In Philadelphia, you can’t throw a Questlove signature drumstick without hitting someone who is related to The Roots, grew up with, worked for, rolled, smoked a blunt with, cut the hair of a Root, or was the “best friend” (or cousin, etc) of someone who falls into one of these categories. The epicenter of all this is no doubt the Roots Picnic.
Prior to the inaugural Picnic, The Root’s cringed at the thought of performing in their hometown. With upwards of 10 band mates and core members who are known to repel notions of celebrity, The Roots Crew casts a wide net and maintains a level of accessibility relatively uncommon for artists at their level.
The Roots “Family” Picnic, as it quickly became known for due to the equal number of people behind the stage as in the house, became just as well known for its unbridled backstage party scene as it did for it’s impeccably curated line-ups and headlining collaborations. The Roots Crew, an entity who’s operational position is one where confrontation is generally avoided, even at their own cost (comp tickets and backstage credential have been calculated to reach $50,000 and up in potential ticket revenue) could be described as generously accommodating, to put it lightly.
And so 10 years later, when Roots Picnic and their Live Nation partners decided to create more separation between various backstage areas, in particular, this year’s North stage where The Roots would be closing out the day’s festivities with Pharrell and surprise special guests, there were a lot of friends and associates of the band that were unhappy with what color wristband they received, and where they could and could not go. And could you blame them? Honestly, no. Family ties run thick with The Roots and the levels of expectation were set very high years ago. Folks without the bands they expected were understandably flustered, and many of their expectations were legitimate considering their degrees of closeness to the group. And yet, despite its name, this is a major music festival and not a BBQ in the park!
As for me, I’m just lucky. I’ve done the Okayplayer thing for a while now. I arrived early enough and got my wristbands accordingly. I’m not any more or less special, it just goes that way for me at these things and I’ve had plenty of moments on my own where I had to be patient. It comes with the territory. And so Roots Picnic 2017 for me was spent roaming the areas between the stages, both in front and behind the scenes, taking instant photos on my Fuji Instax wide. These are members of the crew, my crew, and the Legendary Roots Crew.
Out in the house… Michael Kiwanuka casually strode through the audience not long after his flawless and moving set. Comedian and Tonight Show crowd warmer Seth Herzog wandered around looking for anything related to “picnic food.” Asher Roth enjoyed a carefree festival alongside Philly’s own Uncle Ron.
Behind the scenes, J. Period and Fat Joe schemed in preparation of Black Thought’s Live Mixtape. Scott Storch came off the stage after having rocked with Black Thought on stage for the first time in…. wow. Stro Elliot prepared for the Pharrell anthology set. Questlove collaborated with Pusha T on his surprise appearance during the finale, which appears to be a bit of a surprise even to Quest. And Combat Jack took a well-deserved day off.
In the end, the 10th Annual Roots Picnic was everything you would expect. High in vibes, unique in its blend of talent, diverse in its audience, and ripe with family atmosphere behind the scenes. And everyone got the bands they needed. All thanks and praise due to the Legendary!