The Roots Picnic, held on the Philadelphia side of the Delaware River at the Festival Pier, has grown into a two-day affair for the first time this year.
On Saturday, the 'shuffle culture' festival - to borrow the sobriquet of a Brooklyn fest also curated by Roots drummer and musical omnivore Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson - got under way with a day long mixture of old and new school rappers, indie art rockers and electronic dance acts, with music flowing continuous on an outdoor stage and indoor DJ tent.
The Roots themselves headlined, sharing the stage with daisy age rappers De La Soul (of whom Roots rapper Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter said "had it not been for courage of these brothers there would be no Legendary Roots Crew"), Washington D.C. emcee Wale and surprise guest Yasiin Bey, who's better known by his longtime nom de rap that he's been attempting to retire: Mos Def.
The closing section of the show in which Black Thought paired off with Mos Def on such back-in-the-day Roots classics as "Double Trouble" and "The Next Movement" was thrilling. But much of the Roots portion of the show was choppy, in part because there were so other acts to back up or accomadate that the Philadelphia rappers never got the chance to offer a sustained presentation of their own music at their own Picnic, and in part because the show was plagued by sound problems.
When the Roots first took the stage just after 8 p.m., following an excellent, carefully modulated DJ set by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, they started off in style, with the Beastie Boys' "Paul Revere," in tribute to Adam "MCA" Yauch, the Beastie who died last month after a long battle with cancer.
Great idea, but unfortunately and unbeknownst to the rapper, Black Thought's microphone wasn't working throughout the song. The fact that his lips were moving and no sound seemed to be coming out was painfully clear to the audience, which did its best to get the sound man's attention with a chant of "TURN-THE-MIC-UP!"
The situation got fixed - and to give the audience what it deserved, the Roots did the song again, right into their own jazzy "Proceed." The early part of the bands planned three hours or so on stage were plagued by continuing sound snafus, however, as was the otherwise excellent set earlier in the day by St. Vincent, the indie band led by guitar shredding frontwoman Annie Clark.
More about that, and a standout set by Tune-Yards, the looping outfit led by Merrill Garbus, in a full review which will be up online Sunday, and in the Inquirer on Monday. The Roots Picnic continues on Sunday evening, with Diplo, Major Lazer, Kid Cudi, Rakim and more.