For years, Memorial Day weekend was the unofficial kick off for summer. The three day (or for some, four or five day depending on how forgiving your work is) Memorial Day weekend is a starter gun in the form of barbeques, sunburns, too many beers, parades, fireworks and traffic jams that kicks off another hopefully glorious summer. But over the past couple years, another weekend event has started to supplant Memorial Day as the unofficial start of summer in the greater Philadelphia area…the Roots Picnic.
Now in its fifth year, the Roots Picnic has created a reputation as an interesting, fun, sweaty and eclectic day of music. Past acts to join Philly’s Legendary Roots Crew are the Black Keys, TV on the Radio, members of the Wu Tang Clan, Vampire Weekend, Nas, Wiz Khalifa, Santigold, Public Enemy and many more. This year’s lineup features De La Soul (backed by the Roots,) Wale, Tune-Yards, James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem,) Rakim, Kid Cudi, Diplo, Major Lazer and more.
For those of you going, here is a primer for this year’s Roots Picnic.
1. Bring a Sleeping Bag. This is the first year that the Picnic is spread out over two days, Saturday and Sunday. In past years, it’s been a marathon of a day that starts in the early afternoon, runs through the dog days of summer and ends sometime before midnight. By the time the Roots hit the stage to close out the show, you’ve dropped 18 pounds from sweating, your feet are killing you and you’ve gladly traded beers for water. Not so this year. Well, not totally so- both days are still as jam packed as one of Questlove’s hard drives. Tickets are available individually for each day or you can pick up a two day pass. Both days are headlined by the Roots. The Saturday highlights are De La Soul, Murphy’s DJ set, Tune-Yards, Wale and St. Vincent. For Sunday, highlights are Kid Cudi, Major Lazer, Rakim (performing his album Paid in Full, backed by the Roots,) Diplo and Philly’s Chill Moody.
2. Eff Off 90 Degrees! Constants for the Roots Picnic: amazing music, amazing hot temperatures. Last time I went to the Picnic in 2010, it was so hot I briefly wondered if stripping down to my birthday suit would truly be a bad idea or not. Up until a week ago, I just figured we would be in for the same thing this year and as a result, I started hydrating and applying sunscreen last week. But wait a second…the forecast for this weekend is…actually pleasant. Mid-seventies baby! There are three awesome things to do on a day when the sun is out and the temperature is in the mid-seventies: go to a Phillies game, sit outside somewhere and drink, go to an outdoor rock show. Looks like this weekend, you can knock out two of those things at once. Which is nice because let’s be honest, this might be a lost season for the Phillies unless you know someone that will hit homeruns for free.
3. DJ Sets = Quality A/C Time. I don’t know who thought of adding an air-conditioned bubble to Festival Pier, but they’re a personal hero of mine. I know I’m not alone in saying that the Bubble has saved my life while attending shows at Festival Pier on multiple occasions. It’s like a beautiful oasis, complete with two bars, excellent people watching and at the Roots Picnic, some great DJ sets. Last year, Black Thought and DJ J. Period performed a live mix tape in the Magical Bubble. You never know what’s going to happen in there- only that it will be refreshingly cool while it’s happening.
4. Who Can’t the Roots Back Up? In past years, our gracious hosts, the Roots, have backed up Public Enemy, members of Wu Tang and Nas. This year, Questlove and the gang are pulling double duty. Saturday night, they back up hip hop legends De La Soul, who earlier this year, released a collaboration with the French DJ duo Chokolate and Khalid called First Serve. And then on Sunday, the Roots back up, Rakim and perform Paid in Full, the debut album from Eric B. and Rakim. For good measure, they might as well bar back in the Bubble, just to stay well-rounded.
5. Let’s Mesmerize Some Lyrics! The hardest part with these multi-artist shows is being properly prepared musically. The Roots Picnic is a lot to study for. I’m going to be honest, I’ve only heard a handful of Wale songs and I’m going to be even more honest with you, I’ve never listened to Paid in Full all the way through. The last thing anyone wants to do is go to a concert and look like a goon. Lucky for us, DJ Low Budget and Okay Player have us covered. Last week they released the official 2012 Roots Picnic Mixtape- a sprawling, comprehensive and incredibly helpful compilation featuring mashed up jams of nearly all of the artists appearing at this year’s concert. It’s perfect for these few days before the show and while listening to it is not a guarantee you won’t be that guy or gal at this year’s show, bothering your friends for song titles, it definitely makes that less likely to happen. You can check out the mixtape here.
Other than that, you’re on your own. If you’re going, have fun, tell Questlove I said hi and don’t forget to hydrate.
For more information and ticket info on the 2012 Roots Picnic, visit Okayplayer.