hours were rich in underground, up-and-coming MCs -- some new, some not so new. Two newcomers worth highlighting were Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire and Danny Brown, a pair of underground oddballs who've been rocking shows with the likes of Killer Mike and El P lately.
Shabazz Palaces, the Seattle hip-hop collective fronted by Ishmael Butler once Butterfly of the beloved 90s alt-rap group Digable Planets, treated hip-hop aficionados with a half-hour set.
6. With the 2012 presidential election approaching, the Roots used their festival to let their political voices be heard. As devout Barack Obama supporters, the Roots invited volunteers to promote the campaign on the way into the festival. Guests could text a number to receive free bumper stickers and were also welcome to other pamphlets and hand-outs.
7. For those looking to escape the mid-day sun, the dance tent proved a welcome escape throughout the afternoon. Early birds were treated to DJ sets from the Chicago duo Flosstradamus and New York veteran Stretch Armstrong. Flosstradamous worked in contemporary EDM stylings, meaning lots of high buildups and hefty beats. Strecth specialized in dance remixes of hip-hop favorites, such as 50 Cent's "What Up Gangsta" and Juvenile's "Back That Ass Up."
8. The dance tent's main attraction was without question, legendary DFA records curator/ former LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy. Although he's taken a sabbatical from being a rock band frontman, it's evident Murphy still knows how to work a crowd. Specializing loops of 80s-influenced electronica and jubilant disco samples, Murphy worked wonders over his hour-long set. While his predecessors were good, Murphy's time behind the tables proved Saturday's most dance-filled slot.
9. Although hip-hop, dance, and R&B have long been the Picnic's trademarks, the Roots have always brought called forth quality indie rock acts. Past years saw the Black Keys and TV On The Radio. This year's most notable name was St. Vincent. Still going strong from last year's acclaimed LP "Strange Mercy," St. Vincent played a strong set marked by songs like "Cruel," "Cheerleader," and "Save Me From What I Want."
10. The most unique set from the Picnic might have belonged to New England-based indie rockers tUnE-yArDs. Led by the flamboyant frontwoman Merrill Garbus , the band busted out a handful of art-pop jams from 2011's critically acclaimed "Whokill," including "My Country" and "Bizness." She was backed by only a guitar and two saxophones, yet used her unique vocal stylings to wow the Picnic crowd.