Music Feature

Concert Review: Backstage at the Roots Picnic

by Ryan O'Connell
Drew from Tsunami Rising on the vibe backstage, the capacity of a 10x10 pop-up tent, and what went wrong Sunday night.

Drew Daniels, the lead singer of Tsunami Rising, shares his thoughts on this year's Roots Picnic...

What started out as lounging pockets of people lazing around in cheap rental chairs on a Saturday afternoon, quickly turned into a classic Philly summertime party where with every turn old friends were reminiscing over past parties, rolling and burning Backwoods and talking with their mouths full. The classic "pass-back" move got friends of friends into the party...then their friends...and their cousins...and those two girls just because.

The mood lightened up quick. The picnic vibe and smell of weed smoke had engulfed the scene. Gigi's food truck replaced the Potty Queen truck, cold kegs of cheap beer got tapped and smiles weren't just for cameras, though it felt like everyone had one in efforts to promote their “new magazine.”

Through the shit talking, game spitting and laughter the bass of the main stage rang out. The music never really kicked in backstage. Just having a safe place to smoke, drink Jameson out of the bottle and slam a second fish platter felt like the better move.

I must be a sucker for a horn section because the two acts that I did happen to catch both brought the brass. The Chicago-based Kids These Days came with a lot of energy that the crowd seemed to feel, though I did hear a few other people say they were dookie , corny and appropriately named. The Tune-Yards brought a nice change of pace to the hip hop heavy day with raspy vocal hooks and funky horn lines.

Sunday was a completely different story. After thoroughly enjoying Saturday’s party, I was looking forward to doing it again and checking out Major Lazer, Rakim, The Roots and Kid Cudi (ha). After sampling some feed and cocktails from the new Morgan’s Pier, the group of us hiked down to the Picnic.

Right as we rolled in, dark gray clouds rolled overhead- the kind of clouds that you knew were going to produce a downpour. And lo and behold, the downpour ensued. We found shelter under a pop-up 10'x10' tent with about 40 people crammed closely, as we yelled across the now empty lot to another tent full of folks, jokingly offering trades of food for water as if we were vagrant camps banded together for survival. As water hit the back of my legs I could only imagine the poor, unfortunate souls who got caught without shelter in this sky opening storm. Someone should have been selling dry socks instead of balloons in the parking lot.

After what seemed like the great storm of 2012, we grabbed ourselves some $1000 beers and waited anxiously for Rakim and the Roots. This is where shit got real weird. Blame it on the rain, a shitty sound crew, or the amount of drink in me, but it seemed like shit just fell apart before the confused and hardly excited crowd. Between Kid Cudi bailing on his performance, the constant cut out of the mains and a crowd full of young kids who had no idea who Rakim was, the energy amongst the audience was eerily dead. The Roots rocked through the power outages, their guitarist Captain Kirk Douglas shredded what seemed to be a 45 minute guitar solo and Rakim brought classics to life, but the crowd just didn’t get it. At one point they even started booing their hometown heroes. Though it was pretty hard to keep my energy up as speakers continued to drop, I still vibed hard to the Roots set unlike the bitter fans around me.

Maybe the kids really wanted to see Kid Cudi. Maybe Philly is just the hardest crowd ever to win over. Maybe we’re just used to watching YouTube videos nowadays instead of sharing live energy with the performers.

Maybe I should have stayed backstage.

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