I stared hopelessly at the back of the main stage of the Roots Picnic as Pharrell was about to take the stage with The Roots.
The “All Stages” wristband wrapped around my hand had granted me backstage and onstage access throughout most of the day but the hierarchy had changed — Live Nation credentials only. My options were limited. Making a dash for either side of the stage was impossible because there were four security guards monitoring both staircases leading to the stage — one for the bottom and one for the top. Trying to get pit access was just as impossible.
Time was running out. Pharrell came out to “Lose Yourself To Dance”. Frustration turned into anger. Anger turned into defeat. Defeat turned into acceptance. Drink in hand, I was prepared to venture out into the audience so I could still see Pharrell’s performance. Then, the finesse presented itself — Ginny Suss.
“Ginny, is there any way you can get me on either side of the stage,” I asked, unable to disguise the distress in my voice. “I can’t but I’ll try and get you into the pit,” she responded, passing me a bright yellow “media” wristband as I trailed behind her to the pit. In a matter of seconds, one of the guards nodded approvingly in my direction, allowing me entrance into the pit. Pharrell and The Roots were finishing a medley of “I Still Love You” and “Break You Off,” before going into N.E.R.D‘s “Maybe”.
In that moment, I was overwhelmed with a euphoria I hadn’t felt from a concert in years. As I air-drummed Questlove‘s parts and sung the track verbatim, I had reverted to my teenage self, watching the man who, without his artistry and music, I wouldn’t be the person who I am today. To many black millennials, Pharrell is an icon and rightfully so, having defined and redefined music time and time and time again. But just as integral is Pharrell’s persona — a black man who never confined himself and became a figure for black individuality because of that.