The roster of artists for the 6th Annual Roots Picnic Festival, taking place June 1 at Festival Pier at Penns Landing in Philadelphia, has been announced.
This year, the lineup includes headliners and festival organizers The Roots backing Naughty By Nature for a full set. Performers during the event include Grimes, Gary Clark Jr., Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Solange Knowles, Joey Bada$$, How to Dress Well, Sonnymoon, Jennah Bell, Trinidad Jame$, Robert Glasper, Lushlife, DJ Premier, Hit-Boy, The Gaslamp Killer and araabMUZIK.
Shawn Gee, executive producer of the Roots Picnic who co-manages the group with Richard Nichols, explains that event organizers including Questlove and Black Thought spent months curating a lineup with promoter Live Nation. Like with previous years, which has featured The Black Keys, Gnarls Barkley and Rakim, Gee says that the intention is to offer a diverse group of artists and expose fresh talent.
“We feel this is probably our most balanced year,” says Gee, who is also president of music and entertainment at SEFG and serves as a touring consultant for the Blueprint Group. “From an artist’s perspective, people understand that the talent pool is handpicked by ?uestlove and the team. They want to play, because they understand what The Roots stand for and what we’ve built for the past five years.”
“The hardest thing is catching acts that are just getting buzz so you can get them on the cusp,” Questlove told Billboard. “I thought instantly that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were going to be poppin. And just on a hunch, I was like, ‘Alright.’ We hit them and they agreed. Sure enough, after the album came out, they just became unstoppable.”
Questlove uses the relationships he’s buit on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” to handpick acts. “Now that we’ve worked at ‘Fallon,’ it’s more sweet than it’s ever been,” he said. “You have to keep in mind that the picnic started three years before we started with Jimmy Fallon. So the process in the beginning was really tough because we had to go through agents and managers. Once I realized that the real advantage of working at Fallon kind of cut the red tape, it allowed us to deal with the artists one-on-one.”
Last year, the festival was spread out over two days, touting performances from Wale, De La Soul, Rakim, Major Lazer, Danny Brown and more. Instead of taking up a full weekend, Gee says that this year’s consolidation to one day is the only change that attendees can expect from the concert, which will feature its signature DJ tent as well as a main stage.
“Last year was very successful based on the talent we were able to go after,” says Gee. “Every year, it all starts with the talent. When we laid out the talent list, we thought it would be more effective to focus on one day and really balancing out one day versus stretching out for two days based off of the talent that we wanted to go after this year.”
Additional reporting by Chris Payne.