BEING THERE: The Roots Picnic 2013


For going on six years, The Roots Picnic has been kicking off summer in the city with a diverse eleven hour bonanza of music in blazing 90 degree heat. This year was no different. Hot as hell? Check. Diverse? As with previous years, the line up was all over the place and everywhere at once. Which is to say, double-check. The mainstage crowd was warmed up by Jennah Bell’s rootsy rock and Sonnymoon’s carnal electronic music. Philly’s own Lushlife jumpstarted the second stage tent with an intense, sweaty one-man-and-a-laptop psychedelic hip-hop throwdown. The Robert Glaser Experiment followed on the main stage, serving up the most challenging listen of the day with a quirky set of jazzy eccentricity and got points from the crowd for coolest hair and for rocking a keytar.The intensity of the crowd and performances reached another level with the arrival of Solange. She showed that she is not just Queen B’s sis but a serious artist in her own right with an impressive set of her sweet sounding but dark 80’s flavored pop. Grimes followed with a set of piercing ethereal pop that was well received by the hot crowd. One of the surprise highlights of the day came next with a swirling, body rocking DJ set by Gaslamp Killer in the tent. His set effortlessly fused classical, Middle Eastern and rock with lots of bass and electronic noise and provided the best second stage performance of the day. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis raised the bar with a manic, next-level set. Of course they played “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us” but it was an emotional “Same Love,” a plea for equal rights for everyone regardless of sexual orientation that quieted and moved the crowd. As, the sun went down, Gary Clark Jr. chilled the crowd out with a stormy and sultry set of blues, culminating with a crushing, amps-on-11 rendition of “Numb” that was novocaine for the soul. The Roots took the stage and immediately and made it clear that this was their show and their party with a smoking two hour everything-but-the-kitchen-sink set. Highlights included: a Questlove drum battle; a set-within-a-set where they performed as the backing band for an explosive Naughty By Nature; some scorching Hendrix-ian guitar scribble from Captain Kirk; an asphalt-rattling rendition of Kool And The Gang’s “Jungle Boogie” and a devastating performance of “Break You Off.” They were joined by Philly’s own Meek Mill to close the night with a haunting version of Mill’s “Dreams And Nightmares.” — PETE TROSHAK