bilal, black thought, esperanza spalding, everything in it's right place, j davey, janelle monae, randy watson experience, sharon jones and the dap kings, the roots, the roots concert on festival pier, the roots jam session, the roots performing you got me live, the roots picnic
by vivrant thang music hangover
And hungover is just how I feel!
I hope everyone plans to take in some great live soul music during Black Music Month (even though every month is Black music month for your girl – but whatever). I probably celebrated enough this last weekend to last me all month. It’s taken me all week to get myself back together. I’m officially in my thirties now. Just can’t do it like I used to.
As I mentioned in my ode to underrated Philly soul singers, I spent the weekend in The City of Brotherly Love partaking in Roots Picnic festivities. However, before I made it up there, I had to see my man Bilal in Baltimore where he opened their Jazzy Summer Night music series. I know this may shock and surprise some of you, but I have to say it was a less than stellar performance. I don’t blame him though. I imagine that 80% of the crowd didn’t even know who he was. It was a nice night out and it was free – that’s all they knew. They were giving him absolutely no energy. B, if you’re listening, cancel that appearance at the African American Heritage Festival. Bmore doesn’t appreciate you. Come on down the road to DC. We act like we know!
Early the next morning, me and my fellow music stan / road dawg headed up 95 North and barely had a moment to throw down on our rib dinner before we headed out to TLA for the Pre-Picnic Jam Session. Another nice Philly music venue. DC, get your shit together, please!
I was annoyed that I wasn’t posted up at the very front – because of course I should have that right at every show. However when we pulled up to the South Street venue and saw the line wrapped clear around the corner, I wondered if I would even make it inside before the show started. Finding parking in Philly is worse than DC. Luckily, once I did get in line, everything moved quickly and was very organized. Kudos to whoever chose this venue.
The energy was high from the moment the first act to took the stage and remained that way – as there was little to no delay between artists. More kudos on that format. Artists of note that performed were Tu Phace, Dice Raw, Santogold, Janelle Monae, The Randy Watson Experience featuring Bilal, and of course the legendary Roots.
One of the things that attracted me to these two events was the diverse music styles represented in the lineup – which drew an equally eclectic crowd. Ya’ll know I’m soul music head all day but I also know I’m missing out on some good stuff that might fall outside that box. Nothing wrong with rocking out sometimes. My wild curly mop actually lends itself to that genre quite well.
That night I particularly fell in love with Santogold aka “Ms. Jaleesa Vincent.” Her music is described as punk rock or ska – which I never saw myself taking an interest in. Apparently I was late to the party because the crowd couldn’t get enough of her. She was originally supposed to perform at the Picnic the next day but had to bow out due to a scheduling conflict. I am so glad I caught the jam session or I would have surely missed out.
Here are two of my favorites from her:
Janelle Monae has been on my radar for a while but I never really gave her a listen. When I heard she signed with Bad Boy, my side eye exploded. Not quite sure what will happen to her there but I will say that I love her voice and her live performance will certainly hold your attention.
You should already be familiar with The Randy Watson Experience. A very high (on life that is) Bilal joined them for a couple of songs, including “Everything In It’s Right Place.”
The Roots were…well, the legendary Roots. They do what they do and they always deliver. Black Thought can do no wrong in my book. He has my vote hands down for the dopest MC out right now (make sure you cast yours too!).
You Got Me
Rocking out to Jungle Boogie / Band Solos
The next morning, someone had definitely turned the oven on outside. The venue didn’t allow folks to bring in chairs or much of anything besides a bottle of water. We had complained about that all the way up the road so I was resigned to it just toughing it out and hanging in there as best I could. Turns out I also had to go it alone as my road dawg had a mishap and eventually ended up in the ER (long story).
Fortunately we were staying about a mile up the road but the heat made it seem like 20 miles. I slowly made my way down Purgatory Lane and arrived just as The Roots were taking the stage for the first time. Their sets were interspersed throughout the lineup which included Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Esperanza Spalding, J*DaVeY, The Cool Kids, and Gnarls Barkley. Diplo and Deerhoff also performed but I didn’t check them out. It was also nice to see DC artist Muhsinah performing on the smaller stage as well. Lots of different sounds represented – which of course drew a very large, diverse crowd.
As hot as it was, the energy stayed high. These were some serious music lovers I was hanging with. I was surprised at how people largely stayed pretty congenial throughout the day. Personally, the sun was whooping my ass and the angry black woman came out in full effect. I would have been much more pleasant had I been able to sit my tail down and chill with some decent food and libations – like I did on Sunday at the Capital Jazz Fest (check for a review of that in an upcoming post). Hopefully the feedback we gave on OKayPlayer will translate into a different venue for next year. While I did enjoy being out on the water, I felt not a hint of summer breeze to make me feel fine.
Let’s get to the music.
You already know how much I heart Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings. It was my second time seeing them and as usual Sharon was one sanging, entertaining ball of energy – even in the heat! I love the way Quest introduced them by saying they were around long before Amy Wino and her Back to Black album were even thought about. And I would bet the farm that they will be around long after Amy is gone.
Esperanza Spalding is a name you should watch out for. Little woman with a big bass – and a big fro. I loved the way she connected with the crowd and jazz lovers should definitely be digging her sound.
Check out Body and Soul
I’ve been feeling J*DaVeY for a minute and have been (im)patiently waiting for them to bless DC with another live set or two. They finally stopped off here for a what I hear was a hot show before heading up to the Picnic. One of the best descriptions of their music I’ve seen has been “punk funk.”
The duo is being heralded as a cross between Prince and the B-52s, with traces of funk, surf, and soul fused together into its own unique recipe. Read more.
Prince and the B-52s?! That’s saying a lot! Keep your eye on this duo ya’ll. This is real music.
Just a little taste of what I experienced this weekend. I’m still uploading video, which is part of the reason I’ve been away so long. It’s tiring work. There’s other videos from this show on my YouTube channel and I’ll be uploading more daily. So be sure to subscribe so you won’t miss out.
It was also really cool to run into one of my readers who I originally met at Bilal’s last DC performance. What they say about birds of a feather?
At the end of the day, as dramatic as the weekend was and despite the fact that I had to leave before Gnarls Barkley or I would have faded to black right there in front of the stage, I can say I was at the first ever Roots Picnic – as I’m sure they plan to make this an annual event. How cool is that!